Senior staff writer
Matt English brings a hard hat and a lunch pail to work every day, figuratively. The items, gifts for his battles against cancer, sit in his office at Beech Grove High School, where he serves as athletic director and boys head basketball coach. English is recovering from a fourth round of treatment for a brain tumor that keeps returning to his detriment and the angst of family, fellow coaches, players and friends.
He returned home recently after rehabilitation from his third surgery within four weeks. He attended and was honored Friday on gray-out night at Beech Grove’s football game against Monrovia, which the Hornets won 33-26. Students and supporters wore gray T-shirts acknowledging “Standing Tall” and one of English’s coaching mottos, “We Before Me.”
The Hornets football team wore “we b4 me” decals on their helmets. Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley posted on Facebook that the night was a “great tribute to Matt English.” English has coached at the school since 2008 and was named athletic director in 2012.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumor seven years ago. After undergoing surgery he returned and coached basketball practices in December 2011 by sitting on a chair. In May before another round of treatments, a fundraising dinner was held at St. Michael Fr. Severin Parish Life Center in Greenfield.
English is armed with prayers and a “cheer block” that extends nationally. His biggest supporters are wife Angela, who is employed at nearby Hornet Park Elementary School; daughters Kayla, Taylor and Addison; sister Jill Muegge and parents Allen and Beth.
“Coach has been a true role model in battling this disease,” said Mark Weller, assistant athletic director and head football coach. “He has been extremely positive, unselfish and never complains. He has kept up with his role as AD. He has been a true inspiration to all athletes. They realize how he has handled the struggles of the disease and battled through.”
Soon, English will receive his highest honor – the dedication of the school’s gym floor as Matt English Court. The seven-member school board voted unanimously Sept. 11 for that honor. Before they voted though, they had to rescind a longtime board statute that restricted naming school sites for living persons.
One side of the court will read, “We Before Me,” and the other side will read, “The Journey Begins Here” – mottos that English has preached since his arrival at the school. Both sides of the court will feature his signature. The honor is truly deserved because English has raised the culture of being a student-athlete, according to Dr. Paul Kaiser, superintendent of Beech Grove Schools.
“He came in and set high expectations and emphasized that the journey of preparing for life begins with academics and hard work in high school,” Kaiser said. “He believes when his basketball players step onto the court that the journey begins here. He wants them to not only learn about the game of basketball but also about life.”
The culture has caught on with other team sports. Weller’s football team consistently challenges for the league title, and several athletes have earned scholarships during English’s tenure as athletic director.
A date has not been set for the dedication of the court. It will be closed after the final girls volleyball match this season and be redone for the first time in 10 years. The basketball team’s first home game Nov. 24 against Scecina will be held at the middle school gymnasium, according to Kaiser. The team will again host its annual Coaches vs. Cancer basketball game to honor local cancer survivors.