November 23rd, 2015

Hyland's Heroes: Laura Haara

Samantha Stallings

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Laura Haara
In the photo from left to right: Brian, Laura, Bennett, and Madeline / photo provided by the Haara family

The following feature is a part of a bi-weekly series, sponsored by Hyland Insurance. "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.

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Laura Haara graduated from St.Gabriel and Assumption High School and then went to college graduated from Centre and University of Kentucky Law School.

Laura is an avid tennis player. She and her husband Brian have two children: Madeline, who is a freshman at Assumption where she swims and runs cross country; and Bennett, who is a fifth grader at St. Patrick where he is on the swim team, archery team, and academic teams.

When and how did you get your start with the St. Patrick? 

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.  For the last several years Sue Marks and I have handled the organizational and administrative tasks for the swim team, but we also have coaches on the pool deck. 

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 both love.  With a team of 80 - 100 swimmers each year, it takes a lot of effort from more than one person so that things run smoothly. No other CSAA sport has a single team of nearly 100 athletes ranging in ages from 6 to 14.  It presents unique challenges, but also exceptional rewards.

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

I love working with 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. 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. 

Who was the most influential person on your volunteer career and why? 

My mother, Karen Hougland, has influenced my commitment to volunteering more than any other person. By her example, she taught me and my siblings that serving others is the right things to do, that it is better to affect change by rolling up your sleeves and working from the inside instead of standing on the sidelines and complaining, and that being involved in your children’s lives is a gift to your children.

What are your major themes/principles 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. I believe 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 try to create an environment where the swimmers can work hard, have fun, feel safe, and feel encouraged to try new things.

Over the past couple of years we initiated a program of “junior coaches” of St. Pat graduates 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.  They are also instrumental in helping the kids at the meet and pumping them up for their races.  I love the idea of the older student athletes building relationships with the younger swimmers.  The little kids really look up to the junior coaches.  And the junior coaches never fail to impress me with their skills, maturity and willingness to give.

What does volunteering bring to you, your family? 

Swimming is definitely a family affair in our household with both of my children on multiple teams. I think my kids appreciate that I am involved in their school and with the swim team 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 just as my mom taught me.

What are some of the fondest experiences or memories you have of your volunteer time? 

The best part of being a part of the swim team is the CSAA meet. The kids get to step up to the blocks and show what they have learned. The coaches are scrambling to get everyone in the right spots for each race. Some of my fondest memories involve individual races where a child knocked off significant time or won a heat unexpectedly, even if they did not win the event. The look of joy, pride, and amazement on their faces keeps me coming back. I am also proud of developing our Junior Coaches program which gives our St. Patrick graduate that are in high school the opportunity to develop leadership and coaching skills.


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