Desmet Cross Country Diaries: Thinking of Rich Grawer


Rich Grawer.jpgRich Grawer, my sophomore cross country coach, photo by JerkswithRadio/

Anyone who reads this blog realizes that I hold coaches and teachers in high esteem. As the late, great Sam Adams (UC Santa Barbara) bellowed at me one time, " You know that ALL Coaches are EDUCATORS." Once I stopped trembling, I considered Coach Adam's important comment.

Here's my column on Rich Grawer, my first history teacher and sophomore head cross country coach at DeSmet. He was a real educator. And, he changed my life.

I went to DeSmet Jesuit High School in 1972-1974. I then, moved, with family, to San Jose, California and graduated from Bellarmine College Prep. I hold DeSmet as a special place in my heart. My three coaches there: Father Ralph Passarelli, S.J., Jim Marheinecke (aka Brother Jim) and Rich Grawer truly changed my life.

I was reading about Coach Grawer, who I have not seen since 1974, and I wanted to write about how, as my first high school history teacher and head cross country and Basketball Coach at DeSmet. On JerksWithRadio, Coach Grawer was called the Moses of Saint Louis U Basketball. Coach Grawer was also named to Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in recent years. It should have come twenty years ago.

Coach Grawer coached and taught at DeSmet during my two years at the school in Creve Coeur. In my freshman year, Rich Grawer taught us how to be historians. We were provided the context from which to understand various texts, how to research and how to use many types of information and, through study and research, make sense of it. I particularly remember an exercise where we had to learn to use the Library of Congress Card Catalog. For me, I had to learn about the winners of the 1972 Olympic sailing Royal Dutchman class. It was, however, the way that Mr. Grawer built our enthusiasm. He provided us clues, which were only answered as we delved into the local Library and researched the Library of Congress Card Catalogs. That was one of several projects that year, that made us all adept at using the library for research, and also how to understand various sources of information. (That exercise also helped me with a college job: cataloging law books at the Santa Clara Law Library.)

Coach Grawer knew how to reach young men. In history class, he had great stories, with a bit of gore, a bit of fun quotes and lots of facts. But, Rich Grawer made those facts come alive.

Coach Grawer remind us that the educated athlete was not a joke. His basketball teams ran cross country with us. I recall guys storming past me in cross country who were a foot taller than my 5-4 as a freshman. I believe the varsity basketball team at DeSmet all broke twelve minutes for two miles in cross country.

Grawer was a fine coach. He educated, disciplined and motivated. I loved him as a cross country coach and worked out under his watchful eye as the sophomores, jv and varsity trianed together. I believe his son, who became a fine basketball player, was at workouts early in the season.

When Rich Grawer won his first basketball title at DeSmet, I remember watching some of my cross country friends who were on the state winning basketball team. The game was tremendous, and tactcial, and that was Grawer's strength. The guy probably knew every tactic used in ancient warfare. Not sure he did not use some of those ideas in his BBall coaching.

What did Rich Grawer teach me? How to understand the gifts I had, and the responsibility to society to use those gifts. Grawer explained difficult times and ideas to young men who had pretty short attention spans. He had us interested in education and sports. We knew that there could not be one without the other. Grawer understand the Ignatian ideal and knew how to communicate it to 14-18 males.

My relationship with Mr. Grawer was quite different than my relationships with Father Ralph Passarelli and Jim Marheinecke. I wanted to earn Mr. Grawer's respect, as we all did. Grawer did not suffer fools. But, he was not mean. He was honest and we understood that.

Last fall, at a yearly gathering with former classmates and mostly former athletes, I came to understand the lessons from Mr. Grawer and how coaches and teachers can truly influence a future generation.

I never thanked Mr. Grawer for his guidance.

I am now.

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