AVON — Those that know Maura Kostraba would agree that she has green in her blood.
The Avon graduate has spent the better part of 36 years at Avon Central, mostly teaching and coaching several sports including girls track and field, which she has been involved in at the varsity level, the last 16 as a head coach.
Kostraba will be stepping down from both teaching and coaching after this spring, certainly not the send-off that she had hoped for with the spread of COVID-19 that has all but taken away her proper send-off.
Kostraba first started teaching at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Dansville in September 1984 where she worked two days a week while also subbing at Avon High School.
In Oct. of ‘84 she was appointed Avon’s varsity volleyball coach and during that tenure she was a daily sub, long term sub, and part time Physical Education teacher.
Then in 94-95 she became a full-time Physical Education teacher at Avon but unfortunately due to budget reductions she lost her job at the end of the school year.
Through this 10-year period she coached soccer, volleyball and track and field and stayed involved teaching in the Midlakes and LeRoy Central School Districts as long term subs and then part time in LeRoy and Avon.
In 1998, she was hired back as a full time teacher in Avon and has been there ever since.
“My first 14 years in education had been quite the rollercoaster,” she says.
During her years at Avon she has coached several sports including modified, JV and varsity volleyball, modified, JV and varsity soccer and most notably girls track and field.
To Coach K, it’s not about the wins and losses that matter, it is all about the connections she has made and relationships she has built with all of her student-athletes over the years.
We sat down with Kostraba this week to talk about her time spent as a teacher and coach in the Avon School District.
TDN: What got you into teaching/coaching?
Kostraba: When I was in high school at ACS I really didn’t know what I wanted to pursue in college. One day a was talking with my Physical Education teacher, Mr. David Whitcomb, and he mentioned that I should go to SUNY Cortland and major in Physical Education with a concentration in Athletic Training. Cortland was the only school I applied to, graduated with a degree in teaching and went on to get my Athletic Training certification. I loved PE, so it just made sense after my conversation with Dave Whitcomb that I would be a Physical Education teacher.
TDN: Since you started coaching volleyball back in 1984, what is it about coaching student-athletes that kept your candle burning for coaching all these years?
Kostraba: I love working with the student-athletes, their desire to learn, work hard and do their very best has motivated me to be my best. As a teacher/coach I think it’s important for the female student-athletes to have a good female role model, I hope I’ve been that role model. I have had the pleasure of working with so many student-athletes, I’ve seen them grow into adults and return to raise their families in Avon and now I’m teaching and coaching their children. My career has come full circle.
TDN: Teaching Physical Education and coaching at Avon, what are some of your greatest coaching memories?
Kostraba: There have been so many great memories! It can be as simple as seeing someone improving on a skill and then it finally clicks. Some of my most cherished memories are the ones when I was able to be on the track coaching my children Emil (‘05) and Emily (‘08). More track memories include her first girls track and field sectional win in 2007 as an assistant coach with John Roberts. Our second sectional win in 2017 as head coach with Scott Forrest as my assistant. Going to the NYSPHSAA Track and Field Championships with Ali Schillinger (‘09), Lauren Wiard (’14, ’15), Amy Faville (’15, ’17), and Ellie Cochrane (’19). As modified soccer coach for the past five seasons, I’ve watched the current varsity soccer team develop from modified with me to where they are now — what a great feeling to have watched them this past season knowing that they were “my girls.
TDN: Avon seems to have a very close-knit, supportive community when it comes to academics and athletics. Why?
Kostraba: It’s small town USA. It’s a great community where we have an excellent relationship among community members, parents, students and ACS staff. There is a good balance between academics, athletics and extra-curricular activities. The community really stands behind the Avon Central School District.
TDN: From when you first started coaching until now, how has coaching student-athletes changed over the years?
Kostraba: The student-athletes are involved in so many more activities both in and out of school; academics, school sports, a job, other extra-curricular activities, year round sports programs. Coaches need to be more flexible to meet the needs of their athletes.
TDN: I am sure you never envisioned COVID-19 spoiling what was going to be an outstanding season for your girls track and field team, what are your thoughts on this?
Kostraba: I am heartbroken for our athletes, their parents and especially the seniors. It’s hard not to think what if? When we left practice on Friday, March 13, I never envisioned this is where we would be.
TDN: What’s next for you as you move towards retirement?
Kostraba: Family is everything! I look forward to spending a lot of time with my husband, Emil, children Emil, Emily and son-in-law Kyle and my grandson, Henry. I am not leaving the world of athletics completely, I can’t. I will continue to teach Coaches First Aid and CPR/AED through BOCES and continue as an assessor with wrestling weight certifications. I also plan on becoming a track and field official. I’ve been involved with track since 1977 and am not ready to leave completely. I have been very fortunate to have done what I love and have loved what I have done. Thank you to everyone that I have worked with, students and adults, you have made these 36 years so amazing.