BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- At the town pool on any given morning of the week, one will find Derek Wolfe surrounded by a small crowd of young swimmers, coaching them or directing them to play another round of sharks and minnows.
Wolfe, a Junior at Niskayuna high school, has been swimming since he was about six years old.
“My brothers were swimming well before me, because they’re older and I really looked up to them. So they started teaching me,” Wolfe said of his older brothers, Nick and Aiden.
It seems their training has paid off. Wolfe became a lifeguard earlier this year and has been working at the town pool as a swim coach and lifeguard since the start of the summer.
“I was really nervous when I first started. I just wanted the kids to have fun and to not let anything bad happen to them,” Wolfe said.
But in the pool, none of that anxiety shows through and the young swimmers of the Niskayuna Wild Turkeys Swim and Dive team flock around him until he directs them to do relays or play another round of sharks and minnows.
This year the team has over 100 swimmers this year, making it one of the largest teams in recent years.
“The kids have a lot of energy and they’re just really fun to work with,” Wolfe said.
Beyond his role at the town pool, Wolfe is also on the Niskayuna rowing team.
With all of the changes that the rowing program has experienced this year, Wolfe said that there aren’t nearly as many students signed up for the upcoming season.
But he’s hoping that will change soon.
“Rowing is really painful sometimes, just because of all the work that goes into it. But I’ve built so many strong friendships that I wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t been on the team,” Wolfe said.
He recalled early morning practices in the weight room and after school practices on the Mohawk.
“There was one time when a few of us on the team had stayed up really late working on a global history project and then we had early practice in the weight room that morning. All we kept saying is ‘We made it this far, we’ve got this!’” Wolfe laughed.
He also plays the trumpet in the jazz band and said that it’s something he’s really taken an interest in over the last two years of high school.
“I take private lessons with Steve Lambert and I’ll be taking those over the summer too,” Wolfe said. He is also looking into starting a small band to play jazz music at a few local venues.
However, when it comes to his career aspirations, Wolfe is thinking of following in his brother’s footsteps.
“Aiden is going to college for mechanical engineering and he goes to North Eastern College and they have a great program there,” Wolfe said.
He is most interested in engineering for marine biologists, keeping with his love for swimming.