Adam Czerkawski never thought he was much of a math or science guy. History was his best subject in school. Now in his second year at UTM, he majors in History with a minor in Linguistics and Anthropology. He also plays centre back for both UTM varsity men’s soccer team and Ontario League 1.
Czerkawski is a Mississauga native, born to Polish immigrant parents. He speaks Polish at home since it was his first language. Despite being born in Canada, and being raised here, Adam couldn’t speak English entering the Canadian school system.
Czerkawski considers his parent to be fairly traditional. Nowadays they occasionally speak in English, but his parents still like to keep Polish tradition. “Whenever there’s a holiday, thev pretty much do what they did in Poland. They don’t brush that aside. A big one that people in Poland or the Ukraine do is when it’s Easter time, they go with eggs and a basket full of food, and then you go to church and they bless the food. They don’t really do that in Canada.”
Czerkawski is the first member of his family to play soccer, and the first to play at a highly competitive level. His father grew up around a soccer club in Poland, but he only ever played for fun. Czerkawski is the first in his family to ever play for a team. But his family does their best to support him. “My dad likes watching me play. My mom stays away because she doesn’t like watching me get hurt,” he says.
Sports, let alone soccer, isn’t a big deal in Czerkawski’s family. They don’t watch sports, but soccer has been his life for as long he can remember. Czerkawski was 7-years-old when he joined his first soccer team, a rep team called the “Serbian White Eagles.” “One day my neighbour came up to me, he had a child around my age, he told me I was really good and that I should play for his son’s team.”
Czerkawski played for the White Eagles for a year moving on to several more teams, each one a higher level than the last, bringing a new challenge. Wherever the opportunity “I played for Etobicoke, Erin Mills, Mississauga United.” He played in the Ontario Youth Soccer League (OYSL), the highest you can play as a young soccer athlete, at 14 years old. Czerkawski now plays for not only UTM, but for a team in Scarborough in the League 1 division, the highest men’s league you can reach in Canada just under the CPL and MLS.
Czerkawski, like most students, came to UTM for the education. Former coach of the varsity men’s soccer team, Rick Titus, actually gave Czerkawski a call. “A week before the first game, he gave me a call and said he didn’t see me at tryouts, and asked what was up. He [Rick] encouraged me to play.” And he’s never regretted the decision.
Czerkawski feels like he’s adjusted well to life and pressure as a student-athlete. Despite being the youngest on the team, Czerkawski was a starter in his first year in League 1. It takes a lot to be both a League 1 athlete and a UTM varsity athlete. “I have three practices with League 1 a week, all in a row, from 9-11. I get home at 12, and I have to wake up for either a 9 am class and then workout with Darren. You learn to get used to it. I grew up playing soccer, so my body’s naturally fit. I feel like I can take more than the average person.”
Despite being moved around to different positions, Czerkawski plays and enjoys centre back. It’s where he feels the most comfortable, and it’s the position he’s played the longest. He credits the team’s mandatory workouts with varsity athletic trainer, Darren Turner, to the advantages he has over other players on the soccer pitch. “I find it easier going up against strikers that aren’t as strong as me.”
Czerkawski is a defender and there are a number of players that come to mind in terms of who he looks up to, or wants to play like. One name that stands out is Zbigniew Boniek. Playing in the Serbian league when he was younger, Boniek was a name he heard a lot. And since Boniek plays his position, Czerkawski made sure to pay attention. “I always liked watching him. He’s very strong and physical. I like to say I kind of play like him, emulate my game like him. He was known was for going into tackles strong, for putting his head where people wouldn’t put their feet.” Czerkawski tries to carry that same fearlessness towards his body onto the pitch when he plays which has unfortunately resulted in a number of injuries.
Czerkawski sprained his ankle at the beginning of the outdoor season, keeping him out of action for 3 months. But he didn’t want to stay out of action for too long. The outdoor varsity soccer season is short. Missing two games could mean missing as much as eight games. Czerkawski worked with the teams Athletic Therapists to get back onto the soccer field. He missed three games with his injury, and played through the rest of season with the lingering pain.
The sprained ankle was the worst of Czerkawski’s leg injuries. He’s known for having experienced multiple head injuries throughout his soccer career. Czerkawski’s aggressiveness has led him to multiple concussions, the first of which he experienced when he was only in elementary, from one too many headers to the head. In a couple of his worst impacts to the head, Czerkawski remembers being knocked out cold, completely blacking out.
However, he’s been rewarded for his multiple efforts. Last season as a first year student and member of the varsity soccer program, Czerkawski was awarded Men’s Varsity Indoor Soccer MVP and the UTM Fair Play award for embodying and exemplifying the Athletic Department’s Fair Play Code.
Like most athletes at UTM, Czerkawski has found an extended family in the UTM community. Some of his closest friends also play on the team. Outside of the team, Czerkawski is only close to a handful of people. His UTM team and the athletic community have become his core friend group. “I enjoy it in that sense. If it wasn’t for them, I’d be going to class and then home. Without them, I wouldn’t have too much of a social life.”
Czerkawski does a lot of planning to ensure he can be successful both in the classroom and on the soccer pitch. He often completes assignments and work ahead of time, before practices and workouts, so he can work hard at those practices and workouts. “Time management is a big thing. I make sure I know when to do certain things. I know when to work. I know when to rest.” Czerkawski deals with the mental stress of his busy life by trying not to be too rigid with his planning, “Even though I plan things out, I try to go with flow. Whatever happens, happens.”
Czerkawski credits his emotional resiliency to his soccer journey. “Growing up I always played at a higher level, always having many practices. While other kids in elementary and high school did their own thing, I had to go to these trainings and practices. I’d come home at midnight sometimes. I think I’ve mentally adjusted to it. I can deal with it now, even with a busier schedule, because of that.”
Czerkawski is only in his second year at UTM, but he still feels he brings something to the team that some of his teammates don’t have: experience. “I’ve played at a higher level than a lot of guys on the team. So I feel like that experience allows me to help them in the game. When it comes to situations where we play at a Provincial level, I feel like I can hold the team at the back. If we don’t get scored on, we can’t lose,” says Czerkawski. “I think it’s the experience, the level headedness and that grit. I throw my body in there and show that I’m ready to take one for the team. The team comes first. I don’t think about my body in that sense. If I can win the ball, if I can get the ball somewhere, I’ll get it there. I want to leave it all on the field, but I do want to play in the next game.”
His coaches, Head Coach, Chris Everleigh and Assistant Coaches, Corey Baker and Gio McDonald, can attest to the experience and versatility he brings to his varsity team, as well his quiet and respectful nature. “He [Adam] has been a model athlete for not only the athletes coming into the program but also the athletes that were here at UTM before him,” says one of his coaches. “Adam brings a high level of experience as he has played at almost every level that Canadian soccer has to offer, going as far as the semi-professional Ontario League 1 competition. Added to that, he has experience training with the national team for his age group. Through competing at such high levels, Adam has been able to bring a high level of technical and tactical understanding to this program, as well as a strong will to succeed.”
“Adam does not talk much, unless he thinks necessary. This goes from on the training field to in team meetings to on the field. Instead, he finds a way to lead through his actions and high work rate in training as well as games. Adam has played every position except goalkeeper for UTM during his OCAA career and he will be the first to tell you that he can play that position in an official game with little to no problems. He is primarily a central defender but has also played on the wings, in the midfield and in attack when we have been in need of a goal or assist. One thing that has always stood out about Adam for me is despite his primary position being defence; he has very rarely failed to score a goal in a big game situation for UTM, he just ALWAYS scores,” asserts another of Czerkawski’s coaches.
Despite being a force on the pitch, Czerkawski still finds so much room for improvement to his game. “Because I also play at a high men’s league level, you have to be 100% or you can’t keep up. So I want to keep learning, keep improving.”
The men’s varsity soccer team made it to Provincials, in both the outdoor and indoor season. Czerkawski’s favourite part of the season was the win that got them into Regionals. The team travelled to Sudbury to play Cambrian College. For Cambrian, it was a back-to-back weekend. The outcome of the first game, before their game against UTM, would decide whether our men’s varsity soccer team would be going to Regionals. Cambrian tied in that first game, meaning UTM would need a win against them by at least 3 goals, to make it to the Regionals tournament. UTM ran over Cambrian, defeating by a massive 6-0. The win was great, but Adam loved how his teammates played. “Even though we won 6 nothing, everyone had a good game. Everyone was scoring, everyone was putting in a good shift. When he heard on the bus that they had tied, and that we still had a chance, I feel like everyone grabbed that chance. You felt the energy. That was our best team performance.”