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Coaches and Directors

Coaches and Directors
Coaching Staff
Mike Switalski Executive Director

Mike Switalski is the founder of the Buffalo City Swim Racers (BCSR), now recognized as the City Swim Project. He is an ASCA, Level 4 Coach and a former Division III, All-America swimmer from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Switalski knows what it takes to succeed and is committed to mentoring swimmers to great success.

Prior to founding the City Swim Project, he was the head swim coach at Buffalo State College. Switalski coached and mentored the Buffalo State College men’s and women’s teams to multiple semesters of Academic All-America recognition. He established the team as a mainstay on the list. This recognition is
awarded by the College Swim Coaches Association of America.

He also watched 20 school and more than 20 various pool and college records fall under his guidance during his time at the school. In addition, he coached several All-SUNYAC performers, including Kelly Stoklosa, who became the first female Buffalo State swimmer to win a SUNYAC title, capturing both the
100 and 200 breast stroke events at the 2006 championship meet.

His previous coaching experience is diverse, serving as an assistant at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, as well as coaching several club and high school teams. He has coached national level swimmers for USA Swimming (National Age Group Top-16, Junior National, Senior National and
U.S. Open).

Switalski currently serves on several committees and boards:   
     1. The Buffalo Public Schools Physical Activity Committee
     2. The Buffalo Public Schools Athletics Committee
     3. Western New York Afterschool Network
     4. Niagara Swimming Diversity and Inclusion Committee (Chair)
     5. USA Swimming Eastern Zone Diversity and Inclusion Committee
     6. USA Swimming National Diversity and Inclusion Committee
     7. Niagara Swimming Board of Directors
     8. City Swim Project Board of Directors
     9. Subject Matter Expert to USA Swimming Foundation

He has served as the national chairperson for the United States Swimming Outreach Committee and authored several published articles on competitive swimming in addition to giving multiple lectures on the sport, including at the USA Swimming National Convention and the American Swim Coaches
Association World Clinic. He was the only coach to represent USA Swimming in 1999 at the United States Olympic Academy, hosted by the US Olympic Committee. He has also attended several coaching clinics over the past decade to stay on the cutting edge of training and coaching techniques.

In 1994, he completed his Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education with a minor in coaching at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and received a Master's in Student Personnel Administration at Buffalo State College in 2011. Mike and his wife Kim reside in Buffalo with their son Nicholas and
daughter Alexandra.

Rick Aronberg Head Coach

Coach Aronberg has been coaching swimming since 1991 and has had swimmers competing at the National level since 1993. He started off as an assistant coach for three years under some of the best coaches in the sport and then moved into a Head Coaching position ever since and has earned an ASCA 5 coaching certification. Working as an assistant coach as well as a developmental coach in the beginning gave him the compassion to work with the youngest swimmers and helped develop his excitement for the sport.

Most recently Rick was the Head Coach at Parkland Aquatic Club in Allentown, PA. His team reached USA Swimming's prestigious Bronze level status this summer in which Coach Rick helped one of his swimmers finish 64th in the World in the 400 meter IM for all 18 and under athletes.  He served as Head Coach for Velocity Aquatics in Amherst, NY, where he helped grow the team by nearly 50%.  Coach Aronberg spent 13 years with STAR Swimming here in Buffalo, NY. Fast swimming was an understatement during his tenure at STAR. STAR won 20 short course and long course Niagara LSC Championships in his time and consistently developed many of the area's and country's top swimmers. Coach Aronberg has also coached 9 swimmers to both the USA and Canadian Olympic Trials. 

Prior to joining STAR, Coach Aronberg came from Rochester, NY where he started the Greater Rochester Racing Raiders back in the summer of 1996.   In just a few short years, that team became the top program in Niagara Swimming. In 2003, one of his swimmers finished number one in the world for all 14-year-old boys in the 100 breaststroke.

Coach Aronberg was also the Head Coach of Nazareth College from 1994-2004 where he led swimmers to National Championships and All American status.

In 1999, Coach Aronberg was selected to be the Head USA Coach for the Pan American Maccabiah Games in Mexico City. In four days of competition, his USA Team outdistanced second-place Mexico by 40 medals. In December 2010, Coach Aronberg was named the Head USA Coach that took a team to Australia for two weeks.  One of his swimmers came back winning 7 Golds. In April of 2010, Coach Rick was an Assistant Coach for TEAM USA that competed in Ireland.  Two of his own swimmers also represented TEAM USA where both dominated in the competition.

A native of Fairport, NY, Coach Aronberg is well known in Western New York. He was a seven-time high school All-American at Fairport high school. He went on to Clemson University where he was a 6 time All American in the 500 and 1650 free, 6-time Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champion in both of those events and was named the swimmer of the decade (1980's) for Clemson.

In 2002, Coach Aronberg was inducted into the Clemson University Athletic Hall of Fame and was named to the ACC 50th Anniversary team. A member of the Rochester Athletic Hall of Fame, Coach Aronberg participated in the United States Olympic Trials in 1988 in the 200, 400, and 1500 freestyles and was chosen to compete with the United States team in the Maccabiah Games in Israel in 1985 and 1989. He won 11 medals, including 9 gold, and was named the captain of the United States men’s team in 1989. He was also ranked first in the world that year in the 400-meter free.

Coach Aronberg is married to Laurie and have two children Jon and Ryan.

Lamont Williams Director of Business Development

As Director of Business Development for Buffalo City Swim Racers, Lamont Williams draws on his diverse experience working in the fields of education, nonprofit, government, and over 30 years of successful entrepreneurship to foster funding relationships and grow the organization.  

Prior to joining Buffalo City Swim Racers, Lamont was Executive Director of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection where he led staff and developed programming designed to equip and empower low-income, at-risk youth and young adults to become self-sufficient by addressing the educational, economic, family, and social challenges they face.

Lamont’s youth engagement experience extends to a national level through his work with the National Urban League. He was a core member and organizer of their annual Youth Summit and provided key contributions in the development of their education initiatives. He has also been a guest speaker at a variety of events and professional development workshops.

Lamont is a graduate of SUNY University at Buffalo, a United States Navy Veteran, a 2012 graduate of Leadership Buffalo, and a board member of multiple local organizations. He enjoys mentoring and working with young people to help them achieve their academic and career goals – especially encouraging entrepreneurial aspirations. Lamont resides in Buffalo with his wife, Alexandra, and daughter, Taylor.

Patti Nabinger Director of Learn-to-Swim

Patti Nabinger comes to us with over 30 years experience working with children. Her latest position was as the Aquatics Coordinator for the William Emslie Family YMCA. Where she grew their learn to swim lesson programs for youth and adults.  Prior to working for the YMCA, Patti was a Buffalo Public Schools Teacher for 18 years at the junior high level.  Her background also includes work with the Girl Scouts of America and the Buffalo Boys and Girls Clubs.

In addition, Patti is a certified lifeguard instructor for the American Red Cross and works with the City Swim Project staff and its members to renew or obtain American Red Cross certifications.  Lifeguard certifications for City Swim Project swimmers often result in employment opportunities with BCSR or surrounding aquatic facilities.

Patti is an accomplished athlete as well with NYS high school championships in Softball and Field Hockey in the 1980's. Currently, she is an avid pool player. She has represented WNY in the APA World Championships in 8ball and 9ball.

Patti is the caretaker for her beloved mother and dog companion Jasper Jack.

 

Susan Baldwin Director of Support Services

Dr. Sue Baldwin is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist who has extensive teaching experience in K-12 urban public schools and in higher education. She has worked as a health and physical educator for over 25 years designing, implementing, and evaluating health and physical education programs.

Dr. Baldwin has been the Buffalo Public Schools’ District Wellness Coordinator for 7 years and recently was appointed the Supervisor of Health and Physical Education. Under her direction the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model (WSCC) initiative was implemented across 60 schools and was awarded the  2019 American School Health Association WSCC District Wide Implementation Award, was recognized by the CDC with a district site visit and received urban district recognition from ASCD for its use of the WSCC model. Dr. Baldwin was an invited CDC/American School Health Association/Robert Woods Johnson Foundation author in the December 2020 WSCC dedicated  Journal of School Health.

Dr. Baldwin has presented nationally and internationally, was awarded American School Health Fellow Award, the NYS AHPERD Administrator of the Year Award, was named the Health Educator of the Year from PA AHPERD, received the NYS Western Zone Health Professional of the Year award, and a Senate Citation for Education. She received her B.S. from Gannon University in health, physical education and recreation management, her M.S. in Exercise Science from Slippery Rock University, her PhD in health education and promotion from Kent State University and completed a MEd in Educational Leadership and Policy degree to obtain her School Building and School District Leader certifications in New York.

Dr. Baldwin was a full scholarship athlete and Academic All-American at Gannon University in basketball and played softball collegiately. Baldwin was a four-sport athlete in high school which included swimming, basketball, volleyball, and softball. Dr. Baldwin currently is a high level recreational athlete in ice hockey, golf and downhill skiing.

Melhea Gachette Assistant Coach and LTS Instructor
Henry Heppner Assistant Swim Coach

After graduating from Orchard Park High School in 1984, Henry attended The University of Buffalo where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Science in Social Sciences (with concentrations in Sociology and Psychology).  Henry began coaching with the Orchard Park Town Wreckers Swim Team (TWST) in December of 1984.  His focus had always been on coaching proper techniques, training swimmers at an age-appropriate level and insuring that each swimmer felt that they were truly achieving their potential.  During his 33 years of coaching with TWST (including a 4 year hiatus when his children were very young) as both the Head Coach and then as an Assistant, Henry has coached 5 swimmers who have been ranked in the top 10 nationally in their age groups, over a dozen Niagara District record holders & Eastern Zone Qualifiers/Champions, and many Niagara District champions.  In addition, Henry was the assistant coach to Dale Heimlich at Orchard Park High School when the Orchard Park boys swim team was ranked 1st statewide on two different occasions (5 years apart).  Several All-American individual and relay teams were coached by Henry at Orchard Park.  Henry was also the founding coach for the girl’s team at Sacred Heart Academy (3 years) and coached the girl’s team at Hamburg High School.

Henry has been named as a Niagara District Zone Team coach 5 times and been named the Head Coach once.  In addition, Henry has been awarded as the Niagara District Age Group Coach of the Year in recognition of his outstanding achievements as a coach.  Furthermore, Henry was named the Sports Person of the Year by the Orchard Park Boys and Girls Club.

In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Henry has also served in many voluntary roles within the Niagara Swim League (Secretary and Vice President), Niagara District (Technical Planning Chair, Age Group Chairman, Board of Review and National Delegate) and USA Swimming (National Council on Swimming Psychology).  He has attended three National Conventions as a voting delegate.

Outside of swimming, Henry and his ex-wife Marina are the proud parents of two children, Emma (21 yrs.) and Max (19 yrs.).  He has taught Sunday School and assisted with Confirmation Classes at Saint Peters United Church of Christ for many years.  Henry is a past member of the Orchard Park Recreation Commission (4 years), and a current member of the Orchard Park Historical Preservation Board and the Orchard Park Planning Board.

Lauren Bauer Learn to Swim Instructor

Lauren has has always had a love for swimming since she was a child, later swimming for the Stingrays Swim Club in Cheektowaga. Lauren was also on the high school swim team at Lancaster High School, and was the team captain for her senior year.  Now, working for Buffalo City Swim Racers, her goal is to foster a fun yet informative learning environment for her group. 
 
Lauren Bauer is a graduate from ECC in 2019 who has an associates degree in Social Sciences, and is currently attending Buffalo State for her Bachelors in Psychology. 
Sarah Hamdan Learn to Swim Instructor

As a coach for the City Swim Project, Sarah Hamdan utilizes her years of swimming, leadership, and experience with children to give her athletes a dynamic approach to swimming.

Sarah's love for swimming starts at about 6 years-old. She first began lessons in Boston, MA until she moved to Buffalo at the age of 8 where she took a hiatus until 11 years-old. Sarah went on to swim freestyle and backstroke for Buffalo Seminary's varsity team as the first student to compete in varsity for all four years at her school.

By the age of 16, Sarah started working as an assistant swim coach and lifeguard for the Cheektowaga Stingrays; she mainly instructed children between the ages of 3 and 13 years-old. In 2018, Sarah became a USA Swimming coach member and joined the City Swim Project, formerly known as the Buffalo City Swim Racers at the time. As a fluent Arabic-speaker, Sarah has served as a translator on many occasions and assisted the program and families in various ways.

She currently studies chemical engineering at the SUNY University at Buffalo and loves incorporating her engineer's view to math and science in optimal, safe swimming. In addition to coaching and studying, Sarah volunteers at her mosque and teaches at Universal school where she spends much of her time working with young children and helping local families in need.

Byron Pagan Hernandez Assistant Coach/Learn to Swim Instructor

Byron graduated from Hutch Tech in 2020 while majoring in Computer Science. He was a member of the Hutch Tech Swim Team and was named captain for his team. While there, he went on to compete at the section 6 championships twice. Byron was also a member of the cross country team in High School. He is currently attending Villa Maria College for a Bachelor degree in Game Design and Development. 

Before working with the City Swim Project and Buffalo TIDE, Byron worked for the City of Buffalo for two years as a lifeguard. Byron is also a Spanish translator for our program. Most importantly, he has a cute ferret named Mandy.
Sybil Smith Learn to Swim Instructor

Sybil was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From there, she graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School in 1972. Sybil then graduated from Indiana State University with a Bachelors in physical education and went on to receive her Masters at Buffalo State College. She started working for the Buffalo Board of Education as a physical education teacher in 1990. Sybil has also been a swim coach for different schools in the inner city and enjoyed many years of coaching. 

Sybil's other passion is coaching volleyball. She has coached for Grover High School, East High School, and McKinley High School. She has also worked for the Willie Hutch Jones Sports Program as a volleyball and swim director in the summer for the past ten years. Sybil retired this year in January and now is working with the City Swim Project. And finally is the proud grandmother of seven grandkids.

Board of Directors