Coach, Synchronized Swimming
"I find fulfillment in coaching. My first coach really was that spark. There's always that one person that gets you into it."
Laurie Wachs finds fulfillment in coaching
When she was in Grade 8, Laurie Wachs took up synchronized swimming. Already a great swimmer, the Saskatoon product quickly fell in love with this hybrid form of swimming, dance and gymnastic. She spent a couple of years competing, before leaving the sport.
Wachs was looking to fill the void in her life after she was done being a competitive swimmer. But as it turns out, there was another way she could be involved in swimming.
"One of my coaches asked me if I wanted to take a coaching course. She was going to be going to Yorkton, and she was going to be the instructor of that course. She encouraged me to take that course," said Wachs. "So it was really her who got me into coaching.
"I hadn't fulfilled all my dreams and desires as an athlete, so I thought, 'I can still do all those things as a coach.' It was a way of me fulfilling all those things that I wanted to have done as an athlete that I didn't get to do."
In Grade 12, Wachs coached the recreational program that she started in as an athlete - the University of Saskatchewan Saturday Morning Synchro class - and said she "never looked back."
Wachs continued coaching at the club level while she attended university. Upon graduation, she found employment at a Regional Psychology Centre. Then, she got a job coaching with Synchro Saskatchewan's Sask First program (now called High Performance).
"To be just out of university and to get that job was a dream," said Wachs. "I loved coaching and it was a good transition in my life, because I was actually looking for a career job and this was a full-time career job with Synchro Saskatchewan. I got on the coaching bus and became Synchro Saskatchewan's Sask First coach."
Wachs went on to instruct Synchro Saskatchewan athletes for 27 years and counting, visiting ever major Canadian city and dozens of others. She became an NCCP Level 3 coach and holds Level 3 Technical Courses across Canada. She is also the province's main and only one of a handful of Western Canadian Course Conductor/Master Facilitators.
One of the highlights during her career has been coaching Liane Teplitsky and Lesley Wright, the first two Synchro Saskatchewan athletes to ever win a gold medal for Saskatchewan in a national event.
"I will never forget that meet, because it was so surreal that they won," said Wachs. "Quebec had always been the best in synchronized swimming. I just remember sitting up in the stands, and the parents were putting up '1,' and I'm like, 'What? Are they waving to me?' I had no clue what they were talking about. Then when it dawned on me that they were saying, 'You're Number 1,' it was like, 'Oh, I can't believe we won.' "
Wachs said that it is the camaraderie between her athletes and her that she'll always remember.
"Last year I was at my house, and I had all three generations of my athletes present," said Wachs. "I had Lesley Wright, who went on to swim with Cirque du Soleil and at the Olympics. She's in her mid-30s. Then I had Nicole Cargill, who also went on to the Olympics. She was originally from Regina, but in my high performance role I worked with Nicole and her sister. Then I had Jessica Guenther, who was also on the national team for many, many years, and just finished her scholarship at Stanford University for synchronized swimming. I had them all over at my house, because they're my friends. I was so proud to think that I helped shape these three amazing young women."
Wachs was inducted into the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, has won the 2000 3M Coaching Canada Award in a Development, is a six-time recipient of Synchro Canada's Sadie Caulder Knight "Coach of the Year" Award and is a five-time recipient of the Saskatoon Aqualenes Synchronized Swimming Club's Coach of the Year Award. In 2009 she was awarded Sask Sports Female Coach Dedication Award, and Synchro Canada's Distinguished Member of the Year Award.
Going forward, Wachs hopes to continue being involved in coaching and passing along the lessons she has learned. She knows firsthand how important a mentor can be for a young coach.
"My first coach really was that spark. There's always that one person that gets you into it," said Wachs. "I really would like to be able to find her and to be able to show her where I am now. I bet she has no idea where I have gone and what I've accomplished as a coach."