Jumping right in
After a long day of classes, Stephanie Pugh arrives at the Nanticoke
Area High School pool with the rest of the Trojans' swim team ready
to get down to business.
Pugh's demanding schedule is one many teenagers face and while swimming
provides an outlet, Pugh's comes with a major responsibility.
At just 19 years of age, Pugh is the youngest head coach in any sport
in the Wyoming Valley Conference. She was named head coach of the Nanticoke
Area program in October after initially applying for a position as an
assistant coach. Because there was little interest shown from anyone
else, Pugh was asked to guide the team as its head coach.
As a former swimmer at Nanticoke Area, the job gave Pugh a chance to
return to her alma mater but more importantly, it gave the Trojans a
chance to continue on after fears the program would fold due to a lack
of a coach.
"I honestly don't think we would have a team this year if she didn't
take over," junior Connie Medura said of Pugh.
Pugh is a sophomore at Misericordia University, majoring in history
and secondary education. Her goal is to become a teacher and she saw
coaching as an opportunity to get familiar with working with teenagers.
It also meant Pugh had to sacrifice her own swimming career.
Pugh began swimming at the Wyoming Valley CYC's age-group program when
she was 7 and continued as a freshman last season with Misericordia.
"When I considered what to do this year, I just thought it would
be best to go in the direction of what I'll be doing after college,"
Pugh said. "I miss swimming a lot, but I wanted to start getting
experience as a coach now."
The start of Nanticoke's swim season fell at the end of Pugh's first
semester, making for long days in the classroom and challenging evenings
at the pool. Unlike many programs where coaches battle lineups and workouts,
Pugh had more trying tasks to conquer.
"She literally had to teach some kids how to swim," Medura
said. "Some kids were brand new to swimming, so she had to work
with them closely because it was a big safety concern. And she would
give the rest of us workouts and different techniques to work on."
While Pugh was juggling different levels of swimmers, she also was trying
to establish a foundation as a coach and a level of authority with athletes
not much younger than her.
"I think in the beginning it was hard for them to take me serious
because we're almost the same age," Pugh said. "I remember
how my former coaches handled things and how they established respect
and discipline and things started to fall into place."
She called on Nanticoke Area physical education teacher Eric Speace
to help her in practice as she worked with the beginners.
"I wanted to be serious and do this right and I needed him to help
me while we got everything in order," Pugh said.
"She was a really good swimmer when she was here and she was actually
like an assistant for us then," said Medura, who was a teammate
with Pugh as a freshman. "I was very happy when I heard she got
the job. She's taught us a lot of new things and she has a good authority
over us but she keeps it fun, too. It's a good environment."
With just eight girls and five boys on the team, the lack of numbers
is the biggest challenge at the moment. The girls team celebrated its
first victory of the year last month against Dunmore and Medura is hoping
more kids gain interest in the team.
"She's exactly the kind of coach we needed for our team,"
Medura said. "She keeps us motivated and hopefully more kids will
want to be a part of our team and make us more competitive. We're all
very grateful to have her as our coach."
Pool: Nanticoke High School
2010-11 Record: 0-10 (Sixth)
Who to Watch: Constance Medura, Sarah Carne, Nikki Novakowski, Kendell
Shiniski, Katherine Kanjorski