March 6 – The son of a high school football coach, young JD Okuniewski wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, John Okuniewski Sr.
“I used to let him go in the[yard]and I’d pretend to be in the booth up in the window in our backyard and radio him,” JD Okuniewski said. “[Since I was]about 6 or 7, I knew I wanted to do this.”
More than 20 years later, Okuniewski is living out a childhood dream when, on February 27, the school board named him Daniel Boone’s head soccer coach.
“I always knew I wanted to be a coach,” Okuniewski said. “I’m just blessed that I got the opportunity to do that.”
Okuniewski, 28, comes from a long line of football coaches. His grandfather, Jim Mich Sr., trained at the former Saint Pius X High School just outside of Pottstown. The football stadium was named in his honor.
While John Sr. coached JD growing up, Okuniewski’s father also coached in Exeter under former head coach Ron Zeiber and at Dieruff High School in Allentown. JD Okuniewski’s uncle, Jim Mich Jr., was an assistant at Pottstown and is now defense coordinator at Spring-Ford. Another uncle, Stan Okuniewski, also trained in Exeter.
“I was just always there,” said JD Okuniewski. “It’s always been a family tradition.”
A 2013 graduate of Daniel Boone, Okuniewski played as a wide receiver, outside linebacker and quarterback for the Blazers from 2009 to 2012. He was the starting quarterback of his senior season.
“Not everyone can go back to where they came from and contribute to the community they grew up in,” Okuniewski said. “I’m very proud to have the opportunity to do that.”
Okuniewski, a Douglassville resident, began coaching in 2017 as a volunteer assistant coach under former head coach Bill Parks and as a junior varsity head coach under Daniel Boone. He continued to coach under former Blazers head coach Rob Flowers, served as wide receivers coach and remained junior varsity head coach.
Flowers resigned in December after leading Boone to a 17-31 record in five seasons. He said he wanted to take time to focus on his position as Boone’s director of community relations and equity awareness.
“I think Coach Flowers did a great job,” said Okuniewski. “As a parishioner, as a lifelong Blazer, I am so grateful that a man of Rob Flowers caliber was there and helping these young men and me. He was a mentor to me.”
In addition to being on the football team for the past six seasons, Okuniewski is a 10th grade high school English teacher. Whether it’s teaching or coaching, he says he enjoys spending time with the kids.
“We have great kids at Daniel Boone,” Okuniewski said. “When you’re with kids, you learn something new every day.”
According to Okuniewski, the connections he’s forged as an assistant coach and as a teacher will be invaluable as he begins his tenure as head coach.
“It comes down to relationships and being in the building,” Okuniewski said. “You see her in the hallway, you have her in class — it’s more of a chance to get to know her.”
The Blazers led 8-2 last season and won just one league game in the inaugural season of the expanded Lancaster-Lebanon League. Daniel Boone last qualified for the postseason in 2021, losing to Waynesboro in the opening round of the District 3 Class 5A Playoffs.
As he tries to take the Blazers back into the postseason, Okuniewski said success will be a collective effort.
“The biggest piece that will get us where we need to be is harmony,” Okuniewski said. “It takes 11 men selflessly doing their job to win. You have to be in sync all the time.”
As his team tries to achieve their goals through collaboration, Okuniewski said he hopes to teach his players life lessons.
“Football is a team game, but life is the ultimate team game,” said Okuniewski. “When you are in perfect harmony, team-wise, life-wise, with other people trying to achieve goals, I think that’s very important for success.”