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Wilkie Helps Build Family Atmosphere

There is an old saying in sports of ‘it starts at the top.’

When discussing the family bond that has grown within the circle of the North Tonawanda boys’ swimming/diving team it definitely starts with head coach Joe Wilkie.

Now in their fourth season under Wilkie, the program has slowly but surely seen a steady increase in wins in each of the previous three seasons. A success rate that is without question connected to the tight team bond that has evolved under Wilkie’s watch.

“I think the consistency of my being here as the varsity coach helps. Where as before they were switching coaches from year to year,” Wilkie said. “I was teaching here, I’m not now, but I know a lot of the guys in the classroom. I had that classroom relationship with them and I brought it over here. Now we’re building the program and we have a good reputation. Now it’s just a standard that’s what’s expected when you come here as a team.”

Senior captain Dan Piazza said that the healthy atmosphere within the team circle does make it feel more like a family. And that coming to the pool is something everyone looks forward to every day.

“I don’t really consider it a team. It’s more of a family,” Piazza said. “One of our booster club members, he always says you can’t tell the difference between freshmen and seniors besides their height. We’re all cheering for each other. We’re always rooting each other on. It’s really a family, it’s not (just) a team.

I love coming in here every day. I love swimming with these guys, especially the past four years I’ve swam with them. We have our laughs and fun, but we also push each other to work hard.”

In the water the Jacks will look to improve on their 5-9 record in the Niagara Frontier League last season.

Piazza, who swims the 200 IM, 50 free and 100 breast stroke, is part of a core four of experienced swimmers who will lead the Jacks this season.

Joining Piazza will be fellow senior captains Tyler Bochy and Mike Orlowski. Bochy will compete in the 500, 100 back stroke and join Piazza in some of the relays. Orlowski, meanwhile, will be the Jacks utility swimmer of sorts as he will do a little bit of everything, including the 200 IM and 100 free.

The core four is rounded out by junior Ryan Bille who will compete in the 50, 100 and also swim in relays.

“A lot of them were talking to me over the summer about off season workouts. Dryland workouts. Trying to get in shape before the season started. Not just in the pool, but out of the pool,” Wilkie said.

“Then just their leadership. Dan, Mike and Tyler are the captains and they rally the guys together to bring it as a family and realize that swimming is a team sport.”

While seeing the bump in wins is a plus and what the coaches and kids are all working toward, Wilkie said the best part of the ride is the way the guys genuinely care for and support each other every step of the way.

“It’s rewarding at the end of the day,” Wilkie said. “We teach more than more than just swimming. We’re working on professionalism and growing up and maturing. It’s good to see that these boys understand that process.”

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