Lady Broncos on pace for fourth consecutive SLC crown

Coach Rob Domagalski addresses his team during a timeout of a playoff game in February. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Tim Wester

Sports Correspondent

Growing up on Milwaukee’s south side, Rob Domagalski fondly remembers the historical architecture of St. Stanislaw church and the famous Allen Bradley clock tower.

Now in his 18th year as a teacher and girls basketball coach at Union Grove, Domagalski has no regrets trading the history of the working-class Milwaukee neighborhood for the small, friendly community of Union Grove.

As a basketball coach, Domagalski has taken the girls basketball program to a new level, winning three straight conference titles and racking up a jaw-dropping 40-5 record in the Southern Lakes Conference since 2014.

Domagalski has also never had a losing conference record in his coaching tenure.

Because of his impressive run last season and his continuing contributions in the community, Southern Lakes Newspapers is naming Domagalski the Western Racine County Coach of the Year for 2017.

“It’s an honor to be recognized,” Domagalski said. “Although it’s never a focus of mine to receive recognition as coach, it’s still cool at the end of the day to be recognized.”

“I didn’t know much about Racine and Union Grove because I had my own little world in Milwaukee,” Domagalski added. “But there’s not a different place that I want to be, and I’m glad to be part of the great things in this community.”

 

Family first

Domagalski prides himself in being a father, husband, and teacher. He spent the afternoon on New Year’s Day preparing for his math classes that week. And when he pulled into his driveway later that day, Domagalski left the planning and X’s and O’s at school and focused on his family.

“You can’t always talk about basketball, and at home I’m just a dad that takes out the garbage when asked,” Domagalski said. “My kids are more interested in me being a dad than a coach.”

Domagalski’s commitment to family almost led him to quit coaching a little over a decade ago.

“I coached freshman football at the high school, but once my kids were born, my wife wanted me to pick one sport,” Domagalski said “Coaching is such a time commitment, and there was a point where I wasn’t going to coach anymore.”

Domagalski eventually found the right balance between family and coaching. And the Bronco players continue to benefit.

“My main goal is to provide a good atmosphere for the kids,” he said. “Wins and losses are important, but there’s more to it than that.”

“I had the pleasure of having him as my coach all four years of high school,” Tammy Vasquez said. “As an athlete, I believed in his philosophy and knew he had my teams and my own best interest at heart.  I have also had the pleasure of coaching alongside him as his varsity assistant for six years. Domagalski has made a lasting impression in my life not only when I was in high school from 1999-2003 but also as a grown adult. I feel very lucky to have had a coach like him.”

 

A school-choice destination           

Domagalski’s reputation as a coach and leader was one of the reasons Bronco senior Brooklyn Bull transferred from the Racine school district to Union Grove after her freshman year.

“He’s not only a coach, but also a friend that is always there for us,” Bull said. “When I was considering transferring to Union Grove before my sophomore year, I knew some of the players and they told me that I would love playing for him because I would at least be given the opportunity to play right away, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Bull, a three-year starter and first-team all-conference selection last season, is part of a contingent of student-athletes that have transferred to Union Grove.

“We have a good school academically and because of that, up to one-quarter of the enrollment are school choice kids,” Domagalski said. “We’ve benefited from getting kids like Bull who came over from Racine and helped our program, but we’ve also had kids like Janelle Shiffler, who is from Union Grove. So it’s a nice mix.”

Bull and Shiffler are just two of many talented players that helped Domagalski’s program blossom into one of the best programs in the area.

“First and foremost, you need to have talent to win, and the past few seasons, we’ve been able to replace all-conference talent and maintain our success,” Domagalski said. “We’ve never been able to get all this talent on the team at once, but we’ve had talent come in succession.

 

A local powerhouse

Two years ago, the Broncos were a basket away from upsetting eventual state runner-up Stoughton in a heart-breaking 36-35 sectional final overtime loss.

Last year the Grove earned a No. 1 seed in the Division 2 playoffs and was poised to make another deep run before being upset by Milton in a regional final.

“The Stoughton loss actually hurt more than the Milton upset,” Domagalski said. “Milton shot the ball better than they had all season, and they just got hot at the right time, which happens in the playoffs, but in the Stoughton game, we were right there to win it and get to state.”

The Bronco program is strong again this season, winning 10 of its first 11 games, making it a favorite to win a fourth straight Lakes title.

Success aside, Domagalski still finds time to coach his daughter Ava’s youth basketball team without cutting any corners on the young players’ development.

“I’m harder on Ava because of the name on her back, which means she has to earn it a bit more,” he said. “People sometimes don’t understand that kids who play for their parents in sports aren’t put in positions simply because of their name. Those kids are around the game more than others and spend more time in gyms with older players, which helps them grow their games.”

While Domagalski may be tough on his daughter, he is excited to eventually get the chance to coach his daughter and her teammates on the varsity squad.

“My daughter is in seventh grade now, and I’ve been coaching her and other kids for a few years now and I’m excited to have the chance to coach these kids in high school.”

The chance to coach his daughter and advancing to state would be a deserving storyline for a coach who has given his all for others.

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