By Emily Sampl/Contributor | Friday, September 30, 2016
For the first time in the club’s history, the Walnut Creek Aquabears in Walnut Creek, Calif. have climbed to the topranks of USA Swimming’s hundreds of clubs, placing 20th in the 2016 Club Excellence program rankings to achieve gold medal status.
The achievement is a well-deserved recognition for a team that has been in existence, though not originally called the Aquabears, for more than 75 years and relies on a strong relationship with the community, loyal swimmers and consistent coaching staff. Head coach Mike Heaney has helped to build a strong staff and core of swimmers that have steadily worked their way to the top. Heaney outlines the Aquabears’ “5 Ls” that have helped the team carry on its long tradition of success.1. Longevity. The Walnut Creek Aquabears team has been in existence in its current form for 40 years and has roots dating back to its origin in the 1940s. The team that was first the Berkeley City Club holds meaning to us still today and we feel it is our responsibility to continue the traditions of respecting the sport and teaching swimming to all who are interested.
2. Loyalty. The Aquabears have a history deeply rooted in loyalty. Swimmers and coaches truly love the team and recognize the value of what we do. Our staff of 10 year round coaches average 12 years on the staff, with our longest tenured coach being with the club for 36 years. Eight of our coaches have been swimmers on the team and five of those since they were 10-and-unders. Our coaches and swimmers are proud to be Aquabears.
3. Long Range Focus. We believe that athlete development over the course of a long career is superior to aggressively "fast tracking" swimmers to success at too young of an age. We believe in patient, systematic increases in hours, commitment and training volume with a goal of reaching full potential in the sport when athletes are physically and cognitively ready for it. We encourage our swimmers to view swimming as a lifelong activity.
4. Lane Space. This is always an issue for teams but we have been very fortunate to have an outstanding relationship with the city of Walnut Creek, where our home pool has been for 40 years. We are always aware of the need to foster that positive relationship. We also are careful to not overcrowd the space we have available to us. We limit the number of athletes per lane so that we can provide quality instruction and training.
5. Luck. Thomas Jefferson once said, “I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it." At WCAB we understand that we have been fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the sport of swimming for many years, and we understand that without hard work and commitment as a team, it can all disappear in an instant. We work daily to create the luck we need to keep ourselves involved in the sport we love.