St. Pius School bids farewell to Coach Battle after 36 years of service

Congratulations Coach Battle for 36 years of service at St. Pius Catholic School. Coach Battle was honored at the 39th annual Mustang Athletic Awards banquet recently – the last banquet before the school merges with Holy Rosary to become the Guardian Catholic School this fall.

The following was presented at the banquet by Sister of St. Joseph Elise Kennedy:

This year St. Pius School celebrated 95 years as an academic institution. The school opened its doors on State and Lee streets in May 1921. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who were brought here from France in 1866 to teach the newly freed slaves, staffed the school and continued to serve at St. Pius with the presence of Sister Rea Wurmnest. I have been blessed to continue to serve here since my retirement as the coordinator of the National School Lunch Program.

The year was 1966 when St. Pius applied to become part of the Catholic Grade School Conference. The first year was ragged, but after that, the Mustangs were in business. Over the years our Mustang athletes have collected many trophies, the majority of them being in basketball, as witnessed by our bulging trophy cases.

Coach Battle’s cake was baked by St. Pius alumna who is now a professional baker | Photo courtesy of Lauren May

This evening we give special recognition to the athletes of 2016-17 who so generously gave of their talents to our athletic program and to our coaches who gave of their time and talent to train them. In basketball, this year was the year of the Mustangs, both teams had a fantastic season, with the girls going all the way. The cheerleaders outdid themselves with their cheers and stunts. Soccer was a struggle, but the game is fun. The team never gave up, and the win was relished.

This year it is also fitting that we recognize, thank, and applaud our coach of the last 35 years, Nezzar Battle. He has coached basketball, softball, track, and soccer. And win or lose, the teams were always competitive.

Basketball – a hot asphalt court – no gym, oh for clouds but no rain.
Softball – hot sun – slow game – many walks, oh for a pitcher who could throw strikes.
Track – hours of sitting and waiting for events or hustling from one event to the next, trying to keep up with all the students.
Soccer – not his game, he had to learn rules – and some days it was really cold, especially for those on the sidelines or in the bleachers.

Coach Battle is looked up to and respected by his students and his peers. He knows each athlete well. He is patient, firm, and fair. He is an example of dependability and faithfulness. Coach is a man of faith, of principles, of compassion, of fair play. He is concerned with the athletic and academic development of each athlete, but he is also concerned about the spiritual and moral development of each one. Thanks, Coach!

We have witnessed the “thrill of victory” and the “agony of defeat.”

A lost game: semifinals of the tournament. Only five students showed up. The game went into three overtimes: At the end of regulation a player fouled out = 4 starting. Another fouled out in the second overtime = 3 players. And finally in the third overtime another fouled out leaving two players against five (Mario Smith and Stephen Simmons). I would like to tell you they pulled it out. They kept the score close, but in the end, they were not able to win. But they did not lose. Everyone was cheering for them. They were coached never to quit, to keep on trying. Thanks, Coach!

A won game: Being league champs with an undefeated season is no guarantee of a tournament victory. We lost the championship in the tournament finals two years in a row after winning the league championship. We were the number one seed and lost to our archrival, Holy Rosary, two years in a row. The third year the Mustangs were again league champs and #1 seed and playing San Jose? And would you believe in the 4th period we were so far behind there seemed no way to win? Then Warren Barber started sinking 3s and the gap closed. Our boys kept scrapping and pulled out a victory. That was sweet! They were coached never to quit, to keep on trying. Thanks, Coach!

St. Pius alumni who were coached by Nezzar Battle pose for a photo. | Photo courtest of Lauren May

We have witnessed runaway games and squeakers. We have enjoyed such leads that the younger players gained valuable playing time and experience. We watched games where the starters had to play almost the entire game. We have had back to back championships in basketball, and at least two three-peats. Coach always made sure the students were ready for games. He wasn’t exactly quiet during the games and many times came to work the next day with laryngitis. If a player wasn’t listening, Coach could get in his or her face and oh, how that player wished they had listened.

Sister Catherine, principal of St. Pius from 1968 to 1986 sent this message: “I sure would love to be there, but I can’t make it. So sorry. I’m sure it will be a joyous occasion for everyone. The coach was always so good with the children. He listened to them and then helped them to stretch and grow.” Thanks, Coach!

Tonight is bittersweet for us all, the end of an era. Student athletes, please stand. You are the last teams fielded by St. Pius School. For the 8th graders and all of the alumni, we will always be Mustangs. But for those of you who will be going to the Guardian Catholic School next year, it is also the beginning of a new era. You will always be Mustangs, but you will also become the Eagles. And just as you have made St. Pius proud to sponsor you, you are expected to soar as the Guardian Eagles and continue the tradition of excellence. And who better to lead you next year than our Coach Battle.

You are coach and more than that you are a teacher! What brought you to St. Pius those many years ago? God called you here, to minister in this place, at this time, to these children and their families, to your co-workers. You are a steady ship in calm waters and stormy seas. You have touched our hearts with your smile, the interest you show to those needing attention, your love and acceptance and the fatherly way you have.

Coach here’s to you, one in a million! We thank you and ask God’s best blessings on you who have been such a blessing for St. Pius School, our staff, the parents, students, and alumni.

Thanks, Coach!