East Penn Press

Sunday, February 25, 2018
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZCayley Grabowski got significant playing time during her junior year before a preseason injury ended her senior season before it got started. PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZCayley Grabowski got significant playing time during her junior year before a preseason injury ended her senior season before it got started.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON While an injury sidelined Caley Grabowski (left), she remains with her team as a student-assistant coach. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON While an injury sidelined Caley Grabowski (left), she remains with her team as a student-assistant coach.

Grabowski accepts new role

Thursday, February 1, 2018 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

High school athletes always look forward to their senior season. They are generally looked up to by the younger players and they get that last shot at a big season either personally or as part of their team.

Cayley Grabowski was no different. She had added reason to look forward to her senior season after being named to the third team EPC all-stars as a junior. The two-sport player was also going to have new coaches in both basketball and softball for her senior season with a lot of excitement surrounding the two teams.

Then, the unthinkable happened. One month before the start of the basketball season, while playing in the Emmaus Fall Classic to raise money for cancer research, Grabowski went down with a torn ACL. The injury not only ended her high school basketball career, but took with it her softball season as well.

“I was excited to start with a new coach and we all had a gut feeling that she was going to be great, and she is,” said Grabowski of basketball coach Kelsey Gallagher. “So I was really heartbroken that I wasn’t able to play under her.”

Usually, a player who gets hurt like that is just sort of forgotten. They might hang out with the team and maybe even sit on the bench, but many just aren’t really a part of the team. Gallagher did not want to let that happen to Grabowski.

“I wanted her to feel like she was still part of the team and I thought the best way to make her feel that way was to put her as a coach,” said Gallagher, who approached Grabowski about being a student assistant coach. She made clear that it wasn’t just an empty title. She wanted Grabowski to work with the younger point guards – the same girls who would be replacing her in the lineup – to teach them the ropes, just as she would have had she not been hurt.

“I think that to her, that meant a lot and to the younger girls, it does,” said Gallagher. “We’ve got some youth and for her as a point guard, having the younger point guards hearing something from her rather than me goes a long way. And they do respect her a lot and she earned it and she’s doing a really good job in that role and doing everything that I ask of her. I’ve only known her this year, but she’s one of the kids that leads by example, always does the right thing. She knows the game.”

For her part, Grabowski didn’t approach the job as just something to do, and it certainly wasn’t just an empty title. Grabowski had shown steady development since her days as a young point guard on the team and she knows all about what it takes to get better at a key position.

As Gallagher suggested, the younger players have taken to Grabowski as a coach and as someone that they can learn from because she’s been through what they’re going through now.

“I think younger players – not to be mean to coaches – but I think that they listen to players more because they look up to them as mentors,” said Grabowski.

As it turns out, helping the players isn’t the only thing that Grabowski has been able to do as a student assistant coach and Gallagher has found her to be a help to the entire coaching staff.

“At practice she gives me input,” said Gallagher. “At games she gives me input, so she’s definitely a good addition to have on the bench.”

Grabowski is heading to Duquesne University in the fall and may play some club basketball, but plans on focusing on her studies as she words toward a degree in nursing. Looking back, she’ll still be able to have good memories of her senior season of high school basketball, even though they won’t be quite the type of memories that she initially planned.

Grabowski realizes how in some ways, she’s very fortunate, because having her season end before it even began, with a new coach taking over the team, it would have been easy for Grabowski to get lost in the shuffle of a young team learning the ropes of a new system under a new coach. Instead, she remained a part of the team.

Grabowski remembers the feeling she had when being asked to help as a member of the coaching staff.

“I was really grateful that she allowed me to be incorporated into the team for my senior year even though she didn’t know me,” said Grabowski.