Coach Steffens Breathes Life into Seahawks
By Eugenia Moskowitz
Washingtonville’s town swim team, the Seahawks, has been more vibrant than ever the past three years under head coach Caryn Steffens and her ability to enlarge and strengthen the team and bring in a host of new and energetic parents.
Steffens began swimming in Washingtonville Middle School with her brother when their family moved here and her mom became a team manager. A 2007 grad, she started coaching the Seahawks after taking a coaching class while in high school. She became the assistant head coach in 2015 and then took over as head coach that same season.
“I noticed when I came back to Washingtonville to coach that the Seahawks seemed to have lost their oomph in the community,” Steffens said. “When I was a kid, they were very well known. But it seemed like the team had disappeared from view somehow. Open swims were poorly attended and no one really knew who we were. So when I came back I decided I wanted to put the team back in view by joining parades and being part of town events.” The idea paid off, as word has gotten out and now there are 120 children on the swim team. “It’s definitely a full-time job,” she said. “My philosophy is for the kids to have fun and swim hard, and to be the best they can be. To achieve that, I took away the drills of swimming hundreds of yards for hours and hours, focused more on refined and stronger strokes, and then got up their endurance behind that.”
Another example of the new energy Steffens infuses into her team is her invitation of Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue to run a two day camp of swim clinics on Nov. 17-18. “Of the five clinics that weekend, four are for ages nine and up and one is for age eight and under,” said Steffens. “Clinics like these expose the kids to new ideas, new techniques, and experience with a new coach. This is invaluable to young swimmers.” These clinics are open to the entire Washingtonville community, she clarified, not just Seahawks team members, since the only way to get children interested in swimming is to first expose them to it. Open swim Fridays are also available to all, she said (check the Seahawks Facebook page for dates and times), “Another change I’ve made is to have our swim lessons available year-round, twice a week for each age group, since this forms the basis and is the feeder-program for our team. We have Seahawk practice after that, and new adult laps and lessons after team time.”
This kind of energy is transferring itself to the children as they’re breaking many personal records at meets. “Brick by brick,” Steffens said, “what I’m simply doing is building the future from now, from the ground up.”
CAPTION: Coach Caryn Steffens working with the kids at the Oct. 21 meet at Pine Bush. (Photo by Becky Kline)