Andy Korytkowski, Booster Club President, awarding Dan Czarniecki with the Crusader Service Award
Dan Czarniecki was awarded the Crusader Service Award at a recent Booster Club meeting. Congratulations Dan! And thank you so very much for all your service to the OLGC Crusaders throughout the years. Below is Dan's farewell speech for anyone who missed it.
I was invited by Andy to say a few words tonight – actually, he gave me 15 minutes, but since we are nearing the end of the Year of Mercy in our Church, I’ll be kind….and brief.
I wasn’t sure what I would talk about tonight. Andy said I couldn’t talk about SportsLeader, because Katie would touch on that, so I’ve been praying about this for the past week or so. Andy also suggested talking about where the program was 7 years ago and where it is now. But something about that just didn’t seem quite right. Then I received my weekly email from SportsLeader with the Virtue of the Week, and the LORD started placing things on my heart.
Our virtue this week is SERVICE, which is defined as “the strength to work for the good of others without concern for oneself.” Great teams are made of individuals who willingly SERVE one another. If every single one of us is constantly looking for what is best for each other, our teams will reach an incredible level of excellence. It is better to give than receive.
This virtue caused me to think back over the last seven years, which brought me back to Andy’s suggestion that I reflect on where we were then and where we are now…but looking at it through the lens of SERVICE.
When I became AD, I had two directives from Fr. John:
Keep him from getting angry phone calls at 7 a.m.; and
More importantly, emphasize the “C” in CYO
I was introduced at my first Booster Club meeting to a huge crowd and thought, “Wow, how great that so many people are coming out to meet me!” Then Fr. John introduced the guest speaker, Lloyd Carr. I actually knew he was coming. That evening, I spoke briefly and said that being given the opportunity to blend my two passions – my love for the Catholic Faith and my love for athletics – into one position was truly a dream job. And that night, I started meeting some of the amazing people who have made this program so strong.
Flash forward 7 great years. In preparing for the transition following my retirement announcement last June, the Commission – Mike McNally, Landry O’Sullivan, and Lynn Ingram, who are here tonight, along with Joe Jordano – drafted a job announcement and job description, which many of you probably saw. Like most job descriptions, there was much about the job that simply couldn’t be articulated about the AD job in the notice. It’s something you simply need to experience to understand what it takes. The same can be said about the role of coach, coordinator, each coach, each team manager, and so forth. A complete job description might include:
Lying awake at all hours thinking about ways to improve the program;
Finding a life balance when you start to feel fully consumed by the need to serve, while trying not to cheat either;
Taking phone calls to counsel a mom whose kids was cut from a team while trying to pack for a camping trip with the kids;
Counseling coaches who were agonizing (to the point of becoming sick to their stomachs) over cutting a kid or placing him or her on a team lower than his or her class-level;
Missing countless family dinners to meet with coaches or parents;
Mopping vomit off the basketball floor and emptying trash cans;
And developing a thick skin because there’s simply no answer that pleases everybody.
I know these things make these jobs sound very unappealing. But after all that, I can tell you that it was one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ll get back to that in a second.
At last year’s basketball banquet, I was asked by a dear friend, “How did you do this all these years?” My response was, “It’s a labor of love.” And I’m sure that is the response that any coordinator or coach would give if asked. It all comes back to the Virtue of the Week: Service. These men and women have hearts for service. And that became evident when I was handed the keys by Ernie Krumm in November of 2009. Ernie, like me, enjoyed serving so much that he kept giving to the program long after he stepped down.
And through the years there have been so many others who have felt that same call.
My first experience with one of our programs was attending the cross country banquet. I got to witness a shining star in our program, watching how our kids were meeting Jesus through the leadership of Mike McNally and Mike McSween and the rest of the cross country staff.
Then there’s Mike Birney, who modeled that spirit of service in coordinating both football and lacrosse for 8 years. It was Mike who spearheaded the process of putting our annual scripture theme on the backs of our team tee shirts and also began the tradition of praying at the grotto before games.
I remember Mike Sueurynk, who gave 10 years to our basketball program, receiving the Crusader Champion award for his service and asking, “Why do you need to get an award for doing what you’re supposed to do?”
More recently I’m amazed by Joe Contos, who somehow balances the role of basketball coordinator with raising 4 kids while often working 12 hour days 7 days a week. And he does all this while constantly giving glory to God for the opportunity to serve Him.
There are so many others to mention that, if I went through them all, I wouldn’t be able to live up to my promise to keep this brief. But suffice it to say that people like Dave Merkel, Jeanine DeGuzman, Kelly Mangion, Nicole Memmer, Landry O’Sullivan, Paul Gardner, Jeremy Borys, Will Dawson, Tricia Yost, Jeff Dutton, Karyn Herman, Steve Polcyn, Lynn Ingram, Scott Bobin, Mike Riordan, and so many more continue to serve selflessly and raise this program up.
Now back to the rewards. I was asked by yet another good friend at a basketball game, “So why do you keep doing this?” Many things came to mind. But ultimately it’s the fact that I’ve been able to witness God’s work up close and personal, by sitting with parents and games and hearing about how well her kids have done thanks to their experiences at OLGC; hearing about kids like James Bird, who played 5 years in our program, entering the seminary while discerning the priesthood; watching kids like Hannah O’Sullivan grow from 4th graders into amazing young adults and wanting to come back and coach in our program; seeing our coaches grow in their faith lives and participating in groups like our Men’s Prayer Breakfasts and Alpha; and getting to know so many wonderful families – and on and on.
So in “retiring” from this current role, I hope to continue to learn from those who have come before me and those who continue to witness to our Faith and service to our kids, our program, our parish, and our Church, by continuing to do whatever I can to help and by listening and looking forward to what God has in store for me in serving Him.
At that first Booster Club meeting, I asked everyone there for their prayers. Tonight I ask the same of all of you and know that you will be praying for you.