Flipping the switch

SV grad Lyczek tackling coaching career

April 1, 2021 Cranberry Local Sports


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Seneca Valley graduate and Defiance College graduate assistant women's basketball coach Brooke Lyczek watches the action during a game this season. Lyczek had her basketball and lacrosse careers at Westminster College cut short by a broken hand, but has reinvented herself at Defiance College.

DEFIANCE, Ohio — The snap was so loud, Brooke Lyczek's teammates thought she had given someone a high-five.

But the loud crack was the sound of the bones in her left hand snapping in half.

The fluke injury happened on an otherwise normal play in an otherwise normal Westminster College women's basketball practice in January of 2020.

Lyczek

Lyczek, a Seneca Valley graduate, was going for a steal against a teammate who made a ball fake. The thrust of the basketball jammed into Lyczek's left hand with just the right force and at just the right angle to break all four bones across her palm.

The serious break required emergency surgery to install a plate and two screws.

It also ended Lyczek's unique athletic career at Westminster.

Lyczek played both basketball and lacrosse for the Titans. She had never played lacrosse until she joined the brand new Westminster program as a freshman.

“The coach asked me if I would be interested (in playing lacrosse) because some of the same fundamentals in basketball can be applied to lacrosse,” Lyczek said. “I said, 'Sure. I'll give it a try.' Sure enough, I was athletic enough to play and I loved it. I loved the team and I loved playing.”

Lyczek made the all-Presidents' Athletic Conference team in lacrosse in two of the three seasons she played.

Her final season was lost to both her hand injury and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basketball, though, was always her first love.

When an opportunity arose for her to become a graduate assistant women's basketball coach at Defiance College in Ohio while she pursued her master's degree in sports management, she jumped at the chance.

Her experience on the bench with a broken hand over the final months of her basketball career at Westminster made her future plans come into full focus.

“At first I was in a funk,” Lyczek said. “I was like, 'I don't know if they really need me.' But the younger players were still looking at me and asking me questions and that made me feel like I wanted to do this. I wanted to be a coach. I honestly think breaking my hand was a blessing in a weird way.”

It also taught Lyczek how to turn the page from player to coach.

It wasn't easy at first.

“I had to flip the switch from player-mode to coach-mode,” Lyczek said. “I've always been able to explain things and explain drills. The hardest part is I can't be out there doing things. I have to sit back and watch and hope they understand it.

“Our first game of the season (at Defiance), I was so excited,” Lyczek added. “Then we got out there and I was a little heartbroken because I couldn't go out there with them. I had to trust them.”

Lyczek, who isn't much older than the players she is coaching, was also concerned about earning the players' respect.

Those fears quickly vanished and Lyczek settled in to her knew job.

“I wasn't ready to give up the game,” Lyczek said. “I just wanted to be around it. And these girls, they've welcomed me.”

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Mike Kilroy

Mike Kilroy

I joined the Butler Eagle in January of 2000 after spending five years at the Steubenville Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times, where I did everything from editing the sports section to knocking snow and ice off the Associated Press satellite dish. I graduated from Kent State University in 1994 with a degree in magazine journalism and a minor in skipping class. My honors include a 2007 Associated Press award for feature writing, a 2005 and 2007 Keystone award for column writing and a 2003 Golden Quill award for feature writing. I have a high game of 255 at Wii Bowling.