By Marty Farmer
During his senior year at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Dan Ganschow decided to leave the football team. After suffering an injury and ultimately losing playing time at running back to Mike Brown (the brother of current OPRF football star Jamal Baggett), Ganschow recalls "putting on my sunglasses with tears in my eyes" regarding his hasty decision.
"There's not a day that goes by I don't regret that decision." Ganschow said. "I tell kids, when you make a decision make sure it's not a right-now decision."
Twenty years later, the Oak Park native is leaving another OPRF team, but this time following careful deliberation. After serving as a coach on various levels of the OPRF boys lacrosse program over the past 17 years, Ganschow is putting the clipboard down to spend more time with his wife, Ann, and their three young children, Patrick, Connor and Declan who range in age from 6 to 1.
"It's a decision that's been in the works ever since we started having kids," Ganschow said. "I grew up as an only child where my parents never missed a game. I want to have more time to spend with my family."
Charles Ganschow, Dan's father, died in February, and Dan's wife had a surgical procedure this year, so the additional time at home will be invaluable for Ganschow. Dan and Ann (of the Mullarkey family in Oak Park) were high school sweethearts.
"It's been a trying year emotionally," Ganschow said, "but I love spending time with the kids at OPRF, and then I come home to my kids after work."
There's no doubt Ganschow's second home is located at 201 N. Scoville Ave., home of the Huskies. Similar to baseball legend Tommy Lasorda's claim that he bleeds "Dodger Blue," Ganschow's colors unequivocally run orange and blue.
"When I was a student-athlete at OPRF, coaches like Gary Olson, Al Allen and Don Hopkins impressed upon me the importance of acting in a respectful and mature manner," Ganschow said. "There's a certain idealism associated with OPRF. If my fellow coaches and I can help a kid learn a bit about becoming a man and an active participant within the lives of his family and community, I think we have done our job."
The Oak Park native has also made a difference in the classroom. Ganschow is an instructor in the English Department and currently teaches freshman honors and a senior elective in sports and literature. He's also the advisor for the yearbook. All of those activities will continue.
On the lacrosse field, the Huskies have struggled, sporting a 3-9 record this season, but Ganschow puts wins and losses in their proper perspective. In past seasons, the Ganschow-led Huskies regularly racked up 10-12 wins a year.
"Our record doesn't reflect the ability of our kids," Ganschow said. "Changing our offense has sparked something and our defense has been pretty solid."
The Huskies are led by defender Eric Oxnevad, goalie Kevin Rogers, and Graeme Miles. Emery Lehman, who is an Olympic hopeful in speedskating for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, and reserve goalie Jack Wilson have also played well this spring.
"It's great for our other athletes to be around a kid like Emery," Ganschow said. "I tell our kids, 'Look at this guy, he's a world-class athlete but you can compete with him on the lacrosse field'."
Ganschow, who graduated from Indiana University, also cites former OPRF basketball star and New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert as another hometown product his students and athletes can emulate on and off the field.
"Iman is a kid who has really made it," Ganschow said, "but he always makes an effort to give back to the community."
Matt Maloney, who coached Shumpert at OPRF, believes his lifelong pal Ganschow is a pretty good role model, too. Ganschow and Maloney graduated from OPRF together in 1993 and even spent a brief period as roommates before taking on their respective positions in OPRF's English and History departments.
"Dan is part of a collection of former student-athletes who have decided to move back home and give back to the school and community which gave us so much during our years at OPRF," Maloney said. "He now moves to a new chapter in his life, coaching his kids and watching them become a great student-athlete as he, his wife, and many of his in-laws were during their days as a Huskie."
For Ganschow, his dwindling days as the OPRF boys lacrosse boss haven't necessarily stirred up any extra nostalgia.
"Honestly, I wax poetic about this place every day of my life," he said. "I'm proud to be a Huskie."
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