Nancy Kalafus was born and raised on Buena Vista Avenue in Yonkers overlooking the Hudson River. Nancy attended P.S. 19, Hawthorne Jr. High, Yonkers High School and graduated in 1970. In the 1960’s there were no organized sports for girls. In fact, it was before Title 9 was passed so there were no sports at all for girls in the Yonkers Public Schools. At the age of 12, Nancy’s father, James Kalafus, brought her to the Yonkers Canoe Club. She fell in love with the Hudson River and racing in canoe/kayaks. Her first coach was 1948 Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, Steve Macknowski, who was a classmate of her father’s at Saunders Trade and Technical High School.
Nancy has been National Champion several times. When she and her teammates qualified and raced at the 1968 and 1969 United States North American teams, (US vs. Canada) they were the first ever women from the Yonkers Canoe Club to race in an International event. In 1970, she became the first Yonkers Canoe Club female to participate on the United States World Championship team and traveled to Denmark.
Although women raced for the Yonkers Canoe Club, the YCC Constitution at that time did not allow females to be voted into the club as senior members. That all changed in 1970 as the YCC Constitution was changed to allow women. Nancy was voted in as one of the first women senior members.
Returning from Denmark in August, Nancy was off to the University of Tampa were she won many college races including the National Collegiate Kayak Championships. She also played volleyball, basketball, softball and bowling. While in college she would return each summer to continue to race with the Yonkers Canoe Club. She also became the Fleet Captain (coach).
Joe Beczak, of the Beczak Environmental Center at C.U.R.B. asked her to help start a canoe/kayak paddling club at Sacred Heart High School she jumped at the chance. They built a club of 20 plus students who became the next wave of productive paddlers and National Champions for the Yonkers Canoe Club.
Nancy began her professional career at the Academy of Mount Saint Ursula in the Bronx. While teaching Physical Education she also coached volleyball, basketball and softball. Nancy went on to Coach the Women’s Basketball Team at Columbia University for 12 years. During that time she was named Metropolitan Coach of the Year, and her 21-6 team won the New York State Championship and went two rounds in the NCAA regionals. She has coached Columbia’s only 3 All Americans and after 30 years, many of her former players still hold the majority of statistical records for the women’s team. One of her fun memories is winning a FOUR overtime game vs. UPENN, 114-111.
Nancy’s next challenge was becoming the Director of Athletics and a Physical Education teacher at the Hastings-on-Hudson Public Schools. Her greatest accomplishments there were to increase the number of students on both the middle school and high school teams; the football merger of Dobbs Ferry, and Hastings football teams and to encourage a love of fitness for all students.
Nancy then continued her career as the District Director of Athletics and Physical Education at the Garden City Public Schools. During her 18 year tenure, the Garden City Varsity teams won over 25 State Championships in multiple sports. Her belief that academics were equally as important for her athletes, her 31 Varsity teams won the NYS School of Distinction Award for 10 years. The NYS School of Distinction Award Honors a school District when all of their Varsity teams in a school year have a 90 or better academic average. She also served as the Nassau County Fencing coordinator where she expanded High School Fencing from only boy’s teams to separate Boys and Girls teams. She then became the VP of women’s sports in Nassau County where one of her accomplishments was to start Girl’s golf teams in Nassau County, and working with the NYSPHSAA, the teams now compete for the NYS Championship.
While at Garden City, Nancy was awarded the March of Dimes Apple Award, The Council of Administrators, Administrator of the Year Award, and the NYS State Coaches Association Award and was voted into the Garden City Hall of Fame. Nancy retired in July 2014, and Garden City honored her at the next Homecoming by naming her the Grand Marshall of the annual Homecoming Parade.
Since retiring, Nancy has returned to her love of paddling, the Hudson River and the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club, and is now teaching a weekly kayak class called “Fitness Paddling with Race Technique”.