NHS alumna hired as coach

Zoe Coff­ing coach­ing girls swim team

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BUZBY JonBuzby@hot­mail.com

Ne­wark High’s swim team ex­pe­ri­enced an over­haul at the top af­ter the 2017 sea­son when long­time head coaches Brian Po­laski (boys) and Bryan Stam­baugh (girls) stepped down from their po­si­tions. The Yel­low­jack­ets quickly hired two for­mer swim­mers to fill both po­si­tions.

Zoe Coff­ing, a mem­ber of the Ne­wark High class of 2014, was hired to coach the girls team. Brett Melcher, a 2015 grad­u­ate, is the new boys coach.

“It was in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing to be hired to coach at Ne­wark,” Coff­ing, a four-time all­con­fer­ence swim­mer, said. “Be­ing on the swim team was one of my fa­vorite parts of high school. I re­ally en­joyed be­ing at Ne­wark and cre­at­ing mem­o­ries with the team.”

Coff­ing, who is a se­nior ma­jor­ing in his­tory at UD, came into the po­si­tion hav­ing served most re­cently as a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant coach at Ne­wark for two years un­der Po­laski and Stam­baugh.

“I re­ally learned a lot from that ex­pe­ri­ence un­der them about deal­ing with older swim­mers and re­fin­ing tech­nique in­stead of just teach­ing it,” Coff­ing ex­plained.

Both of her for­mer coaches are con­fi­dent that Coff­ing is the right per­son for the job.

“Zoe is very in­ter­ested in work­ing with the kids to im­prove their me­chan­ics, which is the ba­sis of im­prov­ing their per­for­mance,” Stam­baugh, now re­tired from high school coach­ing, said. “Zoe is also very much in­vested in the team, which helps the kids to buy into the team when they see that their coach is all in.”

Po­laski, now the dean of stu­dents at William Penn High School, con­curred.

“Zoe’s work ethic, spirit and un­der­stand­ing of what it means to be a part of the tra­di­tion that is Ne­wark swim­ming is sec­ond to none,” Po­laski said. “She is do­ing a fan­tas­tic job of keep­ing that tra­di­tion alive.”

Coff­ing’s pre­vi­ous coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in­cluded stints as an as­sis­tant coach at Not­ting­ham Swim Club and as the head coach at Oak­lands swim club.

“I started out coach­ing as a vol­un­teer over the sum­mer to ful­fill my vol­un­teer hours re­quire­ment for high school grad­u­a­tion,” she ex­plained. “I quickly re­al­ized that it was sim­i­lar and re­lated to teach­ing, and I re­ally fell in love with help­ing swim­mers learn, watch­ing them grow, and hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to pos­i­tively im­pact their lives. Also, swim­ming has been a sport that con­nected me to my three broth­ers for our whole lives. I love be­ing able to stay in­volved in the sport and keep­ing that con­nec­tion with them.”

That sib­ling con­nec­tion con­tin­ues at Ne­wark with two of her broth­ers. Zach is a ju­nior on the swim team and Nathan took over his sis­ter’s vol­un­teer coach­ing po­si­tion with the Yel­low­jack­ets. No­tably, it was Coff­ing’s two years as a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant that made this first one as a head coach even more grat­i­fy­ing.

“It’s been great to be back with the whole team for a third year, es­pe­cially know­ing that I’ve been with the en­tire ju­nior class for their whole swim­ming ca­reers at Ne­wark,” she said. “I know that team meant a lot to me, and it’s just re­ally cool to be able to watch those swim­mers grow through the pro­gram like I did.”

Coff­ing was a four-year var­sity let­ter-win­ner and in ad­di­tion to her all-con­fer­ence ac­co­lades was a three-time hon­or­able men­tion all-state se­lec­tion, pri­mar­ily swim­ming the breast­stroke. Her tran­si­tion from swim­ming in the pool to coach­ing on the deck has had its chal­lenges.

“One of the chal­lenges I had was find­ing my ‘voice’ with this team,” she ad­mit­ted. “Be­cause I had been there be­fore as an as­sis­tant, it took me a lit­tle while to feel com­fort­able be­ing the one call­ing the shots.”

And even though she’s fallen into more of a com­fort zone as the head coach, she hasn’t for­got­ten what she learned as a Yel­low­jacket swim­mer.

“I copy a lot of the sets Brian and Bryan used,” she said. “I think they both did fan­tas­tic jobs and I know what they did worked so I use some of their sets ver­ba­tim and oth­ers I al­ter to my own taste. I also try to be re­ally en­cour­ag­ing and give ev­ery swim­mer spe­cific feed­back, which is some­thing I know I al­ways ad­mired about Brian and Bryan.”

The Yel­low­jack­ets are 8-6 and rid­ing a six-meet win­ning streak into Satur­day’s Blue Hen Con­fer­ence Cham­pi­onships, and their rookie head coach likes where they’re at as a team.

“The sea­son so far has hon­estly been bet­ter than I an­tic­i­pated,” she said. “We got some new swim­mers on both the girls and the boys side who were pleas­ant sur­prises that have helped us a lot this year. We also have a lot of re­turn­ing swim­mers who have been im­prov­ing and that’s been re­ally ex­cit­ing. Some of the time drops come seem­ingly out of nowhere, and it’s al­ways a happy sur­prise.”

Sev­eral swim­mers have al­ready qual­i­fied for states and Coff­ing said a few more are very close and hope­fully will have an op­por­tu­nity to swim in pre­lim­i­nar­ies at the state meet.

“It’s ex­cit­ing to be­gin talk­ing about states be­cause we do have both boys and girls who have the po­ten­tial to make fi­nals and I think we’re all look­ing for­ward to pre­lims,” Coff­ing said.

Re­gard­less of the out­come at the state meet, as the swim sea­son winds down, Coff­ing feels good about her first year at the helm of her alma mater.

“I think we’ve had a lot of fun this sea­son as a team, and I’ve tried to con­nect and re­late to the swim­mers as well as help them in­di­vid­u­ally as much as I can,” she said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

For­mer Ne­wark High swim­mer Zoe Coff­ing is wrap­ping up her first sea­son as the Yel­low­jack­ets’ girls head coach.

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