Finding the Fairway
In his first season as head coach of St. John's Prep's varsity golf team, Brian Jasiak '07 brought home a division 1 state championship. However, it was by no means an easy journey to get there.
Since graduating St. John’s Prep in 2007, Brian Jasiak has proved his athleticism on the field and behind the scenes. Following his collegiate career at
Bentley University as a walk-on, left-handed pitcher for the school’s Division II baseball team, Jasiak shifted into a leadership position in 2013 as a varsity assistant and then JV golf coach at his high school alma mater. That journey began with a cold call to Larry O’Neill, St. John’s Prep’s head golf coach at the time.
“What might be the best part of this story is that Coach [O’Neill] and I had no prior relationship before I reached out,” explains Jasiak. “I didn’t play on the golf team for him and our paths didn’t cross elsewhere at SJP. Instead, I introduced myself, expressed my love for the game of golf, how much I enjoyed my time at SJP, and next thing you know, I was a 24-year old being called ‘coach.’”
While baseball was Jasiak’s focus when he was a student at St. John’s Prep, he grew up playing the game of golf alongside his grandparents at the Haverhill Country Club. Fast forward to today, and you will find Jasiak executing his role as the new head coach of the Prep’s varsity golf team.
However, Jasiak has had to adjust to a lot more than just trading in his glove for a bag of clubs. He’s also had to grapple with an immune deficiency known as X-Linked Agammaglobulinemia, which affects one in 200,000 newborns. Unable to produce antibodies to fight infections, Jasiak suffered a stroke as an infant as a result of routine vaccinations, prompting his diagnosis of hemiplegia, a partial paralysis leaving him permanently weakened on the right side of his body.
A lifelong condition, Jasiak’s immune deficiency requires that he receive a four-hour infusion of gamma globulin every three weeks. The stroke itself resulted in various physical challenges such as foot drop, permanent decreased muscle mass, and nerve damage. “I had to wear a brace throughout my entire childhood, day and night, and would constantly have to find creative ways to answer, ‘Why are you walking with a limp?’”
Despite Jasiak’s struggles and the modest expectations of his doctors, he remained active and competed in sports, using them as an avenue for escape. “Without explicitly saying it, it was clear from doctors early on that I had a difficult road ahead and that competing at a high level in sports would be challenging. This didn’t deter me, it only motivated me more to prove people wrong.
I developed the mindset that I was just like everyone else and [had] absolutely no excuses,” explains Jasiak, who has a 2-year-old son, Chris, with his wife, Alyssa. “This experience I’ve had throughout my entire life, to this day, has shaped how I think about and approach everything from parenting to coaching to just dealing with life’s general challenges.
“Every day that you’re able to wake up and be physically able to do something you love is a blessing, and it should never be taken for granted,” he says.
Jasiak’s ability to overcome adversity with all odds against him no doubt makes his leadership as the head coach just that much more impactful. But it also helps that he has a great group of students to work with.
“I love this team. I had gotten to know most of them over the past 2-3 years through our golf program, so the first time we were all together as a team in August was like a family holiday.
“They’re all gifted golfers, capable of performing very well each and every time out there. They hold themselves and each other accountable because they know their end-goal can’t be accomplished without contributions from everyone on the team. Unfortunately, I only get a couple of months of the year with each golf team, but once we go through a season, we’re family for life, and I’ll always be available as a coach, mentor, or friend.”
With Jasiak’s determination shaped by his past hardships, along with his team’s drive and spirit, it’s clear that the future of the St. John’s Prep varsity golf team is bright.