In a word. the Garden City Rifle Team has enjoyed quite the resurrection. In Coach Kathy Dubuke’s first year, she started with a six-man team coming off a one-year hiatus and wound up with co-captain and Junior Katharine Jushchenko finishing third in the Coach’s Tournament and being picked for the second on the All-County Team. Dubuke’s stewardship was all the more impressive given the fact that half her team had never shot before. For this, the chemistry/physics teacher wound up being awarded the Alex Baldwin Award for Most Improved Team. The Queens native is quick to credit the leadership she received from Jushchenko and co-captain Madison Matarazzo, particularly in light of the fact that one member dropped out for personal reasons in the middle of the season.
“Both of them stepped up as far as helping the newbies settle in. How to handle the equipment. What are the proper safety procedures? Helping them get fitted for their coats and setting them up with their rifles and being able to show them how to handle the materials and pack them up,” Dubuke explained. “When we first started going down to the range, it took about 20 minutes to get ready because we had to pull all the equipment out and set up. After about three or four weeks, they had the whole thing down to less than five or six minutes. They would have everything set up and knew the routines. They were well versed in the safety procedures. All of them were very dedicated in getting in there and getting the practice in and working on whatever difficulties they were having and then move on from there.”
Dubuke herself started shooting competitively in sixth grade, when she picked up her first .22 while attending St. Kevin’s parochial school in Flushing. She had been part of the Sea Cadets program, which is still in existence. Her participation continued through seventh and eighth grade before having to stop, since her alma mater St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, didn’t have a rifle team. Dubuke picked the sport up again while attending St. John’s University. (“I was a walk-on at St. John’s and I was a scholarship shooter for one of the three years that I shot.”)
Teaching is a second career for the rifle team coach, who had previously worked in a medical laboratory. A teacher for 15 years, Dubuke has been working in the Garden City Public School District for the past dozen years. She spent most of that time coaching the Science Olympiad but became interested in transitioning to helm the rifle team after the prior coach had family and work issues. With an influx of new teachers coming on staff, Dubuke was able to ensure the Science Olympiad was in good hands. Once she was able to pass that academic baton, she applied for and was awarded the rifle team coaching slot. It’s been a rewarding experience for her, both on and off the range.
“Because I am a teacher, I relate to [my students] in one way. When I’m a coach, I relate to them in another way,” she explained. “It’s a little more laid back and relaxed. We talk about things that are a little off-topic. You discuss what’s going on in their lives and what’s happening. They get to vent a little bit and they see me less as a teacher and more as a coach. I enjoy that more relaxed relationship with them, especially when I get a chance to help them with something outside of coaching.”