There are some players that you just want to have on your team. Some of them are blessed with skill, others with the ability to lead or even the personality traits that make them a great person to be around. Then there’s some who just have it all.
In her four years as a member of the Concordia women’s soccer team Kathleen Grzybowski has reached the point where she embodies all the above characteristics.
Evidence of this doesn’t just come from Grzybowski’s own humble words but from those of her teammates who praise the exiting captain for her role on the team.
“Kathleen is the greatest girl I know, she always tries to stay positive and give people the chance to show the best of themselves,” says second-year forward Skye Moseley.
A Brampton, Ontario native, Grzybowski came to Montreal to take full advantage of the opportunity to get an education away from home.
“Coming here offered me a chance to expand my horizons,” says the 23-year-old.
Part of that horizon was the art education program offered at Concordia which Kathleen has used to prepare herself for a possible future in teaching.
She says taking part in teaching stages over the last four years has helped her build a good sense of confidence.
“I find it really rewarding…I’m really proud of the passion that I have for teaching art and the working with people.”
Grzybowski’s own assessment of her personality shows why she has earned a reputation for being so easy for teammates to get along with.
“I still consider myself a kid,” she says. “I think about how my teachers always seemed so mature,” she says. “I don’t think feeling youthful is a bad thing because I’ll keep learning if I don’t completely mature.”
Kathleen’s laid-back attitude proved to be important in her approachability for some of the younger players over the course of this past season.
“If I had anything to say I could tell Kathleen. Everyone mentioned that we had to talk more and she was a big part of that,” says rookie all-star Melanie Poirier.
Over the course of her time here, Grzybowski has had the opportunity to see the team develop under the direction of two different coaches who have each had distinct influences on her.
“My first two years here I played under Ammar Awad. He was such an amazing coach and took every player and made them feel like superstars and made the team connect,” she says.
When under Awad’s direction, the Stingers only had access to players from within the school. A couple of years later Grzybowski has played a big role in the plans of second-year coach Jorge Sanchez who has been given the opportunity to help the growth of the program.
“She’s really been more of a mentor type leader,” Sanchez says. “We had to allow a transition from where the program was coming from and Kathleen has been good at bridging that gap.”
“We had a huge shift that was really hard to deal with. Thinking back it was really hard to see girls that had trouble adjusting because I really wanted them to have the great time that I had when I started,” says Kathleen, who made that bridge easier by openly accepting her role and tried to help younger players feed off her enthusiasm.
Perhaps the event that best exemplifies the determination and positive attitude that has made Grzybowski so respected was when she suffered a serious injury in her rookie season.
After tearing her anterior collateral ligament in a semi-final match with McGill, the academic all-Canadian was left with a date with a surgery table and eight months of recovery. She was left bothered at the inability to help her team when her second-year began.
But when she made her return, although no longer the same player, Kathleen did so with a more unwavering spirit than ever.
“My injury used to be the reason I held back but it’s really made me a lot stronger.”
While her departure will be a significant one it looks like the never quit mentality that Kathleen has instilled in her teammates will leave a lasting impression.
“She’s always kept a positive attitude and made us believe we could do anything,” says second-year forward Elisa Quaranta, “she’s also kept us together through some tough times.”
Although clearly well respected as captain by her teammates, Kathleen has never seen herself as being above anyone else. “Whether it’s soccer or teaching I don’t consider myself to be an authority figure. Everyone’s role is equal to mine and I just try to do my part.”
With her Concordia soccer career behind her and the conclusion of her life as a Concordia student not much further away, Grzybowski still maintains the same relaxed yet confident mindset that she has displayed throughout the last four years.
“I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do but the world is at my feet and it’s a very exciting time.”