It’s a rare occurrence when an individual coaches two high school teams during the same sports season.
But, that’s what Judith Tichacek is doing this winter, serving as head coach for both the Fenwick High School boys and girls bowling teams.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do each team justice, especially as a new head coach this year,” she said. “It has been challenging at times, but it is not impossible and I know it will get easier over time and with more experience. It’s been trial and error.”
Tichacek, who was the assistant for last season’s boys team, was encouraged by then-head coach Brother Joseph Trout to switch roles.
“We discussed how we wanted the program to look for this year,” she said. “We thought it would be best if I was in the head coaching position.”
Then after learning that the girls head coach wouldn’t be returning this year, Tichacek decided to add more to her plate.
“They were looking for someone to take over the team,” she said. “So, I agreed and decided to do both boys and girls for this year and see how it goes. We’ll reevaluate at the end of the season and see where we are.”
Tichacek believes that there are differences between coaching boys and girls. She feels the girls are more eager to learn, whereas the boys are more creatures of habit.
“For [the boys] who are used to doing things a certain way, it might take a little longer to adjust,” 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,” said Tichacek. “We definitely try to exchange trade secrets. Joe’s a nice guy and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
In spite of the circumstances, both Friars teams are having relatively solid seasons. Led by juniors James Dubanowich and Sean O’Connor and senior J.J. Curley, the boys placed fourth in the St. Patrick Regional on Jan. 15 with 5,429 pins, good enough to advance to the sectional. 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 during a scrimmage with IC College Prep on Dec.15.
“It was definitely so neat to see James accomplish this, especially when bowlers can go their lives and not achieve it,” said Tichacek.
Like the boys, the girls team is largely young. Freshman Olivia Cameron has a season-average score of 178, with a high game of 245 and high series of 576.
“I see Olivia making it downstate 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 demonstrative of a seasoned varsity player.”
Another freshman, Emilia Nowak, has acquitted herself well this winter with a high game of 191.
Tichacek said the Friars have three freshmen on the girls varsity roster and that half the team just started competitive bowling this year.
“Our girls are in the process of learning new skills, honing their techniques, and establishing their forms that will develop and mature over time,” she said. “These results won’t happen overnight. We still have about half of our season left, and there’s so much opportunity for these girls to excel.”
Tichacek is optimistic about the remainder of the season.
“[The boys] keep knocking down milestone after milestone every week,” she said. “For our girls, I want them to have the confidence that they are able to be competitive with other teams. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I definitely see potential for our team to advance in our regional tournament in the next year or two.”
The Fenwick boys will compete in the Glenbard East Sectional on Jan. 22 at Bowlero in Glendale Heights. The top six teams advance to the state finals.
After their final Girls Catholic Athletic Conference meet against De La Salle on Jan. 24, the girls will compete in the GCAC championships on Jan. 29 at Brunswick Zone in Niles.