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Coral Springs’s Sand Turtles coach combines his love of volleyball and marine art



Coral Springs, Florida – A seasoned volleyball coach approaches the game very differently from other youth sports coaches who only seem to be focused in putting huge numbers in the victory column.

Introducing Mark Lewkowicz, who established Sand Turtles, the first volleyball league in Coral Springs to receive official city sanction, 15 years ago. Players play, practice, and learn the game (a la beach style) on the sand, as the name would imply. The league’s name includes the word “turtle” since Lewkowicz is a painter who specializes in depicting marine life; more on that later.

His approach to coaching is not what is typically expected. “I get the kids who aren’t the best athletes,” he told Coral Springs Talk, “but they want to play.”

At the time, he observed other volleyball clubs and wasn’t impressed with how they managed their operations. “They didn’t let all the kids play,” he said. “I said I was going to be the opposite of how they ran the clubs.”

According to Lewkowicz, middle school volleyball was abandoned in 2009 when Florida school districts slashed their sports resources. Lauren, his oldest daughter, had just gotten out of middle school and was participating in high school sports at the time. He felt deeply disappointed by the elimination of sports programs. “After all, these are the things that keep kids out of trouble and teach them life lessons.”

He went to the school and offered his services as a free coach, but he kept getting turned down. Rather than lose his cool, he founded his volleyball club to instruct novice players. “There was an immediate market, and the business has grown tremendously over the years,” he said.

Coral Springs resident Michelle Smith has known Lewkowicz for ten years since he began coaching her daughter, Suzette. With Sand Turtles Volleyball celebrating its 15th year, “I realized this coach needed some recognition,” she said, adding, “he’s an ‘unsung’ hero. That’s why I recommended him for a story.”

Smith admires his coaching style. “He knows how to relate to all skill levels,” she said. Plus, “he’s just a character. He’s got a unique personality.”

According to Smith, when he works with new beginners, he first teaches them how to play as a group before concentrating on preparing their bodies physically for the game. “It’s about strengthening them up so they can play volleyball.”

Every session, according to Lewkowicz, is centered around exercises, fun, skills, and drills. Lewkowicz goes above and above in his role as a coach to support his kids.

“If anyone expresses an interest in joining a middle or high school volleyball team, he gives them a lot of insight. He tells them to ‘wear bright-colored socks’ to stand out.”

Lewkowicz was raised in Margate and went to Coconut Creek High School. He currently resides in Deerfield Beach. He spent sixteen years living in Coral Springs after getting married.

He used to enjoy playing volleyball for pleasure. He claimed, “I was just tall and had no idea what I was doing.” But he’s always been active in athletics; for 13 years, he coached youth soccer and taught martial arts.

For Lewkowicz, a Fort Lauderdale Institute of Art alum, coaching and managing a sand volleyball league are just a few jobs.

“I’ve been a graphic artist my whole life,” he said, adding that he began painting in 2011. On a recent sunny, warm weekend afternoon, he was selling his paintings at the Delray Affair Arts and Crafts Festival. His paintings, which can be found on Etsy, feature a variety of colorful marine animals.

In addition, Lewkowicz plans beach clean-ups, saving the salvaged wood for his artistic endeavors.

Suzette, the 18-year-old daughter of Smith, began participating in Sand Turtles at the age of eight, “because we knew she would be tall.” She has a 6-foot-5 father. Suzette advanced to the intermediate level while attending his summer camps as well. She spent three and a half years as an assistant coach at Sand Turtles after participating in teams during her middle and high school years.

Suzette, a Coral Springs Charter School senior, will work with Mark through August before enrolling at Florida State University in the fall. She intends to play intramural coed volleyball but does not want to be a member of the FSU volleyball team.

As for how Lewkowicz manages to handle three jobs at the same time, he said, “I work remotely from home and paint on the weekends. I coach two classes per week. I have other coaches.”

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