On Wednesday, May 18, I received word from one of my colleagues that John Kodluk, longtime girls soccer coach and freshman economics teacher at Kingsway, had passed away earlier that morning.
Being the fixture at Kingsway that he was, I simply refused to believe that was possible. It later was confirmed to be true.
Coach Kodluk, who molded the girls soccer program into one of the top programs in South Jersey, indeed was stricken with a heart attack at the age of 57.
In late 2013, I reported that Coach Kodluk recorded his 100th career win. He eventually was able to amass a career record of 133-116-18 and have his girls ranked permanently in the top 10 in South Jersey. He was known for his sound training program as well as his ability to communicate effectively the objectives, goals, and expectations of his program.
However, even with a bevy of success (and with a chorus line of former players in the collegiate ranks), he remained humble and consistently deflected the attention to his girls. In 2013 after getting his 100th win, he was quoted as saying he “wanted the focus to be on the girls. It’s about them, not me. I sit on the sidelines”.
That was Coach Kodluk in a nutshell.
An example of his character is his work with US Youth Soccer’s TOPSoccer, which assists children ages 4 to 18 years old with physical and mental disabilities such as autism, Down’s Syndrome, and visual impairment in order to help these children make gains physically, mentally, and emotionally. His players act as “Buddies” for the program participants, guiding them through every step of the sessions.
Coach Kodluk felt that his players got as much, if not more, out of volunteering for this project as the participants.
“To see the joy on the faces of the participants after accomplishing a task really is special,” said Kodluk. “A similar expression appears on the faces of my high school girls, too.”
This compassion and investment in others set him apart from others.
“I still remember one of his last days here at Kingsway,” said Kingsway Athletic Director June Cioffi. “He left school, went to support the baseball team at their senior night, and then immediately went over to the boys’ lacrosse game for their senior night. Regardless of the sport, he loved these kids and loved the Kingsway community. His positivity and perspective on life was a treasure.”
In the days since his passing, the Kingsway community has shown its love and adoration for Coach Kodluk with a candlelight vigil and a memorial service held within his beloved school. While struggling to cope with the loss of such a great man, the community looks to carry on his legacy.
“As one of our longest tenured coaches, he has given of himself time and time again, all in the name of Kingsway and its community,” said Cioffi. “He always honored our traditions and believed in promoting support for one another. He symbolized that loyalty and dedication to others, and we can honor him by continuing to act in that way moving forward.”
Coach Kodluk would want nothing more than to serve children in this way. That simply was the way he lived, and he would want others to do the same.
His example of high character, professionalism, and kindness certainly will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of his students past and present, and, for that, the Kingsway community is so thankful for his gifts.
Rest in peace, Coach.