Jezioro 'bringing the fire' to new job

Red Devils' new AD says there's simply nothing better than high school athletics

Hinsdale Central athletic director Mike Jezioro never planned to become a teacher, much less a coach.

He was nearing the start of his senior year at Glenbard East High School when the teachers went on strike, causing the varsity football team on which he played to forfeit its first game.

"As a 17-year-old boy, that was the most traumatic, horrible thing," Jezioro said. "I couldn't believe that adults had that much effect over us."

So he abandoned his plans to study computer engineering at Purdue University, deciding to go into teaching instead.

"I changed my career path right then and there because of that one incident," he said.

He enrolled at Elmhurst College, where he majored in math, played football and met his future wife, Ann, a soccer player.

His entry into coaching was equally unexpected.

"I kind of got thrown into coaching," he said.

He thought he had agreed to help his former high school wrestling coach with a kids wrestling club during a phone conversation. Then the two met for dinner.

"He hands me this 3-inch binder, this huge binder, and was like, 'Here you go. Here's everything you need. You're in charge,' " Jezioro recalled.

The experience taught him a lot about running a program, from obtaining the proper insurance to entering teams into competitions.

"It was a great experience. Now that I look back, I'm thankful he was like, 'Figure it out, here's what you've got to do,' " he said.

Since then, he's added several coaching positions to his resume. He spent three years as a wrestling coach at his former high school while in college. He also coached softball at Glenbard East and football and wrestling at Oswego East High School. The most important skill a coach can bring to the position isn't technical knowledge of a particular sport, in his opinion.

"I think no matter what the sport is, it's all about the relationships and the connections the coach can make with the kids," he said, sounding a lot like a popular Apple TV coach.

"I am a Ted Lasso fan," he admitted when asked. "I love it."

One of his most challenging jobs was being on staff when Oswego East first opened, and he and other coaches were responsible for starting every sports program from scratch.

"We were trying to find ways to get kids involved, trying to find traditions, just trying to figure it

all out," he said.

He spent 10 years at Oswego before becoming dean of students at Glenbard East. The last five years before coming to Central, he had the shared duties of activities and athletic director at South Elgin High School.

"My passion has always been athletics," said Jezioro, who played soccer, baseball and football and also wrestled while growing up. "So to be the athletic and activities director of a school with 3,000 students was a lot of work. I wanted to focus in on athletics."

He knew Dan Jones and that the AD job at Central would be open when he retired.

"I submitted my application, was fortunate enough to go through the process and here I am," he said.

He started July 1 and said he's focusing his first year primarily on observing.

"You don't want to come in a place that has had so much success as Hinsdale Central, you're not going to come and be like, 'Hey, we're changing all this stuff.' There's no need," he said.

That isn't to say he won't be making a few tweaks.

"Dan is amazing, but everybody knows everybody does stuff a little different," he said, noting Jones' penchant for paper and his preference for digital documents.

"You have to do what works for you," he added. "You can't take someone else's system and try to fit yourself into it."

Assistant athletic director Kelly Watson said Jezioro's organization and technology skills will be an asset to the athletic department and the West Suburban Conference.

"While he hasn't made too many changes in his short time here, some ideas he has in mind are great, and I look forward to seeing him implement them in the coming years," Watson said.

Jezioro said one of his challenges will be helping athletes who fall short of meeting their goals in an environment where first-place finishes are frequent. Taking second isn't the worst thing that can happen, he said.

"Part of the job here is to help the kids understand that a little bit," Jezioro said. "We're very fortunate and we've had a lot of success, and we'll continue to have a lot of success. It's also teaching them how to handle the adversity when the expectations aren't met.

"You don't always finish in first place. You don't always get the job. It's how you deal with that," he added.

Despite the department's reputation for having support from the community, he's still been impressed by the level of support.

The father of four daughters said his favorite part of the job is working with kids.

"When you come in new, it takes a while to start building those relationships," he said, noting that at this point he has met most student-athletes for one of two reasons.

"They're either really good or they do something bad and you have to have the conversation with them," he said.

Watson praised Jezioro for his ability to form connections.

"He is very student-centered and has already formed nice relationships with students by encouraging them to perform at their best, both in the classroom and on the field, court, etc.," she said.

Jezioro recently attended a soccer game in Batavia, where he lives, and the next day heard from players how excited they were to see him there.

"Sometimes you get stuck behind the computer and answering emails," he said. "Sometimes you have to be reminded why you're here."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean