It is rare for a person to coach two high school teams during the same athletic season.
But that’s what Judith Tichacek is doing this winter, as head coach of both the boys’ and girls’ bowling teams at Fenwick High School.
“I wasn’t sure I could do every team justice, especially as a new head coach this year,” she said. “It was challenging at times, but it’s not impossible and I know it will get easier over time and with more experience. It’s trial and error.”
Tichacek, who was the assistant to last season’s boys’ team last season, was encouraged by the then head coach, Brother Joseph Trout, to switch roles.
“We discussed what we wanted the program to look like this year,” she said. “We thought it would be best if I was in the head coach position.”
When she learned that the girls’ head coach would not be returning this year, Tichacek decided to add more to her board.
“They were looking for someone to take over the team,” she said. “So I agreed and decided to do both boys and girls this year and see how it goes. We will re-evaluate at the end of the season and see where we are.”
Tichacek believes that there are differences between coaching boys and girls. She finds that the girls are more eager to learn, while the boys are more creatures of habit.
“For [the boys] those used to doing things a certain way may take a little longer to adapt,” she said.
Tichacek is one of two coaches in the Catholic League — DePaul Prep’s Joe Hohrein is the other — who coach both boys and girls.
“We try to make the best of our situations,” Tichacek said. “We certainly try to exchange trade secrets. Joe is a nice guy and I learned a lot from him.”
Despite the circumstances, both Friars teams have had relatively solid seasons. Led by juniors James Dubanowich and Sean O’Connor and senior JJ Curley, the boys finished fourth in the St. Patrick Regional on January 15 with 5,429 pins, good enough to advance to the section. O’Connor led the Friars with 1,121 pins, while Dubanowich added 1,111 and Curley – who made the Chicago Catholic League all-conference team – 1,101 pins.
Earlier this season, Dubanowich rolled a perfect game of 300 in a scrimmage with IC College Prep on December 15.
“It was absolutely beautiful to see James pull this off, especially when bowlers can go about their lives and not achieve it,” said Tichacek.
Like the boys, the girls team is mostly young. Freshman Olivia Cameron has a season average score of 178, with a high play of 245 and a high run of 576.
“I see Olivia bring it down at some point in her high school career,” Tichacek said. “She’s only been bowling for a year, but her form and technique are already hallmarks of a seasoned varsity player.”
Another freshman, Emilia Nowak, acquitted herself well this winter with a high run of 191.
Tichacek said the brethren have three freshmen on the girls’ varsity roster and that half of the team have just started competitive bowling this year.
“Our girls are in the process of learning new skills, honing their techniques and developing their forms that will develop and mature over time,” she said. “These results will not happen overnight. We have about half of our season to go and there are so many opportunities for these girls to excel.”
Tichacek is optimistic about the rest of the season.
“[The boys] keep hitting milestone after milestone every week,” she said. “For our girls, I want them to feel confident that they can compete with other teams. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I definitely see potential for our team to be the to grow in our regional tournament for the next two years.”
The Fenwick boys will compete on January 22 at the Glenbard East Sectional at Bowlero in Glendale Heights. The top six teams advance to the state finals.
Following their final Girls Catholic Athletic Conference meeting against De La Salle on January 24, the girls will compete in the GCAC Championships on January 29 at the Brunswick Zone in Niles.