Shara Stafford got her start in swimming with the Topeka Swim Association age group program.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
And, now after a very successful career on the collegiate level, she is back coaching age group swimming for the Kansas City Blazers.
She started on Monday coaching the Blazers’ age group program at Blue Valley West.
“Shara brings a valuable combination of swimming experience and knowledge, enthusiasm for the sport and kids, and an easy and appealing communication style,” Blazers head coach Gardner Howland said. “This should make her very effective in a coaching and leadership setting.
“Coach Stafford knows how to swim. She knows how to win, but most importantly she has a natural gift for communicating and teaching.”
The new Blazer coach was a sprint freestyle swimmer in the Topeka Swim Association and a Topeka high school.
Stafford spent three years at the University of Florida where she was a member of the Gators’ 2010 NCAA Division I team championship. She swam on the first-place 200-meter freestyle relay team.
She transferred for her senior year to the University of Missouri where she qualified for the NCAA national meet in several events.
“There were a lot of factors influencing my decision (to transfer to Missouri),” she said. “A major one was that I had a great desire to be back closer to my family.”
The Blazer coach specialized in the sprint freestyle events in college competition, but she did get a chance of swimming the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.
She had best times of 21.79 seconds in the 50, 47.76 in the 100, 1 minute, 43.62 seconds in the 200 and 1:56 in the individual medley.
Stafford learned a lot with the different coaching approaches at Florida and Missouri.
“The coaching staff and style was a drastic but welcome change from what I was used to while swimming under Greg Troy at Florida,” she said. “MU was more technique oriented.
“Because I was an experienced swimmer, I got to experience a lot of unique new training and techniques.”
In addition to her collegiate swimming and education experiences, she had time for overseas mission work, both as an individual and with her family.
She joins the Blazers after a year as head age group coach/assistant senior coach at the Union Swim Club in Jackson, Tenn.
What will her job be as age group coach at Blue Valley West?
“It is to take these kids that come into our doors and mold them into the best athletes and people we can,” she said. “If we can get our swimmers to swim with correct technique, we are going to enable them to go much further later on. That will be one of my biggest focuses coming into my new role with the Blazers.”
Although new to the coaching scene, Stafford has some ideas about the role of a coach.
“As a swimmer, I was blessed with incredible coaching staffs that really became great mentors, role models and now as an adult, friends,” she said. “I have a great desire to influence these kids past the water.
“I believe that if I do my job job of helping to create some amazing little human beings, my relationship with the kids in the water will be far greater than we ever hope for. I hope to share my love and passion for the sport with them while encouraging them in every aspect of their lives.”