Glenbrook South grad Nabolotny named Hersey's first boys lacrosse coach
A former football and basketball star at Glenbrook South High School and tight end for the University of Illinois football team, Mike Nabolotny never played the sport of lacrosse.
"When I was in high school or college, lacrosse was fairly new to the area where I was growing up," said the Glenview native. "And while I knew about the game, I was too deeply focused on my football and basketball careers to join."
Now, lacrosse is very new to Hersey High School. In fact, it will field its first boys team in the spring of 2021.
And its new coach?
Nabolotny, who can't wait to start up the new program at the Arlington Heights school.
The Schaumburg High School history teacher is quite aware that he is part of history as the Mid-Suburban East dives into the new sport next spring.
"As someone who has a background as a history teacher, the significance of being the program's first head coach is certainly not lost on me," said Nabolotny, whose cousin is Nicole Rinaldi, the former Fremd basketball standout and current Maine East girls basketball coach.
"I am really excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead this program, and feel that there is a tremendous amount of potential for lacrosse in the area."
After his football career ended at Illinois, Nabolotny knew he wanted to be a coach.
"Sports has always played such a tremendous role in my life," he said. "And the experiences I had and interactions with those players made me want to get into coaching so that I can have that same impact on the lives of my student-athletes."
Nabolotny became interested in the sport over the past few years.
"I had the opportunity to work a lot of the lacrosse games during my time working at Glenbrook North," he said. "And really learning the game and strategy and seeing how many of the concepts of other sports crossed over really grew my passion for the game."
This fall, he is also coaching football at Hersey.
"I have had a few great conversations with (head) coach (Joe) Pardun," Nabolotny said. "I really think the relationship we have built with each other will go a long way in terms of the relationship that I would like to have with our respective sports."
Nabolotny considers himself fortunate to have been guided by some tremendous mentors over the past few years.
"I had the good fortune of starting my coaching career at Glenbrook North High School, and really learned a ton not only about the game of lacrosse but about coaching in general from Justin Georgacakis (head boys lacrosse coach and defensive coordinator for the varsity football team) and Matt Haggis (freshman lacrosse coach)," he said. "They have been invaluable resources for me, and guys who I will continue to lean on heavily for their support as I look to build the Hersey program into something comparable to the great lacrosse program they have built over at Glenbrook North."
As far as building a new program from scratch, Nabolotny said he has past experiences to learn from.
"During my time at Glenbrook South, I was part of a class that helped turn around a program that had seen some pretty lean years prior to my senior year," he said "Then when I committed to play at Illinois, they were coming off a few two-win seasons, and my freshman year saw a lot of the same.
"We made progress during my sophomore year before really taking off and making it to the Rose Bowl my junior season. I think those experiences will be tremendous in helping me build the type of program that I would like to build at Hersey."
Nabolotny is looking forward to working with the administration, staff, and local youth programs to continue to grow the game of lacrosse and develop the Huskies' program.
"There has been a districtwide initiative to bring lacrosse to all of the schools in the MSL East, and I think that it is great that student-athletes will have another option to explore athletically in the spring," he said.
"While we are certainly behind many schools in the area, I know there is a lot of excitement surrounding the idea of lacrosse being brought to District 214, and I look forward to competing against everyone."
Nabolotny, who received the Central Suburban League Scholar Athlete Award in 2004, said one of his biggest goals is to instill a family atmosphere to Hersey's program.
"The challenge there is that we have already lost some time together due to the shut downs that have come from COVID-19," he said. "And it takes time to build those relationships and develop that level of trust among each other for us to establish our philosophy and really lay the foundation for what this program is all about.
"I think going into year one that is our biggest challenge and biggest goal -- establishing the culture and really setting forth the path for the years to follow."
Nabolotny admitted the COVID-19 shutdown certainly threw a wrench into a lot of plans.
"It would have been great to be around the student-athletes and start to develop relationships with them," he added. "Especially since so much of how I coach is built off the relationships that I build with my players. However, I think it also helps put a lot of things into perspective as well.
"As a coach, it has given me the opportunity to step back and really evaluate my coaching style, and develop the outline that I have for this program."
Hersey's administration is happy to have Nabolotny aboard.
"We are excited to have Mike as our first head coach for lacrosse," said John Novak, the school's assistant principal for student activities. "I know he'll do an outstanding job building a program that Hersey will be proud of."