HARRISVILLE-Growing up in Carlshend, Joell (Johnson) Krejcarek had very few opportunities to participate in sports.
The only opportunities she had were in cheerleading, a weekly sports night at school and in the summer when she would play sports with friends.
"When I was in school, I didn't have opportunities and I vowed when I got into coaching that girls would have chances," Krejcarek said.
Courtesy Photo/Escanaba Daily Press
The Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame grew by 11 members April 28 at The Danforth Place in Escanaba during the 41st annual induction banquet. Inductees include: front row from left, Jeanette LeCaptain of Escanaba, Erica Ledy of Drummond Island, Barb Perry of Norway, sisters Nancy Adams and Lila Hermanson representing their father, the late Carl Matson of Pelkie, and Shari (Ahola) Byerly of Gladstone; back, Rob Barkle of Kingsford, representing his late father Larry Barkle, Terry Sayen of Gwinn, Con Yagodzinski of Escanaba, Keith Mugford representing his late father Jack Mugford of Laurium, John DePuydt of Hancock, representing his late wife Cheryl, and Joell (Johnson) Krejcarek of Carlshend.
Krejcarek made good on her promise, starting four girls sports programs at Alcona High School over a 31-year span. Krejcarek's accomplishments were recently recognized when she was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame on April 28.
When Krejcarek arrived at Alcona in 1966, there were no sports offered for girls. She gradually changed that, beginning a girls basketball program in 1967, a girls track program in 1968, softball in 1973 and volleyball in 1990 and was a coach in all of them.
"I loved it," Krejcarek said. "The love of being around sports was a big part of it. I had a great relationship with lots of athletes and it was great watching them get to fulfill their goals and dreams."
At the Hall of Fame banquet at The Danforth Place in Escanaba, Krejcarek was one of 11 inductees along with Jeanette LeCaptain, Erica Ledy, Barb Perry, Carl Matson, Shari (Ahola) Byerly, Larry Barkle, Terry Sayen, Con Yagodzinski, Jack Mugford and Cheryl DePuydt.
Each inductee was introduced and had a chance to speak. They each received a plaque, which will go on display in the Hall of Fame in Iron Mountain.
It was very special," Krejcarek said. "Even though I did all my coaching in Alcona, it was neat to be remembered like that."
Though she coached multiple sports, Krejcarek is perhaps best known for coaching girls basketball, which she did for 31 years, compiling a 392-215 record.
Mendy Matuzak-Romero played for Krejcarek on the girls basketball team from 1978-80, a period in which the Tigers went 64-9 and made appearances in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Romero said she still keeps in touch with Krejcarek and said she's very deserving of the honor.
"She's very soft spoken, but she had a quiet intensity," Romero said. "She's a very coach and she taught the importance of team work, working hard and winning the right way."
Krejcarek retired from teaching and coaching in 1998, which she said was a difficult decision because she knew she still had the desire to coach.
Though Krejcarek has now been honored several times by Alcona and now by the Hall of Fame, what she's proud of most is how the establishing of girls sports at Alcona was met with continued support and enthusiasm from Alcona's female athletes.
"The biggest thing was consistency; we built a very solid program and every year we had girls that we anxious and eager to be a part of it," Krejcarek said.