If you thought the Olympics were over, think again. The Paralympics take place in London from Aug. 29 to Sep. 9. Julie Gawronski is Coordinator of Military Events at US Paralympics.
Sam's Dream Blog: What does your job involve?
Julie Gawronski: At this time I have two primary functions within the Military Program at US Paralympics. Day-to-day I oversee the Athlete Identification and Development Program. I work with program coordinators, event directors, coaches, and co-workers around the country to identify military athletes who show athletic ability and potential in a sport or sports. I work with the athletes to find out if they are interested in sports at a recreational level or if they really want to push their limits and compete at the highest level possible. Either way we work to connect the athlete to local resources such as coaches, training facilities, sports programs, equipment, etc. I also keep athletes informed of upcoming camp and event opportunities, grants that become available, etc. Another part of my job is to check-in with the athletes from time to time to see if they have any questions, ask for updates on their training or competition progress, etc.
I also coordinate sport logistics for Warrior Games events which consist of seven different sport competitions.
SDB: Tell me about the process how you first came to the USOC as an intern up till now. How have you progressed? How have your previous positions with the USOC prepared you for your current role?
Julie Gawronski: I was in the middle of my Master’s degree program at Canisius College and needed to fulfill an internship requirement. It was a dream of mine to work for the USOC, so I applied to be an intern in the Operations Dept. at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I was hired for the internship for the summer of 2007. As that was winding down, I asked if I could stay on longer to assist with the fall semester, knowing that if I left the USOC it would be hard to get back for many reasons. The timing was right, and a position opened up in Ops that fall that I applied for and was granted. Throughout the few years in Operations, I learned about and became very passionate about the mission of US Paralympics. In January of 2011, I made the move over to the Paralympic Division.
When I came to the USOC, my only previous professional work experience was holding a graduate assistant position at Canisius. My time at the USOC has helped form a strong base in which to continue to grow. It has been a safe yet competitive environment to learn, grow, push limits, and think/act creatively. Not only are the athletes we service the best of the best, but the staff at the USOC is as well. That has led me to push myself in a positive and hard-working environment.
SDB: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Julie Gawronski: Helping service men and women, some who have given up so much to serve our country, on their sport journey. It could range from connecting them with a local learn-to-swim program so that they can swim with their child again post-injury, to informing them about events in which they can qualify for a Paralympic team! I like knowing that I’m giving back a tiny bit to those who have served our country.
SDB: As Coordinator of Military Events, no doubt you have seen people suffer physical or emotional loss because of their military service. How have you seen these individuals triumph over adversity through sport?
Julie Gawronski: I think the thing that gets me every time I meet a new athlete is their positive attitude. They tackle every challenge with a smile, whether it is getting down a set of stairs in a wheelchair or going through a tough work-out.
SDB: What have the Paralympians taught you personally in terms of drive, resourcefulness and other lessons? Do you have a favorite story that comes to mind?
Julie Gawronski: There are too many stories to pick one! The athletes’ faces and stories run through my mind quite often (frequently when I’m in a tough workout myself and want to give up), and I believe I’m a better person because of meeting them and hearing their stories.