For Costello, sports are a family affair

  • Carol Costello takes here vantage point in the bleachers in St. Maria Goretti's gym. Costello is nearing the end sitting in her favorite spot for parts of 16 years while cheering her five children who have competed for the Gaels.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN-Under any other situation, Carol Costello would be considered an over-the-top fan.

Why else would she travel from place to place faithfully and religiously, wearing specific color clothes, sitting in the bleachers while living on a steady diet of concession food just for a glimpse of a group of her favorite athletes engaged in competition?

The answer is easy. She is a mother. She is a mother of five children. She is a mother of five children, all athletes who have participated at St. Maria Goretti.

"My vocation is what I love to do, but my favorite job is being a mother," Costello said. "And being a sports mom is a bonus. How blessed am I?" Come June 2011, Costello, who is supervisor of alternative programs and student services for Washington County Public Schools, will complete a 16-year odyssey of cheering on the Gaels when her youngest child, Colleen, graduates and brings to an end the evenings at soccer, basketball, baseball and softball games.


It will also end what Costello calls one of the fullest and most rewarding times of her life.

"Young parents, relish all these years because they go so quickly," Costello said. "After next year, it will be 16 years, but it seems like it has gone by in like 10 minutes. It was so full." The 16 years at Goretti were preceded by seven years in area youth programs.

When Erin, the eldest Costello child, started bantam soccer, Colleen was just 18 months old and came along to cheer.

"Athletics have been a way of life for us," Costello said. "The kids loved sports since they were young and it has been a joy. Sports have always been a family activity and our way of bonding. Whenever we all get together, we are playing something." Costello and her husband, Steve, differ on how it all got started. Carol credits Steve with coaching and competing with the kids in the yard, but behind her back, Steve tells a different story.

"Until I married that lady, I was a tennis player," he said. "I never watched sports. She was a big fan. She's the one who got the kids going." Carol is a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan-as proven by the magnets on her refrigerator-and the family was into watching college basketball.

Everything became secondary once the Costello clan began to compete.

"I was their mother first and then their manager," Carol said. "I was the enabler. I would be the team manager and bring snacks, clean uniforms and made sure they had good meals before they played. We even bought our house because it is right across the street from Goretti." Costello's "16-year career" in sports started with 28-year-old Erin, a 1999 Goretti graduate, who got the opportunity to play soccer at the school after former Goretti athletic director Carol Brashears introduced it as a girls' sport in 1996. Erin went on to play at Susquehanna University.

Sister Lauren, 26, followed and starred in basketball, scoring 1,000 points in her career before graduating in 2001. She still ranks as one of the county's top shot blockers.

Steven, 25, came next, playing soccer, basketball and baseball for the Gaels. He graduated in 2003 before heading to Roanoke College, where he kept his love for athletics going as an intramural warrior.

Next in line was Kathleen, 20, who played soccer, basketball and some softball before graduating in 2007 and heading to Widener University.

The final leg of the race is with Colleen, 17, who is playing soccer, basketball and softball for the Gaels.

"Just watching my kids grow and become better has been such a vehicle for growth," Costello said. "Sports gave them confidence to be able to do the things they are now doing in their lives.

"I have been able to see my kids play against so many athletes who are now professionals. My girls were on the team that won the Maryland State Private School championship in soccer against teams who were far superior to ours, but they played like such a team. And Steven, I got to see him steal the ball from Carmelo Anthony (who now plays for the NBA's Denver Nuggets), but I also saw him get dunked on by Rudy Gay (now with the Memphis Grizzlies). We still joke about that."

It becomes apparent why Carol Costello has made watching youth and scholastic sports her passion. She may have spent half her life on the sidelines, but she is, and has been, repaid with memories that will last a lifetime.

The Costello home is decorated with the pride of the children's athletic accomplishments. It starts with the athletic caricatures of each child that line the wall along the upstairs staircase and the photo Wall of Fame (and favorites) that lines the one heading to the basement.

Add to it the pile of newspaper clippings-some laminated, some tucked away to be cropped and savored later-that will continue to grow until Colleen graduates next year.

"I tried to think about it being over and I don't want to think about it," Costello said. "I don't know what is ahead, but there will be something.

I've only known one lifestyle for so long; I don't know any other life.

Sometimes I feel so greedy to have so much time with my kids and to have this. It's been priceless."

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