By Rich Place

For Mark Vasiliauskas, summer evenings on the courts at Springville Youth Incorporated were about more than just basketball.

From playing there sometimes six nights a week — up until darkness served as the final buzzer for games and at times shoveling snow was the warm up routine — Vasiliauskas and many friends spent countless hours there.

“When I look back in terms of what I miss about Springville and growing up and the sports, I would tie it back to playing basketball at the courts,” said the 1990 SGI graduate. “That was a big social thing for me and it’s where I met and maintained relationships with most of my friends.”

Now working as an accountant in the Cleveland area, Vasiliauskas is one of the three inductees into this year’s Pop Warner Hall of Fame class.

With a laugh, Vasiliauskas admitted his belief that it wasn’t the accolades that got him the distinctive honor but the work ethic he had as a three-sport athlete.

“I was OK at everything but not great at anything,” he said. “One of the reasons I didn’t win a bunch of awards was because I was the smallest kid on the team. Have you ever seen the movie ‘Rudy’? That was me.”

However, being small in stature meant he needed to work even harder no matter which sport it was, and that’s carried on with him today.

“Sportsmanship and work ethic is what I learned and have been able to carry that forward to my career and my life,” he said. “When I coach people, it’s letting them know it’s OK to fail and, if you do fail, you can brush yourself off and get back up and try and do better.”

Vasiliauskas played quarterback and safety on the Griffins’ 1989 undefeated football team, was a member of the basketball team that made the playoffs in 1990 and earned the Most Improved Player Award in baseball that year as well.

Another life lesson that sports at Springville taught Vasiliauskas was what he learned from his coaches — whether he realized it at the time or not.

“The coaches I had at Springville were really inspirational leaders,” he said. “I didn’t realize it at the time but as I go through my professional career and learn about leadership and how important that is and how to motivate people, I look back at what some of my coaches did and I kind of learned by osmosis.

After graduation, Vasiliauskas attended John Carroll University in the Cleveland area and ended up settling there. Now one of his favorite pleasures is watching his teenage children compete in sports.

“It’s like my favorite thing to do — going to their games and their meets,” he said. “Now I’m at the tail end of that — they are both in high school and they only have so many games left — so I’ve kind of learned to cherish those games.”