Girls volleyball: Lutheran's Jirikowic steps down

Girls volleyball: Lutheran's Jirikowic steps down

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Girls volleyball: Lutheran's Jirikowic steps down

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Dave Jirikowic was prepared for this day. He just wasn’t sure when it would come.

The veteran volleyball and girls basketball coach at Manitowoc Lutheran High School was going to have to lighten his load in order to help preserve his health.

On Tuesday, the school announced that Jirikowic will be stepping down as the head volleyball coach, but will continue to coach girls basketball.

“I talked to my wife and I prayed. I’ve kind of known this day would come,” Jirikowic said. “Two varsity sports back-to-back is difficult. The last couple years, it’s been getting a little harder to make it through and I just felt, physically, if I’m not able to make it through both sports, that’s not fair to the girls. Ultimately, I wanted to do what was best for the athletes and myself as well.”

Over a decade ago, Jirikowic was in a car accident and broke his neck. He was told by doctors that he would be paralyzed from the chest down. Roughly a month later, Jirikowic was informed that the injury may not have been as severe as originally anticipated.

“I was told I would be paralyzed from pretty much the chest down. About 30 days later, after I was told that, the Lord blessed me. The spinal cord was just nicked and not severed,” Jirikowic said. “Once the spinal cord started healing a little bit, I was able to regain some of my function, but obviously not all of my function.”

Jirikowic is able to walk and stand, though often coached with the help of a walker or wheel chair. In order to maintain his level of health, he must remain as active as possible.

“I’m not going to get a whole lot better, but what I have make sure I do is not regress,” Jirikowic said. “I have to make sure that I keep up with therapy. I do a lot of swimming and things like that to keep my muscles good, otherwise atrophy can set in. When you don’t use your muscles, they start to die on you.”

The Lancers’ volleyball team enjoyed a great deal of success under Jirikowic’s guidance. In his 10 seasons as varsity head coach, he guided the Lancers to over 240 wins, five Olympian Conference titles and a state appearance in 2009.

Like any coach, Jirikowic enjoys winning. However, it’s not the wins and the losses which have motivated him all this time.

“My favorite part of coaching is practice. That’s my favorite part of coaching. Seeing the girls working on fundamental skills and improving those skills,” Jirikowic said. “For me, maybe it’s not as much the competition as it us just watching the development of the girls as athletes, seeing the development as the girls as Christians and young ladies that … are growing right in front of your eyes in terms of how they handle situations.”

Co-head coach Lacey Behnke will assume all head coaching duties this season.

“I kind of had this idea last year, so I asked her to co-head coach. We made sure that we’re all on the same page with everything and the program is going well,” Jirikowic said. “It’s a good time (for me) to just focus on girls basketball.”

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