Ellis School athletic director to retire after 29 years with school
Genny Kozusko offers advice she says helped her succeed throughout her professional life.
“Take a chance. Call people. Make connections. It will pay off,” she said.
Kozusko's 15 years as athletic director at The Ellis School, Shadyside, demonstrate that success is possible for those who take a chance.
Kozusko was coaching part-time and working at Giant Eagle when she checked in with Fran Koch, then-director of the Ellis Upper School. Koch invited Kozusko to interview for a position teaching physical education and coaching field hockey.
“It was like a stroke of luck,” Kozusko said. “I was 37 years old, and it was the first time I got to coach what I wanted to coach.”
All told, Kozusko has been part of the Ellis team for 29 years, first as a teacher but always a coach.
Last week, she announced she will retire as athletic director at the end of the school year. She will continue to coach field hockey, and wherever else she is needed, next year.
“Everybody is learning about her retirement just now,” said Kristin LaPlace, a physical education teacher and coach at Ellis. “The girls are really sad to see her go. Girls like my daughter (Shea LaPlace) that got to have her for their whole high school careers are thrilled that they got to have her. They know it was a really special experience to play under Genny Kozusco.”
Kozusko coached numerous Ellis teams, racking up 5 WPIAL championships and 15 section titles in cross country, field hockey and tennis.
In 2000, Kozusko created the Ellis Athletic Hall of Fame to honor women who, as Ellis students, competed with little recognition in a private school league before joining the more competitive WPIAL in 1998.
“They (Ellis athletes) played hard,” Kozusko said. “These kids played to win games and they had a lot of spirit. Their names were never in the paper for that sort of thing, so I thought it might be nice if we could honor some of those girls that did play on teams and continue to.”
Ellis has produced athletes who play at every level in college, including Division I. Kozusko taught them how to play and love the game and their team.
“Genny has a very successful record, particularly in field hockey,” LaPlace said. “But she still cares more about her athletes and about developing the athlete and making sure everybody gets some time on the field.”
Kozusko's approach as a coach is to allow everyone to play, and her upbeat attitude and sense of fairness are felt even by her opponents, those who know her said.
“Coaches love her because of the way she is,” said LaPlace, describing Kozusko's attitude as, “ ‘Yes I'm a competitor, yes I want to beat you, but hey, how are you doing? Give me a hug.' ”
Kozusko said her retirement as AD will allow her to pursue her plans to be more involved with her church and spend more time with her family.
“It's been an absolutely wonderful experience for me to do this,” she said. “I've learned more from the kids than they've learned from me. It's been a delight to be here.”
Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer.