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Sports

Mon Y welcomes new coach

| Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005

With designs on enhancing the sport of swimming, the Mon Valley YMCA has turned to one of the area's most accomplished swimmers to coach its swim club.

Recently, Mon Valley YMCA Swim Club President Al Macugoski announced James Stache as the Mon Valley YMCA's new swim coach.

A 1980 graduate of Charleroi High School who has lived in Dunlevy for the past five years, Stache had been the swim coach and helped form the Trinity Swim Club in Washington, Pa.

"I believe we have a strong area to pick from for swimming, and I like the fact that I'm back home where I can work in my area," said Stache, who mentioned the ever-rising gas prices as an obvious advantage to working close to where he lives.

"But I love the fact that I am back home where I can nurture the kids in my area. Swimming has been good here, but it has never been strong like it is in the Pittsburgh area and surrounding areas such as Uniontown and Greensburg. I would like to get it to that point," he said.

Stache coaches a swim club with a team of kids ranging in age from 6 to 18, and from just past beginner to advanced levels, and they compete against other clubs in dual meets and invitational events with the same age groups and levels. The team began practice Sept. 19 and trains through the weekdays starting at 6:30 p.m.

Coincidentally, the Mon Valley YMCA will open its exhibition season by playing host to the Trinity Swim Club on Oct. 23.

"That will be interesting," Stache said.

Under his guidance, the Mon Valley Swim Club started out with about 30 members but now has more than 60 participants.

"The club helps bring in members through advertising and has sent fliers out to many area schools," Stache said. "I also carry a pretty well-known name here in swimming, which helps attract kids."

Stache began his distinguished swimming career in the 1970s by swimming for Baldwin Swim Club, Pitt Aquatic Club and Chartiers Valley Swim Club, where he earned national records in his age group.

At Charleroi Area High School, he swam for head coach Gus Brickner, Jr., the son of world-record distance swimmer and 1997 Mon Valley Hall of Fame inductee Gus Brickner Sr. To this day Stache owns all but two of Charleroi High School's individual swimming records.

During his scholastic days, Stache went undefeated in individual competition and served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Mon Valley YMCA while also working with the West Newton Swim Club.

He continued his academic and swimming careers at Shippensburg State College, now called Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Versatile, Stache was nationally ranked and competed in freestyle, butterfly and backstroke while also doing distance swimming. A true student of the sport, Stache's swimming and coaching skills were sharpened by attending many seminars, clinics, where he worked with some of the premier coaches in the country.

Several of the nearby swimming coaches Stache trained under included former University of Pittsburgh head coach Dick Bradshaw and longtime Baldwin-Whitehall coach Dean Simpson. For two straight summers, Stache also trained under renowned Indiana University (Bloomington, Ind.) coach, the late James "Doc" Counsilman, who coached Mark Spitz at Indiana. Spitz won two gold medals at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico, and then won an unprecedented seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics Games, held in Munich, Germany.

"He was the coach," Stache said about Counsilman, who coached the Hoosiers from 1959 through 1990 as well as the 1964 and 1976 U.S. Olympic teams. "He was so ahead of his time it was incredible. People are still copying what he did today and will be for a long, long time."

Stache believes his own swimming success coupled with the expert training and instruction he received has made him into an effective coach.

"Through the years, I have developed and brought a unique coaching style, which blends hard work, modern technique and swimming psychology to the sport, which the kids and parents both appreciate," Stache said.

Stache encourages all of the swimmers he instructs to swim competitively at the various amateur levels and beyond depending on their skills level. More importantly, however, Stache realizes the importance of anyone knowing how to swim simply for a safety reasons.

"Swimming is something everybody should know how to do, and obviously the younger someone is, the easier it is to teach them," he said. "Normally, when I was teaching swim lessons if I could get a person for six half-hour sessions, I could pretty much get them to swim a length in the pool either using freestyle or back stroke. From there, if they wanted to join the swim club, I would get them practicing and teach them how to swim competitively."

Potential swim team members are invited to attend swim practice at the YMCA and swimmers may attend six practices free of charge before joining the team. For more information, contact the Mon Valley YMCA at 724-483-8077.

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