It’s been almost two years since the Livestrong bracelet fad hit Villanova’s campus. Everywhere you looked, you could see the yellow band gracing the wrists of our school’s finest. Although the bracelet was the season’s must-have accessory, the cause for which it stood extended far beyond the confines of our college grounds. It represented a cause that affects far more people than many of us realize. Founded by seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, Livestrong has become an organization offering hope, support and inspiration for people nationwide.
No one can understand the success of such an organization better than sophomore student Matt Krawczyk. A transfer student to Villanova, Krawczyk left his previous school, LeMoyne College, after his freshman year in search of new opportunities at a larger campus. Although Krawczyk spent a majority of his childhood perfecting his skills in the hockey arena, his performance on his high school tennis team caught the attention of various colleges on the east coast. Following in the footsteps of both his parents and grandparents, Krawczyk accepted an offer to play at LeMoyne and there he occupied the No. 1 singles spot of the Division II college.
After deciding to make the move to Villanova, Krawczyk tried out for the Wildcat tennis team in mid-August and was added to the roster shortly thereafter.
“The chemistry on our team is really great,” Krawczyk said of his teammates. “That kind of bond doesn’t happen every time.”
While most athletes would spend the day after tryouts resting up, Krawczyk took advantage of his day off. After playing back-to-back matches all day, Krawczyk made the four-hour trek to Richmond, Va. and registered to compete in a triathlon that began at 7 a.m. the following morning. This race was Krawczyk’s third triathlon of the year.
In an event consisting of approximately 500 competitors, Krawczyk was expecting a personal best in the race until an untimely shove left him behind the pack. Knocked off his bike by an opponent from the Naval Academy, Krawczyk finished the race well behind his anticipated time. Despite the less than ideal circumstances Matt finished with a time that qualifies him to compete in the grueling Iron Man competition, a goal he hopes to complete in the near future.
So what inspires a college sophomore to spend his free time running triathlons?
“Have you read Lance Armstrong’s book yet?” Krawczyk casually asked. “I read it when I joined the Livestrong organization and I guess it just really inspired me. I’m always looking for things to challenge myself.”
Challenge is not a new word in Krawczyk’s vocabulary. Six years ago, at age 14, Krawczyk was diagnosed with a treatable form of brain cancer that required a 14-hour surgery and four months of recovery.
When his treatment was finally over, Krawczyk struggled with a new dilemma. Due to the nature of his condition, Krawczyk was no longer able to continue his career as a hockey player. Rather than giving up his love for sports all together, Krawczyk elected to play tennis, a sport with less physical contact than his previous activity.
Krawczyk joined his high school tennis team in Manassas and continued to play for his four years there. Although he never played any tournament tennis throughout high school, Krawczyk’s skill on the court caught the attention of LeMoyne, and he continues to impress here at Villanova.
One of 12 players on Villanova’s tennis team, Krawczyk brings more than talent to this year’s Wildcats.
“He leads by example,” says team captain Dimitri Chimerakis. “He inspires everyone around him. You just can’t help but look up to him, respect him and admire everything he’s done.”
So what does a varsity athlete do to train for his next triathlon? “I run races sometimes,” Krawczyk admits. “I hate running, though; I hate the training aspect of all of it. I think anyone can do the physical part of it; to me it’s all mental.”
It’s that work ethic and exceptional attitude that Krawczyk brings to the court with him every day of practice.
“I guess it is kind of a joke to beat me when we are conditioning,” Krawczyk jokes. “I guess I kind of have a step up on them.”
So what is left for a 20-year-old student who has already beat brain cancer, made a Division I varsity tennis team and runs triathlons on the side? This year brings big hopes for Krawczyk and the remainder of his teammates. Already looking toward the spring, Krawczyk hopes to be a contributing force on his team’s journey to the Big East tournament.
“He uses his experience as motivation to get the most out of life that he is able – and doing it with a smile and a sense of humor,” Krawczyk’s Coach Bob Batman said.
“I see the qualities that Krawczyk possesses: respect, self discipline, loyalty and team above self. He is a coach’s dream.”