Mike Rogowski's last big job mirrored his own situation.
Retiring after 18 years as Waubonsie Valley athletic director, Rogowski waded through 40-odd resumes for the Warriors' open boys varsity basketball coaching position, then conducted interviews before turning the process over to incoming athletic director Chris Neibch and principal Jason Stipp.
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"It's really fun for me," Rogowski said, "because you're bringing in young people who are extremely motivated, with tons of enthusiasm and energy-packed."
He describes the transition in his own office similarly. In his fifth decade in education, the man known as "Rogo" has served several schools since he broke in as a physical education teacher and football and basketball coach at Aurora Central Catholic well before Neibch graduated from Wheaton North.
"It's been a great run," Rogowski said. "I've had a great experience since 1974 and it's just time for some new blood, new ideas, new energy."
He's one of many who have had to decide between coaching and administration. Rogowski, 60, was a defensive coordinator for Marist's football team for four years while teaching physical education. He coordinated two years at what was then Illinois Benedictine.
Rogowski was football coach at Grant in Fox Lake for eight seasons and early in his career served as a graduate assistant at Western Michigan while working on a master's degree. He first became an athletic director at Elgin in the late 1980s.
"I miss (coaching) the big games," said Rogowski, who lives in St. Charles with his wife, Diane. "I didn't miss riding the yellow buses, though."
He certainly doesn't miss the games themselves. If there's a varsity contest particularly in football or basketball, Rogowski will surely be present in his green pullover. It's part job, part spending time with and around coaches and athletes.
Asked his thoughts about retirement, Rogowski rattled off a list of people and positions he wish to thank that rivaled an Academy Award acceptance speech: retired athletic secretary Lonna Moehlenkamp and current assistant Pam Dorman; assistant athletic directors Dave Saurbaugh and Kevin Chaffee; trainer Mike Knoll; the litany of head, assistant and lower-level coaches.
(Likewise, coaches have appreciated Rogowski letting them handle their teams without him butting in.)
"I'm most proud of the great job that the head coaches have done," Rogowski said. "Over the years it has evolved into a 12-month-a-year job, and they put in a tremendous amount of time off the playing field, off the courts, getting teams ready to play -- mentally, physically and emotionally -- a really tough Upstate Eight Conference schedule."
He's not a fan of the increased "pressure to succeed," but is a fan of the student-athlete.
"If you treat them with courtesy and respect they will return it without a problem," said Rogowski, who has two 20-something daughters. "The kids today are no different today than they were in the 1970s when it comes to that."
Diane Rogowski also is retiring this year as a special-education teacher at Geneva High School. As the two are always busy in the fall since they entered this line of work, Mike hopes to "go out east to see the fall colors and have lobster for breakfast."
He said Diane's idea of a vacation is a trip to Italy; his is fishing in Canada.
"Maybe," he said, "we can do both."
Around in circles
Since it still feels like indoor track season, we'll run with this ...
Before heading outside to train, the Lisle boys track team held a "graduation" from indoor training. Coach Ken Jakalski had the boys do 31 various hopping, running, skipping and galloping movements for 4.5 miles around a 117-meter hallway, 62 laps. Fun, yet competitive.
All athletes finished the test and therefore were awarded an indoor "graduation" prize of a T-shirt that, in part, read: "Hallways are for Heroes."
Jakalski, again proving himself crazy like a fox, noted the irony of the workout.
"If I had them go out and run 4.5 miles in the surrounding neighborhood, they'd think I was nuts," he noted. "Yet they do a far more demanding kind of locomotion for that many miles in a contained, boring place, and nobody complains."
Once a generation
The Team Illinois boys ice hockey team, competing April 10-14 at USA Hockey's America's Showcase at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center in Pittsburgh, won the championship for the first time in 29 years. Team Illinois beat Team Pittsburgh 3-2 in the title game to go 4-1 over the five-day tournament. Illinois reached the championship in 2010 and went to the semifinals in 2011.
Daily Herald correspondent Ross Forman informs us that defenseman Kurt Oswalt, a senior out of Naperville Central, assisted on the game-winning goal at 15:40 of the third period. Assisting on Team Illinois' first goal was senior defenseman Sean McDonnell of Naperville North, who finished the tournament with 1 goal and 3 assists. Forward Jake Novack, another senior from Naperville North, tied the game 2-2 in the second period.
Naperville Central's Jeff Nelson was an assistant coach for coach Brian Noonan, the former Chicago Blackhawk who is coach of Naperville North's club team. Also on Team Illinois were West Chicago senior goaltender Kyle Nielson, Neuqua Valley senior defenseman Andrew Fattore and Naperville North senior forward Paul Mascitti.
Welcome to the club
The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association welcomes a new crop of inductees Saturday at Illinois State University.
Among the locals going in are: players Kelly Miller (Lake Park) and Terri Zemaitis Boumans (Downers Grove South), the wonderful former coach Dennis Cromer of Fenton; and, as a "Friend of Basketball," Charlie Essig.
Also honored are district girls coaches of the year Rob Kroehnke (Wheaton Warrenville South), Andy Nussbaum (Naperville Central), Mike Williams (Neuqua Valley), Julie Fonda (Glenbard South) and Jason Nichols (Montini); and boys coaches Bob Ward (St. Francis), Gene Heidkamp (Benet), Scott Miller (Glenbard East) and Vince Doran (York).
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