York’s new football coach lives every day to the fullest after two cancer scares

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By Jeff Vorva | Photos courtesy of York High School

York’s new football coach, Don Gelsomino, is not one to take anything for granted.
He’s thankful for every day he wakes up.

He is not only a two-time cancer survivor, he has watched his father and son battle cancer. “It’s not only watching their fights and the fights of relatives battling cancer, but it’s also seeing some people not make it through those fights,” Gelsomino said. “Cancer definitely impacts everybody. It impacts people at different ages.

You never know when it’s coming. There are people who are as healthy as can be, and the bombshells get dropped on them. You need to appreciate every single day because you don’t know when it’s going to end. It’s helped me a lot to get a very different perspective on life.”


“I get excited out there because I love seeing these kids
succeed. I love it when my plan works. It’s exciting.”

– York football coach Don Gelsomino


He said his perspective on life is to work a little harder and live life to the fullest.
Gelsomino, who turns 38 in June, said he is going to give all he can to his new job.

He was hired in March to replace Michael Fitzgerald, who took the head coaching job at Marist High School in Chicago. Gelsomino has been on the coaching staff since 2019, including four years as the defensive coordinator.

“Gelsomino has been an integral part of the coaching staff,” said Rob Wagner, assistant principal for athletics at York Community High School in a news release. “I know how much it means to him, both as an Elmhurst resident and current coach, to take the lead this year. We are so fortunate to have had someone of this level ready to step in and lead the Dukes into a new era of athletic excellence.”

As a defensive coordinator, Gelsomino helped guide the Dukes to a 35-7 mark over the last four years. The defense gave up a scant 14 points and 219 yards per game.

Even before stepping on the Elmhurst campus, Gelsomino enjoyed coaching success. He was the head coach at Ridgewood for three years, from 2016-19, and helped the team to a pair of conference titles and the school’s first playoff win in 29 seasons. He also logged coaching time at St. Patrick High School.

Gelsomino is an excitable guy on the sidelines even though that’s not always his intention.
“It’s weird, and I always tell people this, I always feel like you have to have an energy guy on the coaching staff,” he said. “It’s great when it comes from the players but there needs to be someone on the coaching staff to be a spark. I don’t necessarily see myself as that type of person. But I tend to be that everywhere I’ve gone.

Yeah, I get excited out there because I love seeing these kids succeed. I love it when my plan works. It’s exciting. We put a lot of time and effort into this, and when something works that you plan for, I just kind of show it, and I have a lot of fun doing it.”

In the classroom, Gelsomino has 13 years of experience teaching biology, chemistry, and physics.

His football career started at age eight. He played high school ball at Holy Cross High School and was the team’s offensive MVP in 2002 and was the team’s captain in 2003. He went on to play college ball at Augustana and was given the Jerry Freck Most Inspirational award in 2006.
He loves the sport for various reasons.

“It’s the ultimate team game, but at the same time, it’s the ultimate individual game,” Gelsomino said. “There are 11 one-on-one battles going on all the time. When you watch film, you have to dissect every battle. Everybody truly needs to win their battle to win their game. You have to treat every single player who steps out on the field the exact same. You have to coach them the same and push them just as hard because they might be the person making the impact on Friday night.”

He also enjoys the community aspect of the game, especially when it comes to York football.
“It’s a community game for us now,” Gelsomino said. “When you look at our stands on Friday night and you look at the support we get, everybody embraces it. It’s something that’s awesome to see.” ■

New York football coach Don Gelsomino hopes to keep the Dukes pointed in the right direction.

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