Detroit swim coach makes a splash in and out of the pool | Lifestyle

DETROIT – Swimming coach Chais Plascencia’s association with Western International HS and the southwest Detroit community that has cared for her keeps her from giving back.

It would be virtually impossible for Chais Plascencia to forget where she was from, not with an estimated 30,000 photos stored on her cell phones of students she trained at Western International High School.

Plascencia, better known as Coach Chais by her many friends, says the photos keep her in touch with the people and the southwestern Detroit community she loves, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“I live in the neighborhood – half a mile from school – this is where I grew up,” said the 38-year-old, 2001 graduate of the western. “Every swimmer I coach becomes part of my family in this community.”

Coach Chais’ connection with the school and community that nurtured her as a teenager brought her back to westerns soon after graduating from high school as a volunteer swimming assistant, even while taking classes at Wayne State University. This connection also led to her taking over the head coaching responsibility for the western boys and girls swimming teams in her twenties. And it is their connection and commitment to their family of western swimmers that drives them to keep the girls and boys swim teams running today despite the challenges the pandemic still poses.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I told myself that whatever process I had to go through to have a season, I would do it because I love coaching,” explained Coach Chais, who had previously dealt with adversity in her coaching career when Western was without its own pool for three years from 2009 to 2011. “I learned from my parents (Rosalia and the late Oscar Madrigal) that when you start something important you end it, and swimming is important in our city because it makes our youth stronger – physically and mentally. It gives them something to which they can devote themselves very much. “

The devotion to swimming is central to the connection Coach Chais had with hundreds of Western students. But at first she says that some of her swim team members weren’t swimmers at all.

“I take everyone with me, even if they can’t swim,” said trainer Chais, who says she wants to change the narrative that downtown kids are more at risk of drowning than other teenagers. “You don’t have to be the fastest, just learn to swim and be the best you can be. The goal is that everyone at an official freestyle event can swim at a meeting. “

And for every student who accepts Trainer Chais’ open invitation to swim, there is a strong support system that goes beyond the pool, as eleventh grader Guillermo Trevino experienced. When Trevino arrived at Western, he was looking forward to playing on Western’s baseball team, an eternal force among league squads in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. But while Trevino was already skilled with a baseball bat and glove, he hadn’t gotten around to learning to swim until the start of ninth grade.

“I was very shy at first, but everyone on the team helped me,” said Trevino, who tried the swim team as a newcomer to Westerns, encouraged by his sister Anastasia Trevino, who was already on the girls’ team. “We’re all very close on the team – we hang out, we go to the movies – and her friends (my teammates) became my friends, so it also helped me meet new people at school.”

While making new friends in and out of Western’s pool, Trevino also discovered that the same natural athleticism that allowed him to stand out on a baseball diamond carried over to swimming when he was tutored by coaches and teammates who wanted to see it shine. Trevino says with real humility in his voice that it took him about a week to learn to swim. And thanks to “more work”, the Western, which now stands out from two sports (baseball and swimming), is looking forward to ending up in the pool several times during its junior season, especially at the 100 and 500 meter freestyle events.

The goal-setting element of swimming also resonates with Miriam Sanchez, a senior at Western who is the captain of the girls’ team. While members of her team used late summer to begin physical conditioning and swimming training, Sanchez also used this time to reflect and imagine what she would like to see from her entire team.

“What I really hope are a lot of girls who are into swimming and who are ready to try new things,” said Sanchez, who is in her third season at Western. “Trying out new things before it’s too late – that’s very important. I wish I had joined the team in my freshman year, but I didn’t see myself doing it until I saw some of my friends on the team. “

Hearing Sanchez’s bubbly voice makes it difficult to understand the “dark place” the college student inhabited before joining the swim team. Joining the swim team, she said, reconnected Sanchez with a positive activity from her childhood.

“When I was younger, I took some (swimming) classes, but it was like I’d forgotten,” said Sanchez, who considered herself more of a volleyball player than a swimmer when she got into the western world. “Coach Chais took time for me, just as she always takes time for everyone, and she showed me how I can get better. And the whole team felt really homely. … I wouldn’t know where I would be without swimming. … I just want to enjoy my time in the pool this season and I definitely see myself coming back to help the swimmers and coaches after graduation. “

Josh Coffey knows firsthand how to stay a part of the western swimming program family after graduating. When he’s not helping make mustangs at the Ford Flat Rock assembly plant, the 2007 western graduate can often be found in the pool working with western swimmers.

“Seeing our swimmers do the extra little things to get better half a second or millisecond, which can bring them a lot closer to victory, always makes me smile,” said Coffey, who works mostly with the older swimmers on the team .

Coffey’s time spent assisting Coach Chais also gives him the opportunity to speak to all of the swimmers about winning the Game of Life.

“We always encourage good grades and do everything we can to help them move forward in their lives,” said Coffey. “The more education, the better they are.”

Coach Chais has shown this year that discussions about swimming pool education are not only beneficial for today’s western swimmers. In January while balancing responsibilities for her family (husband, Jaime and 10 year old daughter Rosalia) and grandparents (Maria and Eliazar Salinas) and also completing the numerous health protocols required to keep the bathing season for western boys on track , the do-it-all coach Chais decided to resolve some unfinished business at Wayne State by re-enrolling as a part-time student.

“God willing,” she said, hoping to graduate from secondary school by 2024. And after her teaching qualification, she would like to include “adaptive physical education” in her teaching vitae one day.

The future graduation and certifications will provide Trainer Chais with additional opportunities to positively influence the youth. But she makes it clear that she has no intention of ever removing “swim coach” from her résumé.

“I would never stop coaching,” announced Coach Chais, who also works for her aunt Deya Gutierrez and her aunt’s son, Daniel, at Mexican Food Specialties, a 40-year-old family business in southwest Detroit. “My father was a softball coach, but swimming is like another trigger for me. A student I coach may need to be able to swim for his life. That goes for safety in the water along with the life lessons that swimming teaches. From the start, swimming just felt normal and I felt like I should help.

“And that feeling never went away.”

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