March 6th, 2013

Hyland's Heroes: Laura Haara

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Laura Haara
A young St. Patrick's swimmer gets ready for her race / photo from CSAA / Laura Haara

Volunteer encourages all to give CSAA swimming a try

The following feature is a part of a bi-weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland. "Hyland's Heroes" is a series of profiles that spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero”? Send your recommendation to

Grade School/High School: St. Gabriel; Assumption.
Sports you played: I played almost all sports in grade school, mostly mediocre. I now play team tennis.
Husband/Children: Brian Haara; Madeline, 6th grade, swimming, basketball, cross country; Bennett, 2nd grade, swimming, basketball, and soccer.

The Catholic School Athletic Association Swimming Championships are a one-day-wonder! The first Saturday in March we typically will see over 1,000 kids from the 1st through 8th grades at the Ralph Wright Natatorium on the University of Louisville campus swimming their hearts out. It’s a credit to the swimming community that this event, spearheaded by “Bucky” Stoess, comes together and thrives. It takes volunteers like Laura Haara to make it happen within the individual schools.

Laura helps co-ordinate the largest school swimming in the meet. She is with the St. Patrick School program. This year they had 114 swimmers registered to participate. She’s a graduate of Assumption HS, who along with her husband, Brian, is the mother of Madeline and Bennett. Of course they participate in a lot of different sports, but Laura’s dedication, along with other volunteers make it happen. Laura and the sport of swimming is our Hyland’s Heroes feature.

When and how did you get your start with the CSAA? Why so? 

My volunteer involvement at St. Patrick has mostly been with the PTO, VBS, and Girl Scouts. In 2010, I began helping with some small administrative tasks for the St. Patrick swim team. This year, Sue Marks and I handle most of the organizational and administrative tasks for the swim team, but we leave the coaching to the coaches.

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved?

I got involved to help our former coach, Rich Flaherty, and to help grow the sport that both my kids love. With a team of over 100 swimmers, each year it takes a lot more effort than one person can give to keep things running smoothly. No other CSAA sport has a single team of over 100 athletes ranging in ages from 6 to 14. It presents unique challenges, but also exceptional rewards.

What's the connection with your faith and giving your time to these young student athletes? 

I love working with the kids and for the kids. I want the swimmers to have the best experience possible. Helping the swim team gives me the opportunity to share some of my God-given gifts of organization, communication, and administration. But I definitely get back more than I give. The kids are so sweet and eager to improve. It is impossible for me to be in a bad mood after helping enthusiastic second graders learn to dive AND getting totally drenched in the process. 

What are your goals as a volunteer?  

I would love to get more kids involved in swimming at their Catholic schools, on summer neighborhood teams, and on year-round teams. Swimming is such a wonderful sport for all ages: it is excellent exercise, it is a low-impact sport on the body, and it is an overall life skill. Kids can focus on their individual performance, but also learn how to be part of a team. I hope we are instilling confidence in the kids as they get stronger and improve their times.

I think one of the best things about the CSAA swimming program is that due to the short season and single meet, new swimmers (and parents new to swimming) are able to try the sport for the first time without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed. Hopefully a positive experience will keep them coming back and perhaps continuing to swim after the CSAA season is over.

This year we began a new concept involving “junior coaches.” We have a few St. Patrick middle school students and a St. Pat graduate in high school who are experienced year-round swimmers that help the younger kids at practice as “junior coaches.” They get in the water with the 1st and 2nd graders, lead stretching and warm-ups, give tips on starts and other skills, and provide leadership on the pool deck at practice. I love the idea of the older student athletes helping out the younger members of the same team. The little kids really look up to the junior coaches.

What does volunteering bring to you, your family?

With both kids involved in swimming for St. Patrick and other different teams multiple days a week, swimming is definitely a family affair in our household. And I think my kids appreciate that I am involved in their school and with the swim team to help things run smoother, and that I am passionate about the things that interest them. And I hope I am teaching them by example that it is important to volunteer and make a difference.



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