An Open Letter to Coach Olszwoka
Dear Coach Olszowka,
I know it isn’t like me to share how I feel, but I should really do that more.
As an athlete that has ran for you for five years now, I feel I can be completely honest with you. We have had our ups and downs; we both know that. Some days have ended in tears or anger, but we always come back to the bond we have and put any differences aside. Lord knows that I'm not an easy person to deal with, but you do it everyday.
I know me switching from running to wrestling as my dominant sport may have put a damper on what you thought your top seven runners would be like, but yet you accepted it. You are now a huge supporter of my wrestling as well as running.
To me, you have always been more than just a coach. You are a mentor, friend, sounding board and a great advice giver. When I tell you I’m facing hard choices, you sit down with me and take the time to weigh both sides out to help me make the best choice. I know every time you give me advice, I don’t absorb it all immediately, but I take it into consideration when making difficult decisions.
I have met very few people that sacrifice as much family time as you do to help kids like me. I've never met a coach that cooks his athletes pancakes every Friday morning before a race. Yes, you may push us harder and expect more out of us than other cross country coaches, but at the end of the day they don’t really care as much as you do.
Honestly, for most coaches, it’s not hard to care for a runner's legs and tell them they did good. What's hard is waking up before 6:30am when you know your team needs you, and you have to make spreadsheets of mile times and breakdown sheets. It’s even harder when you make your athletes unhappy by doing pushes on the district course instead of their usual slow runs on Thursdays, but you do it anyway. You know deep down that’s what's going to make them better. You don't take the "easy path" when it comes to coaching, and that is why you get results!
You remind us to drink water, get sleep, stay caught up on homework, check our grades, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Little things like that matter to me and show me that you care about us and are invested in our lives. I think it says a lot about you as a coach.
I know I do a really bad job at telling you that I appreciate you and am thankful for you in my life. Thanks to all you put into coaching and into the program, I'm really lucky to have you as one of my coaches. From the hard mile repeats (where I swear up and down that I'm going to die if I have to keep running) to smell-the-flowers Thursdays (where we all laugh and joke about life), you have stuck by me.
Even though I’m close to starting down a different path, I will never forget all that you have done for me and all of our dumb jokes we make. As I look into colleges, when I seek out a program with a coach that I like, I'll definitely be referring back to your qualities. For right now though, I'm pretty content with the coach I've been given and I don’t want to take any time for granted. Three years have passed by faster than I expected them to. I have one more year left to make those cross country memories and you can bet I'm not going to waste it!
So get ready, Coach Olszowka, because my senior year is going to be the best yet!
With a Thankful Heart,
Allison's Travel Tips
During the 2018-2019 school year MHSAA (Missouri High School Athletic Association) decided to officially make girls wrestling a school-sanctioned sport. This is when I decided to embark upon my wrestling journey.
When I first heard of the girls team I thought it was insane, but then the head coach, Josh Ohm, who is also an assistant cross country coach approached me. Coach Ohm asked if I wanted to join, or would at least be interested in the sport. I said, "probably not."
Later that night, I talked to my three brothers about it. They told me that it would be too tough and it was probably best that I don’t do it. Despite their words and my initial reaction, I signed up in Coach Ohm's room the next day to try practices but did not make a solid commitment. I surprised myself when I officially joined three days later.
When I first started, our room was being remodeled, so off-season training was done in the band room with spare mats set down. At first, it was really bumpy and took a lot of patience to get even the simplest moves down. After the wrestling room got done, we were able to start having practices in there which was really neat since it was brand new. When school came around, I had to focus on my fall sport, cross country, but the week after that ended I was back in the wrestling room preparing for the actual season to start.
The first thing the wrestlers do is a mock tournament where they wrestle each other for varsity spots, which is considered to be our first matches of the season. This is called Black and Blue night. This was the first time I wrestled publicly and it was nerve-racking, but it was so rewarding. To see the coaches and other teammates get excited for you, it felt very welcoming from a new member's standpoint. After I won that match, I went on to finish the normal season with a 24-9 record and become a district champion for our class at the 116 lbs division. This then allowed me to go to state where I tied for 5th in the 116 lbs division.
In the off season, I’ve decided to continue my wrestling journey by joining a club team based in St. Louis. The team is called Valkyrie Wrestling, which is an all-girls team. With this team I was also able to make it on the Missouri Women’s team. This allows me to travel out of state to help represent team Missouri when we compete against other states in tournaments.
So far, I have earned six medals, one plaque, a district title, and about a thousand shirts! Nothing however, can take away from all the friends and memories I’ve made from this one sport alone. Wrestling has given me my confidence back and taught me that if this is who I choose to be, then I’m not standing alone. Who knew signing my name on a piece of loose-leaf paper could affect my life so much?