More than 120 alumni and their families attended the 2019 All Alumni Reunion. It was great to have representation from the Class of 1959 all the way to the Class of 2019. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to attend. You came from New York City, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Virginia, and all over Alaska (Valdez, Anchorage, Eagle River, North Pole and Fairbanks).
Jason Hodges gave a toast to our Director of Schools, Nancy Cook Hanson, who will retire at the end of this week. That's tomorrow - WOW! We welcomed Amanda Angaiak, our new Director of Schools.
Thank you to the Monroe Alumni Association and Vince Fantazzi for helping to coordinate and sponsor this event. A shout out to Nick Ferree (husband of Cass Cerny Ferree '01) and Dan Cerny '12 for manning the grills. It sure was hot!
Typically this column runs later than I would like, most often because I drag my feet more than I should. This week however, I simply put it off because I really didn’t want to write it. I thought if I put it off, maybe the subject associated with it would simply go away. My son tends to take this approach to most of the problems in his life, so I figured why not give it a try. Alas, it seems my efforts have been fruitless and Mrs. Hanson will indeed be retiring.
I am not going to look up the dictionary definition, or the Catholic definition of saint. I have spent enough time here at Monroe, eleven years to be exact, to have a pretty good idea of
what a saint is. To my knowledge, a saint should be a simple, ordinary, every day human being who accomplishes things in life that are not ordinary. The person should be virtuous and holy. I believe a saint would be a great role model and through living a life in all the above ways, an exemplary teacher. I also understand a saint, to be recognized in the Catholic faith, must have at least two miracles attributed to their time on earth.
Though I assume Mrs. Hanson would be mortified at my suggestion, I am of the belief, she fits this description about as perfectly as anyone who has ever been canonized.
I did not know Mrs. Hanson when I started working here. I knew who she was. I knew of her. However, I did not know her. Over the last eleven years, I can say unequivocally, the greatest part of working at the Catholic Schools, was getting to truly know Mrs. Hanson.
Before reading further, I wanted to say how happy I am for Mrs. Angaiak and how supportive I am of our school board’s decision to hire her. I have every confidence Amanda will be great in her new job.
Over the years, I learned a great deal about Mrs. Hanson. Here is what I have come to know.
The demonstration of this woman’s faithfulness, her belief in God, and her commitment to prayer are an example for all. We have had many conversations over recent years regarding the struggles of enrollment and money. Yet every time, she smiles and says, “We will find a way. We simply have to have faith,” and when I leave her, I do. Every time my team headed off to a state tournament, we would gather by the doors, hold hands and she would lead us in prayer, often at 6 a.m. Imagine a group of teenage boys, full of everything you imagine a teenage boy to be full of, holding hands, quiet, each growing closer to God because of the woman leading them in prayer. Never once was I not in awe of this moment and never once was I not grateful.
I would ask my guys if they thought the director of school for the FNSBSD would meet any local team to simply wish them good luck before heading out, let alone lead them in prayer. They understood, and I am confident each of them has a special place in their heart for Mrs. Hanson.
Recently, following a semifinal loss at regionals, I found myself needing to let my players know the ramifications of their lack of effort and focus, without raising my voice. I needed them to understand, but yet come back with energy and passion. I simply looked them in the eyes, sitting in that classroom and said, “You know who I feel bad for? I feel bad for Mrs. Hanson who drove all the way down here to watch us play.” The look in the eyes of my players told me they would respond. That look was a look of letting down someone you truly love.
I have learned that nobody works harder than Mrs. Hanson. Much like a player in a program who thinks they work hard, but really doesn’t, so did I when I came to this place. Watching Mrs. Hanson tirelessly labor at these schools has been eye-opening. There is no job beneath the best leaders and Mrs. Hanson has always been one to get her hands dirty. I am willing to bet she has cleaned every bathroom in this building, shoveled every walk way, and swept, mopped, or vacuumed every hall and rug. Her passion is unmatched.
I have learned that Mrs. Hanson is the greatest of all the coaches I have ever known. She coaches all of us, especially me. Pretty much every morning, at about 7:15 a.m. she will pop in my office to say hello. Sometimes she will ask me how the Red Sox are doing, or why a particular football team or basketball team didn’t call a time out. For the past eleven years she has been the only constant in this building who knows anything about sports for me to talk with. I think she has sensed, like a great coach, my loneliness in this area and makes every effort to make me feel better.
On these occasions in the morning, she often will tell me a story or share a thought, all for the purpose of helping me understand a player or a situation, so I can be better. She does it in a way that I don’t even know she is coaching me, until later in the day and I realize what has transpired. She is understanding and empathetic and in my time around her, she makes me want to be more of those things.
I have learned Mrs. Hanson believes the adjective “awesome” is used way, way too much. Over my time here, she has made it clear that the overuse of this word by parents and coaches for the menial accomplishments of their children and players is indeed wrong. Awesome should be reserved for those matters that are truly awesome. This may seem trivial, but I think it speaks to the greater picture of who this woman really is. And since I agree with this notion wholeheartedly, I thought it worth including.
I have learned with Mrs. Hanson that common sense prevails. She may worry, but she is not concerned with red tape or bylaws. If something is better for our school or will benefit a student of our schools, she is all in. Her trust in each of us who works with her, is nothing short of amazing and is very much commanding of all of our respect.
I have learned that Mrs. Hanson is human, like the rest of us. Everyone who works with Mrs. Hanson knows to stay out of her way when she is unhappy about something. We all know how to listen and not talk in these moments.
I once told my players handling my expectations and frustrations would prepare them for life. Certainly, they will work for someone some day who will not allow them to make the same five mistakes without becoming frustrated and angry. Perhaps their parents will tolerate these mistakes, but their boss won’t.
Through this discussion I told them they were lucky — they only had to deal with me and I am not nearly as scary as Mrs. Hanson when she is angry. They looked at each other as if to say they weren’t so sure. I assured them I was right.
Like the rest of us, it is human to become tired. I have come to see the tiredness in the eyes of this woman who has had more passion and toughness than most anyone I have ever
encountered. I can see the need for her to rest, travel and continue on her journey to become closer to God. I am not saddened of her decision as I truly love this woman and know she
will be happy.
The concept of sainthood includes two miracles. These are easy. The fact that the doors to this school are open, is a miracle and it can only be attributed to this woman — this simple ordinary woman — who has given so much to not simply this school, but all of us at the same time. Look at the enrollment, look at the bills and do the math. The math simply equals a miracle; there is no other explanation.
The second miracle is perhaps greater. She has loved me and supported me over eleven years when I have continually come up short in a variety of areas that probably only she knows. Through every failure, she has met me and elevated me. She has done so through kindness and faith. Dan Gavora once told my leadership class that great leaders recognize the talents of those they lead and put them in positions to succeed. Nobody does this better than Mrs. Hanson. She has a unique way of finding the strengths and
abilities in those who perhaps others cannot. I would be one of these people. Perhaps I am just one of many miracles. Perhaps she has done the same for all of us, making each of us better through our time with her. Shouldn’t that qualify as a miracle? Shouldn’t that qualify a person for sainthood?
It does in my book. SHE, is awesome, and I am truly happy for her.
Column by CSF Athletic Director, Frank Ostanik
Follow him on Twitter @thefullcurl
Welcome to our very last week of school! We have all thoroughly enjoyed having your student(s) at our school this year! Although this may be the last week, there is still some valuable information in our last edition of the Weekly Happenings. Please take a moment to review it for current and future events.
As a basketball coach, one of the most common aspirations I hear expressed by high school basketball players: is “I want to play college basketball.” If I had five bucks for every time I have heard that, my house would be paid off.
Very few, if any, student athletes have any understanding of how hard it is to be a collegiate athlete. It is this lack of understanding that contributes to this statistic: 33% of all those who participate in a collegiate sport quit before they graduate.
Why is playing a collegiate sport so hard? Why do so many student athletes quit? I thought it might be interesting to answer these questions and help give some perspective, since odds are, more than a few of you who read this will someday have a child who says, “I want to play college (choose your sport).”
First, let’s address why playing college sports is so hard. For the purpose of making this easy, I am going to speak to the challenge of playing basketball.
Let me be very clear: college athletics is a business. I am not going to say there is no pressure to win as a high school coach, but most of that pressure is internal. For the majority of high school coaches, your career is not on the line. A college coach understands if he or she does not win at a high enough level, they will have to put their house up for sale. This alone changes the level of effort, focus, and commitment required from those who play collegiate athletics.
Most high school athletes, in any sport, aren’t challenged or coached in a manner consistent with what they will see in college. While I am often too hard on my players, I want to ensure my players, especially those who aspire to play college basketball, have some inkling of what it would be like to play for a coach who is demanding. More than once, in the recruitment process, a college coach has mentioned their appreciation for the fact that they don’t have to worry about one of my players running home the moment they raise their voice. Unfortunately, this is not the norm and the majority of those who will step on a collegiate court are unprepared for the coaching that awaits them. In fact, over my time as an assistant and college basketball coach, when I was recruiting, I was often looking for ‘Programs’ I could recruit, not just players.
Last year I had three players fully committed to basketball at a level even remotely consistent with that of a college basketball player. These players invested time not only in the gym but in the weight room. At the collegiate level, all basketball players would be required to lift year-round. The Monroe Catholic Boys Basketball Program requires much greater commitment than most other programs, but we cannot force our players to be committed.
Let’s return to college basketball. When players are told their commitment will be year-round, those who love the game, think “Wonderful, I get to play basketball every day.”
Only, now everything is different. How? When I coached college basketball, almost every one of the 12-15 players on our team was best player on his high school team. Once arriving to our program, the majority of our players were faced with the reality that they were just another guy competing for time on the court. Things that were once easy for them, were now hard. That shot they used to be able to get off now ends five rows up into the bleachers, blocked by a guy who looks very different from the players they played against every day in high school.
To summarize the “Why is playing college sports so hard?” aspect of this column, players have an entirely different level of commitment required by a coach who is much, much more demanding, at a level that is much harder than the one the player was used to in high school. This leads to a discussion about, “Why do so many players quit before they graduate?”
There are probably hundreds of reasons why players quit over the course of their collegiate career. However, I can tell you these really boil down to about three primary reasons:
1. The player is simply not good enough to play college basketball. This is probably the most common and may impact the others.
2. The player doesn’t love to play enough. Players who are faced with a new reality that requires them to play and compete on an almost daily basis eventually look around and discover they are not having as much fun. Now, they decide it would be a lot more fun to stay up all night playing Fortnight or put more time into chasing the opposite sex.
3. The player is not tough enough. Kids who used to start and play every minute of a game now sit the bench. Players who were rarely yelled at or challenged by their head coach hear his voice when they close their eyes at night.While there is a physical component to that toughness, the greater struggle will be mental toughness.
Over my tenure at Monroe, we have had three players play college athletics and complete their four years of varsity eligibility: Michael Stepovich (basketball), Scooter Bynum (baseball), and Tyler Wells (basketball). Jalon McCullough will finish his basketball career in a year and I am confident Jeremiah Bailey, who has two years remaining, will become the fifth Monroe Catholic student athlete to complete four years of collegiate athletics. This may seem like a small number. However, you would be hard-pressed to find any high school who has produced this many. When you consider our Monroe High School student body has never exceeded more than 135 students, this number is even more impressive.
Excerpt from the Full Curl by Frank Ostanik, CSF Athletic Director. You can follow on Twitter @thefullcurl.
Welcome to the second to last week of school! Are you looking for entertainment or something for your children to do this summer? If so, please check out the summer camps that are being offered right here at CSF! This information and so much more is available in this Week's Happenings.
Welcome to 3rd to last week of school! Yes, you read that right! 3 more weeks of school! We are so excited to wrap up this school year with lots of activities and fun events. Please review this Week's Happenings to keep up to date with what to expect over the next few weeks.
Picture this. In 1979-80 the new two-story ICS building opened and housed 1st through 8th grades. ICS had its own principal's office. Getting to Monroe from ICS meant walking through the old barracks buildings (known as the “middle section”) which connected ICS and Monroe. Monroe had its own principal’s office and entry. This middle section housed the music room, HIPOW office, accounting office, Director of Schools office, a classroom and, in 1980-81, ICS’s first kindergarten class.
In 1993-94, junior high classes were moved to the decrepit middle section. These buildings were old. The floors spongy with interesting mushrooms growing in the dirt crawl spaces and icicles forming along walls and windows in the winter. A favorite memory is the summer day when a toilet, in the then HIPOW office, fell off the wall creating quite a fountain of water.
This Friday's fundraiser, The Texas Hold 'Em tournament, will be the biggest of the season for us. Not only is this a genuinly good time, but this is also a big deal from the standpoint of paying for all things related to athletics. With our soccer, baseball and track and field teams likely headed to the state tournament in a few weeks, we desperately need this year's event to go well.
Parents and Guardians,
Welcome to another week at CSF! The weeks are starting to fly by with only 4 weeks left of school! There are a lot of things happening in such a short time, so please review the Happenings to keep up to date with current and future events.