Club Excellence Spotlight: Wilton Y Wahoos
By Emily Sampl//Correspondent
After a steady climb within the silver and bronze medal club standings, the Wilton Y Wahoos in Wilton, Conn. have risen to gold medal recognition in 2014 with a 12th place finish in USA Swimming’s Club Excellence program.
Under the direction of Randy Erlenbach, a long-time assistant coach at the University of North Carolina, the Wahoos have captured the last two YMCA Long Course National Championships on the boys’ side, along with multiple Connecticut Senior short and long course championships. Six Wahoos competed at the 2012 Olympic Trials, and four have been named to recent US Junior National Team squads.
“We have an exciting blend of experience and youth; we’re very excited about the talent that’s come along, and our kids love to compete,” said Erlenbach, who was named head coach of the team four and a half years ago. “When it comes time to shave and taper, our kids do great. They really know how to compete.”
With 325 kids currently on the team, the Wahoos are still expanding and are only getting faster. Erlenbach shares the keys to the club’s continued growth and success in this week’s Club Excellence Spotlight.
1. Intensity and focus. There’s a reason why we do every practice, and it’s a step-by-step process to reach our goals. Every practice has a goal and focus, and every week has a specific focus.
2. Experience. I was a longtime assistant coach at the University of North Carolina, and when I came to Wilton I had 25 years of experience. That experience gave me the ability to see talent, and the knowledge of how to train different types of athletes, whether they’re sprinters, breaststrokers, distance freestylers, etc. Likewise, knowing which battles to fight when you come to a new program – there are so many things you want to do! Joining a new program is like merging onto a highway – you just want to get to the fastest lane as soon as possible, but you have to figure out how to get to that lane and know what to change and when.
3. Building the staff. When I came, I kept the entire staff and built a culture where each coach has an opportunity to grow and eventually become a head coach if they want to.
4. Develop the base. We practically doubled the size of our 12 and under program over four years. That’s been a process of finding the right people to coach that group, and so far our coaches are doing a wonderful job of teaching and developing the 12 and unders.
5. Create a competitive meet schedule. We’ve been going to the Arena Grand Prix meets as a way to open our kids’ eyes and have them race against international competition, which has certainly helped us get better.