Despite Achilles tear, volleyball coach embodies positive attitude as season begins
Mike Gawlik started his first season as the Central Michigan volleyball head coach with a boot on his left leg, using a scooter to get around.
Just minutes before hosting a volleyball camp in July, Gawlik tore his left Achilles tendon while playing a pick-up volleyball match.
“I turned to sprint in one direction and it snapped,” he said. “It sounded like a fly swatter hitting a counter.”
After the incident, Gawlik returned to the three-day camp on a pair of crutches before he had surgery the following week July 21.
Limited mobility and a long road to recovery hasn’t stopped the first-year coach’s enthusiasm in the gym. Junior setter Marissa Grant said Gawlik is always in good spirits on and off the court.
“He always brings great energy into the gym no matter what the day is like,” Grant said. “He’s always positive and pushing us to be better everyday.”
During practices, Gawlik tries to be as active as he can without bearing too much weight on his left leg. He hopes to be “full-speed” on his boot without the assistance of a scooter within weeks.
“The tendon needs to be stretched out a little bit more,” he said. “I’m not a doctor, but my guess is in a few weeks I’ll be hobbling around, sort of back on my feet.”
Gawlik said he uses the inconvenience of his injury to set a positive example for his players.
“The show goes on,” he said. “If we’re going to teach student-athletes to have a positive outlook and focus more on what they can do and not what they can’t do, then we have to embody that.”
Despite being thankful for the support from his wife, team and staff, Gawlik said sympathy is the last thing he wants. He stressed to his players to keep a positive outlook and “control the controllable.”
On one of the handles of his scooter, he installed a bell to ring “as a thumbs-up” during practices after a good play.
“I don’t take myself too seriously and I don’t think anybody should,” Gawlik said. “I need somebody to hold the door open every now and again, but I don’t need people babying me. I can’t walk, but I can scoot.”