April 1, 2018
The following is a note from Bob Chen, Head Coach of Rio Salado Swim Club in Arizona, after a club visit.
Dear Donnie and Ronnie and OA Athletes,
There have been very few times in my life when I have been moved by the decency and generosity of others; my experience visiting you and observing your team has been an eye-opening and transformative experience. I don’t know if these words could ever adequately express the total awe I had in watching your team and your staff at work. It truly is a worthy and noble life mission that I humbly hope to follow in myself. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
Ronnie: I’ll say it to any and all who will listen: your swimmers are unlike any teenagers I’ve ever encountered in my life. Their poise, maturity, and decency would stick out in a group of grad school students, let alone high school athletes. It heartens me to see that the future can be led by such capable leaders of high integrity. Please let your swimmers know how much we appreciated their time and their willingness to share their experiences and answer our questions. They’ve made my mission clear for when I return to Arizona.
Donnie: Thank you for your generosity and hospitality. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from all this is that as a coach who aspires to create a culture as transformative as OA’s, I have to live the message everyday, in every aspect of my life. Nothing was clearer to me after meeting you and Ronnie. Your graciousness permeates every interaction with your athletes and it doesn’t end off the pool deck. You have shown me where true personal growth needs to happen first if I hope to preach “Character First” to my athletes. I will never forget your example.
To the athletes at OA: thank you for sharing your time. I barely got a chance to know you and I already feel such a strong sense of pride that young adults such as yourselves are representing the swimming community in such a positive way. I hope to see you again on decks in the future, I promise you will always be welcome if and when you are ever in Arizona, and I would wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, but something tells me you won’t need it :)
With much appreciation,
Rio Salado Swim Club
Hi Donnie and Ronnie-
I wanted to thank you for your hospitality and the time you spent showing me your team. I was thoroughly impressed with the kindness, integrity, self confidence, and work ethic of all the swimmers on OA. Their attitudes towards their lives, their goals, and their training inspired me to more closely evaluate the attitudes and choices that I make on a daily basis. It was a privilege to watch both of you coach your groups and see the love, compassion, and high expectations you have for your swimmers. Ever since I saw how you operate, and the cohesiveness, intelligence, and moral clarity that results from it, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how I can be a better person and coach.
Our team had only been back at practice for a week, but following your example I’ve tried to have more meaningful conversations with my swimmers. I was shocked, I had no idea how much the kids already think about who they are and who they want to be, and how eager they are to talk about it. Thank you so much for showing me the possibilities a character first culture brings and how to develop it. Your example has motivated me to strive to be a higher character person and shown me how essential that is to success.
Good luck with the rest of your season!