USA Swimming Spotlight: Club Excellence



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Corey Okubo (large)


In just 15 years of existence, Aquazot Swim Club in Irvine, Calif. has steadily risen to the top ranks of USA Swimming’s club teams, following up their ninth place finish last year with a third place showing in the 2015 Club Excellence program rankings. 


In addition to the team’s seventh place finish at the 2014 Speedo Winter Junior National Championships and third place finish at the 2014 Speedo Junior National Championships, the club placed one swimmer on USA Swimming’s 2014-2015 National Junior Team roster, with Corey Okubo making the team in the 200 back, 200 fly and 400 IM. 

Head coach Brian Pajer, who founded the team in 1999, and assistant Todd Hickman have worked together to build a program that emphasizes exceptional technique, hard work and fun, which have resulted in Aquazot establishing itself as one of the premier teams in the country. Hickman describes five factors leading to the team’s success in this week’s Club Excellence Spotlight. 

1. We have an amazingly strong coaching staff, from top to bottom. All of us have either competed and/or coached at high levels within USA Swimming. We are technique-driven and focus on speed through efficient and technique-driven strokes.

2. We are a coach-directed team. This enables us to be innovative, experiment and try new ways of teaching. Our coaches have the freedom to design practices according to what best suits our own groups. We are encouraged to look at our group as our own mini-team within the team and take ownership of our group. 

3. Even though we are encouraged to think outside the box, our vision is the same – make every individual swimmer the very best they are capable of being. We plant the seed for expectations throughout the swimmers’ careers, and raise the bar as high as we can each step of the way. We are not a large team and like to maintain our small-team feel. Our coaches have great communication with our parents and swimmers about goals and each swimmer’s future.

4. Our athletes and parents believe in what we are teaching. We try to instill our ideals of enthusiasm, hard work and competitive greatness at an early age. You can have all the knowledge to be a great coach but if your athletes and parents don't believe in you and what you’re teaching, it really doesn't matter.

5. We do this for fun! We always try to keep a sense of humor. I feel that great coaches have to be part teacher, part motivational speaker and part stand up comedian. Your audience, the athletes, has to like you and be interested. That little bit of humor in a physically and mentally demanding sport like swimming can be very motivational. At Aquazot, these underlining themes help us to get our swimmers to dream bigger and achieve more than they ever conceived possible.