By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
A local secondary school teacher was among a group of coaches honoured by the Coaches Association of Ontario on Sept. 22.
Dawn Manerowski received an Ontario Coaching Excellence Award in the category of school sport coach (female).
Manerowski has taught and coached at O’ Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa for the past 21 years.
She currently coaches the girls Rugby 7s and seniors girls rugby team. In the past she has coached basketball, volleyball and soccer as well.
While Manerowski participated in all the above sports, her affinity for rugby is exceptionally apparent.
“I didn’t start until university. I loved the rugby community in terms of inclusively and the support from the entire club,” she says.
The popularity of high school rugby has exploded in the past decade, and Manerowski says she is not surprised.
“The numbers are ridiculous. It just gives [players] somewhere to call home. They make such great connections and it goes way beyond the sport,” she says.
The unique aspect of rugby is a lot of the players Manerowski ends up coaching have never played it before.
In terms of her style of coaching, Manerowski hopes she would be described as “firm but fair”.
“I set expectations that are very high in terms of commitment levels, communication and being part of the team,” she says.
She only cuts players in cases when they show they are not totally committed to the cause.
Her assistant coaches are relatively new to the sport as well, but Manerowski says she learns just as much as she helps them.
“They’re definitely teaching me every day,” she says. “We’re pretty democratic. We are open with each other on ideas that we want to implement.”
For Manerowski, the overall success of the team comes back to a mutual respect between herself, and her coaches and players.
“Respect for each other is huge,” she says.
As far as influences on her as a coach, she has learned from each and every one of her colleagues at O’ Neill.
“Every single other coach, I look up to them. Their philosophies on coaching and the rapport with their athletes, it always inspires me every year in what I do,” she says.
She also credits Dave and Janet Taylor, her coaches for the Ajax Wanderers, as a significant influence.
“They helped me get into the sport, and support me throughout my time with the rugby team,” she says. “I coach against them now. It’s like a family rivalry.”
Becoming a high school coach is a big commitment for a teacher, Manerowski says.
“That’s why I do respect all the people who do coach. You are adding essentially another subject or period to your day,” she says.
On the field, Manerowski says the biggest difference from when she first started coaching is the level of safety and injury-prevention awareness.
“As far as safety, we’ve come a long way. We have [physiotherapists] at all our games.”
Receiving the award was a great honour for Manerowski but she’s quick to point out that there are many others who are deserving as well.
“I was very shocked and very touched. But we all do this job, there are so many people doing such a great job,” she adds.