Kurzawski’s Multi-Platform Role and the Changed Lives of his Athletes
how one coach makes a big impact on the lives of his athletes.
By Kylie Owoc
Andrew Kurzawski, owner of Gym Rat
Performance Training, and assistant coach
of Point Park women’s basketball team has
more than just a positive influence on his
athletes, but how?
Kason Harrell credits Andrew Kurzawski for
helping him make his dream of playing
professional basketball a reality.
After tearing a knee ligament, Abbey Dobbins
she thought that she would never play basketball
again until she went to work with Kurzawski.
Tom Obiecunas credits Kurzawski for not only
making him a better coach, but for making a
positive impact on his players and everyone
else around him.
Whether it is through his personal training
company, his collegiate coaching experience, or his simple actions as a human being, all of these individuals have been impacted in a positive way by Kurzawski.
“Coaching is often something someone gets into because they enjoy the sport but those who stay in it normally do so because of the way it enriches their lives and how it gives you a forum to enrich the lives of other people,” says Kurzawski.
Andrew Kurzawski, 35, is a man who takes on many roles as a coach for athletes. He not only owns his own personal training company called Gym Rat Performance Training, but he also is the assistant coach for the Point Park University women’s basketball team.
Kurzawski was born and raised in the Carnegie, Pittsburgh area, and attended Carlyton high school where he was a 4-year starter, as well as the first freshman to start in school history.
During his time a Carlyton, he was a 3-time all-section selection and was the top 10 in school history for rebounding and blocks.
He received his Bachelors’s degree from St. Johns University in Pre-Law Studies after transferring from a junior college in which he briefly played basketball.
At St. Johns, Kurzawski was offered a full scholarship as well as a spot to walk on. However, due to the commitment of the seminary, which was his main passion at the time, he was not able to put his full efforts into basketball.
Kurzawski continued his passion and received his Masters’ from Saint Vincent College in Divinity and Ministry.
During his schooling, he was offered a job at a local gym to train athletes and run the programming, but the job required him to be a certified personal trainer (CPT).
“After I scrambled to get my CPT, the job turned out to be a dud, but having the certification has been very helpful and has allowed me to do more with Gym Rat and everything else,” Kurzawski said.
However, Kurzawski not only helps athletes achieve their potential in the gym but outside of it as well.
There is no way that I would have a professional contract without Coach K,” said Harrell.
In high school, Harrell played for Hempfield, and from there received a scholarship from Purdue Fort Wayne University.
During his 2018-2019 season at Fort Wayne, Harrell started in all 33 games, was selected to the All-Summit League Honorable Mention Team and ranked 8th in program history with 1,315 points.
Harrell has consistently trained at Gym Rat over the last few seasons for basketball development.
Harrell was working with Gym Rat to increase his fundamental and shooting skills in hopes of signing a professional basketball contract.
Kurzawski trained with Harrell consistently on the court and in the weight room, improving his strength as well as basketball skills.
Although Kurzawski isn’t an in-your-face, screaming coach, he is vocal when it comes to assessing a player’s potential and making sure that the player reaches it.
This includes giving honest and direct feedback.
Since working with Gym Rat, he improved his ball-handling fundamentals and shooting skills, which are crucial at the shooting guard position at such a high level of basketball.
In 2019, he signed a professional contract with the Fort Wayne Mad
Ants but has now decided to move on to play for the Killester Basketball
Club, which is the most successful civilian basketball clubs in Dublin
Harrell gives credit to Kurzawski for not only being a mentor with
basketball but in life as well, including religion.
Harrell explains that Kurzawski has not only been a huge motivator
towards his faith but one of his biggest supporters as well.
Aside from attending St. Johns University and Saint Vincent College
with his degrees, he also has volunteered for the Franciscan Friars
of the Renewal, which assists the poor and homeless.
Kurzawski has also worked with Stephen Ministries, which is a
not-for-profit Christian educational organization.
“As a person, it is nice to work with someone who has the same
spiritual values that I do so he has been very encouraging in my
faith,” Harrell said.
Kurzawski discusses his relationships made through coaching saying, “The most rewarding aspect is the relationships I have made with players, parents, fans, and colleagues - athletics in a lot of ways can serve as a classroom for life and I have always considered myself a teacher who uses the gym or basketball court as my classroom”.
One of these relationships that Kurzawski has formed over the years has been with Dobbins.
She is currently a freshman student at Bethany College, as well as a member of the women’s basketball team.
Dobbins said that she has always had dreams of playing basketball at the collegiate level, but knew she had many things to improve on before that dream could be a reality.
She was only still a sophomore when she tore her left ACL, forcing her to sit out for the upcoming season.
Dobbins returned the following season playing her junior year.
She began playing for her Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team the summer before her senior year but wasn’t getting the playing time that she desired.
Instead of letting it wear her down, Dobbins decided to do something about it.
After hearing about Gym Rat through some local people, Dobbins decided to reach out, knowing she had to improve her skills before the upcoming season.
She trained consistently with Kurzawski, working hard to improve her footwork and finishes to the hoop.
Dobbins season finally came around and she was more ready than ever to play, this was it, her senior season.
That feeling would soon be taken away from her.
She had, for the second time, torn her left ACL.
Forcing her to miss another season, Dobbins felt
completely lost and more devastated than ever.
This was her final season to play with her friends at the
sport she loved, yet it got taken away in a matter of
seconds. She then realized something.
Her dream was not over, and this wasn’t the end of her
Again, she reached out to Kurzawski to help her get back
on the court.
This time, she had more fire in her than ever.
This time, she was even more ready.
She was going to accomplish her dream of playing basketball at the collegiate level.
“When I found out that I tore my ACL again, Coach K was the first person I called. He was a big part in getting me back on the court. He really worked with me on getting my pivots down and getting comfortable getting to the rack.”
As with any injury, the rehabilitation process can be extremely frustrating.
The rehabilitation process starts with consistently going to physical therapy, which includes regaining strength and working on mobility throughout the knee.
Once Dobbins completed her physical therapy and could return to basketball training, the most important part became fundamentals and muscle memory.
She started by getting comfortable with certain movements
again, and from there worked continuously over the summer
with Kurzawski increasing her speed, agility, footwork, and
fundamentals, which included her movement towards the hoop.
“I asked her what’s going on with recruiting for college?
She and her parents said no one else was really helping
them, so I started working with her and helping her get in
touch with some people,” said Kurzawski.
Kurzawski explained that Dobbins started visiting some
colleges, and ultimately ended up liking Bethany.
Not only has she become a member of the Bethany women’s
basketball team but has become a strong asset for them as
Dobbins made her way into the starting lineup for Bethany and was awarded the PAC freshman of the week multiple times.
“I’m pretty proud of the kid. Not only did she get back on the court after two injuries, but she came back much better.”
Dobbins explains that there is still some knee pain here and there, but for the most part, she feels great.
Dobbins expressed her gratitude towards Kurzawski.
“He not only cares about you as an athlete but as a person as well. During my first week of school he would just text me to see how things were,” Dobbins said.
Gym Rat Performance Training is privately owned and created by Kurzawski, who is a Certified Personal Trainer and prior collegiate basketball player.
Individual and group basketball training session are offered as well as individual and group sessions of personal training which also includes boot camp classes at various gyms in the Pittsburgh area.
These sessions can range anywhere from $50-60 per individual training sessions, to full 1 on 1 training packages priced at $480-660.
Kurzawski says that he started Gym Rat of not necessarily a want, but a need. He mainly worked with people who knew him doing private lessons for extra money. However, after getting many clients, he was not able to keep up with high demand.
“I decided to ask a few former players to assist me and a few coaching friends, we kicked around some names that we felt would describe our business and what we wanted to accomplish and Gym Rat Performance Training was born,” Kurzawski said.
Before Gym Rat, Kurzawski had over 10 years of coaching experience for schools such as Carlow University (2014-16), Penn-State Beaver (2016-17), and St. Vincent College (2007-11).
Aside from coaching athletes at Gym Rat, Kurzawski recently took on the assistant coaching role at Point Park as well for the 2019-2020 season.
Dobbins says his positivity is prevalent.
“As a coach, he brings a positive energy. He is willing to break things down and spend periods of time just to make sure you understand. He has great basketball knowledge,” Dobbins said.
“Point Park is a fun place to coach. We really have a family type of athletic
department where other coaches assist each other in giving our student-athletes
a great experience.” Kurzawski said.
Kurzawski assists the Pioneers with student-athlete recruitment, practice and
game preparation, on-floor coaching, player development, as well as strength
and conditioning work.
Now that Kurzawski has a multi-platform coaching role, he must balance his
work with Gym Rat and his work with Point Park.
Of those assisting Kurzawski is Tom Obiecunas. Obiecunas assists Kurzawski in
Gym Rat with the developmental work for basketball. He also helps him with
the business aspects of the company, which includes the organization and
design of the camps.
“Coach K has made a positive impact on the athletes of Gym Rat by giving them
additional opportunities to develop their skills through individual and group
work, honest feedback and of skills, abilities, and talents, and him being an
overall great person,” said Obiecunas.
Obiecunas says Kurzawski has made him a better coach in more ways
than he could even thank him.
Kurzawski explains his first encounter with Obiecunas when he was
coaching at a prior college and Obiecunas was Athletic Director.
Kurzawski was looking to leave to coach at a local CCAC and Obiecunas became interested in helping. However, those plans didn’t fall through.
Kurzawski had bigger plans for Obiecunas.
“Tom wanted to get more involved with Gym Rat and I figured I could use someone to really help me develop the company,” said Kurzawski.
Kurzawski explains that Obiecunas has been a huge help in helping Gym Rat grow.
“Once he started, he was just fantastic with guard development and X’s and O’s. That’s what he is really good at, teaching shooting and ball-handling,” said Kurzawski.
Obiecunas has now been with Gym Rat for two and a half years.
“He has made me a better coach by his attention to detail of players and his ability to actually assess player's talents,” said Obiecunas.
Kurzawski says that his work is not even close to finished, but rather, just getting started.
“Over the years I have been invited to graduations, weddings, have been asked to write letters of recommendations and provide internships for players - I have been called a mentor to a number of younger people and for me that makes the job not a job at all but rather a ministry or calling”.
Kurzawski explains the true meaning behind his job
“It’s not about the money or anything like that. It's about trying to educate these kids the right way and forming relationships with not only them but their families as well. That’s what it’s about for me.”
Key Words: Basketball, Coaching, Collegiate, University, Athlete, Gym Rat, Pittsburgh, Point Park
Kylie Owoc is a first-year graduate student at Point Park University getting a degree from the School of Communications with a specialization in Documentary. She has an undergraduate degree from Carlow University in Communications and Media. She currently works for the Tribune-Review as a Freelance Media Specialist.
Kurzawski motivating his Point Park women’s basketball players in a huddle during a time out call.
Kurzawski coaching his athletes during a Gym Rat training session
Kurzawski and Obiecunas together at the Peterson Event Center