Throughout the past four decades, James Monroe football owes much of its success not only head coach Richard Serbay but Connie Laskowski, a force behind the scenes for the Yellow Jackets.
As the secretary for several principals, Laskowski, entering her 41st year, has become the backbone for not only the school’s daily functions, but the football team her son once played for.
Laskowski got her start under former head coach Joe Lanford, crafting inspirational messages to the team before every game. That tradition has been upheld to today’s team, where she now assists Richard Serbay.
Laskowski has been preparing team meals since 1996 when her son, Matt, was the only freshman on James Monroe’s state championship team. She prepared Saturday morning breakfast for the entire team before all of their playoff games.
After preparing a “breakfast of champions” in ’96, Laskowski has been cooking meals every Thursday night after practice for the team since the 1997 season.
“Behind every successful man is five or six great women, and Connie takes on six roles on her own,” said Serbay, who met Laskowski while he was the offensive line coach under Lanford.
A typical meal for the team consists of about 40 pounds of meat (one pound per player), 25 pounds of starch, and a vegetable on the side. Laskowski always tries to provide each player with a balanced, home-cooked meal, whether it be chicken alfredo or peppercorn steak.
It is easy to see how close-knit the James Monroe football program is, and Laskowski’s meals play a big part in team camaraderie.
“It isn’t all about winning and losing,” Laskowski said. “It is about the fellowship that [the players} have with each other and the relations they build with their teammates.”
After spending much of her life at the school, Laskowski will sometimes recognize a son of a former player that she cooked for in the past.
“That’s what’s great about JM football,” Laskowski said. “The stands are filled with as many alumni as students.”
“When we’re both gone, I hope the next head coach can find another Connie Laskowski,” Serbay said. “Her benefits to my program have been tremendous and I don’t know where I’d be without her.”
Junior Aidan Ryan returns, and this year he’s expected to start under center for the Yellow Jackets. Ryan’s athleticism is the motor of the Jackets’ offense, and will help out the backfield of Senior Jawuan Fauntleroy and junior Deonte Curry. Seniors Darryl Gibson, Di’Mario Brooks and Tyler Whitman make up a receiving corps filled with deep threats, but Gibson will miss the first six weeks of the season after suffering an ankle injury in practice. Most of the offensive line played for the junior varsity last season and will have much to prove this year.
Sophomore Gianni Allen, who plays on both sides of the ball, will start at outside linebacker. His quickness will be a problem for opposing offenses. Ryan anchors the secondary at free safety, where last season he earned all-district honors as well as an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore. Coach Richard Serbay describes Ryan as a “center fielder who can cover a lot of the field.”
Junior Andrew Powell and senior Tomas Moreno are in a kicking competition for starting duties. Powell and Moreno play for the Yellow Jackets’ soccer team. Brooks and Ryan will be returning punts and kickoffs, respectively.
THE BOTTOM LINE
After a disappointing 3–8 campaign last season, Serbay is expecting a much improved team that is not only physically strong, but mentally focused as well. Assistant coach George Coghill has been instrumental in getting a young Yellow Jackets team prepared for a tough Battlefield District. Last season was a bump in the road, but there’s excitement in the air for a program that’s ready to be on top again.