By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a time when John Glavickas wasn’t even sure he wanted to be a high school football coach, must less a head coach.
In fact, for a while, the New Jersey native didn’t even truly understand the duties of a head coach.
“When I first started working with (former coach) Tom (Henson), I didn’t even know what it meant to be a head coach,” he said. “I never thought about it, coaching just fell into my lap. Tom gave me an opportunity and I never thought about being a head coach.
“It just went into my direction. Life takes different avenues and I just fell in love with it.”
When Glavickas was chosen as the successor to Henson, who is now Grand Valley’s athletic director, he was taking on a daunting task.
The Mustangs lost arguably the greatest class of athletes in the school’s history, including 2010 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year, quarterback A.J. Henson.
Yet, Glavickas, in his first year in charge, was able to get his team to buy into him and the Mustangs went on to go 7-3 and win the Northeastern Athletic Conference for the first time in football — not to mention, GV’s first conference championship team since its 1997 squad that went 10-0, won the East Suburban Conference crown and reached the playoffs under Hall of Fame coach Jim Henson.
For his efforts, Glavickas is the Star Beacon’s Ashtabula County Coach of the Year.
“That’s something,” an overjoyed Glavickas, whose team went 2-0 against Ashtabula County teams this season, said upon hearing the news. “I’m being honest... I don’t know, this really caught me off guard. I don’t have many words right now and that’s saying something.”
Which is true, Glavickas isn’t a man of few words.
Perhaps that is his greatest strength as a coach.
Whatever the case may be, Glavickas turned a team that many thought would be debilitated by graduation and turned it into a historic season for Grand Valley.
“I don’t care what you coach, as a coach, you always go through the season before it starts and you’re looking at games you think you can win,” he said. “We definitely know it was going to be a tougher task. The staff and I really went through and looked at the schedule and thought we could be in a lot of game.
“But on paper, you can always pick winners and losers. When it comes to playing on Fridays, you don’t always get the result. The really helped make this happen so much. They set high goals before the season. They came up to me and said, ‘Coach, we want to win the conference, it’s never been done.’ And they did.”
While plenty of victories will stand out for Glavickas this season, there are two in particular that were key to season, starting with a hard-fought win over rival Pymatuning Valley.
For the first-year coach, that was the turning point of the season.
“I think the PV game really set us up for our success,” he said. “We had 11 penalties, which I wasn’t happy about, but I watched these kids play with emotion for the first time. I really felt like that was the turning point for us, we started to believe.
“There was just so much emotion wrapped into that game and it’s so important here not to lose to PV so coming out and being able to execute what we needed to do to win was big.”
The second defining win, the one that will undoubtedly be the most important to Glavickas, was the NAC clinching win over Ledgemont.
While the talented teams of the past four years saw plenty of success they were never able to get past the even more impressive Redskins.
That changed this season.
“For so many years, Ledgemont has been the thorn in our side,” he said. “We try to preach to the kids to expect victory, not take teams for granted, but expect victory. Those kids came out there on the field that night and they played like they expected to win that game and played with so much emotion.
“The PV game was the turn around, the Ledgemont game was the icing on the cake. It showed these people and the community who we were and how important that game was to beat Ledgemont.”
Glavickas credits the senior class, who he said took a backseat to the previous class in recent years, for helping get the Mustangs to where they got this season.
“That was the whole thing, this class believed in what they could do and felt this was their year,” he said. “They sat in the shadows all these year and never really got put in that group. They’re an unselfish group. Even in junior high, as a total group they were more concerned with winning than with stats.
“I was worried that we weren’t going to have many all-county players and stuff like that because a lot of our guys could’ve had much better numbers if we ran them more, but they bought into only caring about getting a W. Even at the awards ceremony, I don’t know how many times I used the word ‘unselfish.’”
With the success of this season, Glavickas said he believes it proves that the Mustangs had more than just a class — they have a program.
A program, that he believes, will be strong in the coming years.
“If you look at our numbers throughout our program, we have great records from junior high on up,” he said. “What we wanted to say is that we’re a good program. There’s been years we have a lot of talent and years we don’t, but we’re a program. The seniors wanted to leave a legacy that tradition doesn’t graduate; Grand Valley football lives on.”
And, under Glavickas, it lives on, strong as ever.
Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.