By James Goller, email@example.com
Molly and Katie Schaffstall coach swimmers at YMCA
A pair of Orchard Park sisters are truly in sync.
Molly Schaffstall and her younger sister, Katie, started to learn synchronized swimming with the East Aurora Swordfish when they were in elementary school. After two years with that group, they belonged to the Buffalo Swimkins for three years. Their experience led them to tackle a new challaenge: coaching the sport they grew to love.
When traveling to the northtowns for practices became too much of a commitment, Molly and Katie heard of an opportunity to coach with Sandy Keeney, who started a new synchronized swimming program at the Southtowns Family Branch YMCA in Orchard Park.
Molly, a junior at Orchard Park, has been coaching at the YMCA for three years and Katie, a sophomore, for two.
The Schaffstalls first became interested in synchronized swimming when their mother saw an opportunity for her daughters to combine two activities that already enjoyed.
“We loved swimming and we danced, and our mom told us about it,” said Molly.
After spending time with the Swordfish and the Swimkins, the travel commitment became an issue for the sisters, who became involved with other activities.
“The Buffalo Swimkins practiced in Williamsville so it was too far to go three to four times a week,” said Molly. “Coaching is right at the YMCA (in Orchard Park) and it is much closer.”
In a sport where swimmers perform elements while spending a great deal of time inverted under water, teaching the requirements to successfully compete in synchronized swimming has its challenges. Swimmers need to learn how to stay strong and buoyant in the water while developing artistic skill.
The Schaffstalls teach the basics at first, but developing all the swimmers effectively can be challenging with swimmers ranging in age and skill level.
The Southtowns YMCA Synchronize Swimming team consists of 18 members ranging in ages from eight to 15.
“The most difficult thing is helping the newer swimmers learn the skills while advancing the girls who have been swimming a while,” Katie said.
Despite the challenges that come with coaching an obscure sport such as synchronized swimming, the daughters of Amy and Chuck Schaffstall have seen the opportunity as a positive experience.
“I enjoy the people and it is fun,” said Molly. “You don’t see synchronized swimming a lot so it is nice to teach the girls something that they wouldn’t learn from just anyone.”
Katie has also seen the opportunity to coach synchronized swimming as a chance to build leadership skills.
“It’s fun working with the girls and I feel like I’ve taken on more of a leadership role,” she added. “I loved swimming for a team, but I feel like I’m a more important factor while coaching.”