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National Team

Training Overview

Training high-level athletes has been a debated topic in swimming with approaches varying widely from volume and distance and training, to IM-based training, to race-paced/speed-oriented training. Orinda Aquatics utilizes an approach that focuses on maximizing efficiency, allowing swimmers to develop technically while not breaking down under stress, and training/teaching swimmers how to race effectively.  In addition, Orinda Aquatics places a premium on the overall career and physical and emotional development of every swimmer.  This broad view represents the foundation of our coaching philosophy and is reflected in our training methodology and the relationships we develop with our swimmers. 

Technique Overview

To be competitive at the national level, swimmers must be technically proficient and understand all nuances of their strokes.  There should exist a culture of technique in which swimmers develop a dedication and a sense of pride in stroke development.  Swimmers should become well-educated and accountable for technical improvement.  Technical focus is intertwined into all areas of training. Athletes are prescribed detailed analyses for every aspect of their strokes and are coached to focus on technique daily.

Personal Development

As part of the mission of Orinda Aquatics, the overriding goal of the program is to develop high-character athletes and high-character individuals, and this begins at the national level.  We require that these swimmers operate at the highest level of training, team commitment, leadership, academics, and character. It is also imperative that they remain humble and grounded in appreciation for their success, and become mentors to younger team members. 

National Group Program  


  • General Swimmer Expectations
    • to be fully committed to all aspects of the program
    • to act with the utmost integrity at all times, both in the pool and out
    • to have a coach-swimmer relationships based on implicit trust and mutual respect
    • to place the team first at all times
  • Training
    • Training cycles typically run through winter (SC) Junior Nationals, spring high school championships, and summer (LC) Junior Nationals. 
    • Training sessions are nine times per week with yardage ranging from 6,000 (weekdays) to 9,000 (Saturday)
    • Workout and set design are mixed energy systems with an overriding emphasis on stroke count and stroke rate training through threshold and pace swimming
    • Training focus includes aggressive IM, kicking, and under water focus
    • Race strategy is a dominant training theme
    • Training is aggressive but efficient and healthy
    • Development is across all strokes and all distances 
    • We recognize each swimmer’s potential and specific talents and work together to develop it
    • Orinda Aquatics utilizes the most current equipment for training, including: Snorkel and paddles (required), four types of specialty paddles, breaststroke knee bands, tempo trainers, parachutes, Swim Cordz, Turn Master, and numerous other Speedo and Finis products
  • Technique
    • We strive to develop perfection in strokes, dives, turns, and underwater technique, so that technical efficiency creates a competitive advantage
    • Swimmers are taught drill (scull, kick, stroke) progressions in all strokes and how to “build” a stroke
    • Swimmers are given detailed reviews of their primary strokes with ratings and analysis
    • Swimmers are expected to be accountable and committed to technical development on a daily basis
    • Video analysis is regularly employed and Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas, former head of USA Swimming Sports Science, is engaged every two years for detailed filming and velocity analysis.
  • Dryland
    • An aggressive but balanced program which allows for injury-free training and builds strength and endurance (we do not encourage weight training at this point in a swimmer’s development)
    • Our Senior 3/National group has five dryland sessions per week
    • Equipment includes bands, medicine balls, jump ropes, TRX bands, and VASA trainers
    • Swimmers are tested three times per year in five basic exercises to monitor strength and progress
    • We consult with Bridge Athletic, former strength coaches to California Aquatics
    • We have guest speakers talk on subjects of physiology and injury prevention, including Dr. G. John Mullen
  • Personal Growth
    • As mentioned, national level swimmers are required to be role models in every aspect of the team and nurtured to become team leaders and captains at all levels of the sport (high school and college)
    • We coach, and expect, our swimmers to maintain humility, gratitude, compassion, service, and team support
    • Regular goal setting includes commitment to being a high-character athlete and person while training with the utmost integrity and focus
    • Parents are included and educated in the process of their child’s swimming development
    • There is zero tolerance for negative or adverse behavior both inside OA and out
  • College
    • National-level swimmers are self-motivated to become competitive collegiate athletes
    • Qualifying swimmers travel to national meets sanctioned by USA Swimming where they are exposed to other elite athletes and college coaches. OA coaches will make introductions.
    • Our coaches are very familiar with most competitive college programs and coaches in the country and will support the swimmer with letters of recommendation and direct contact if needed
    • Orinda Aquatics, through the website and advisors, offers extensive college resources and support
    • Coaches will meet (regularly) with swimmers and parents to guide the swimmer towards to a relevant list of schools and ultimately to the best college fit based on the swimming, academics, and finances
    • The Orinda Aquatics program and staff are respected by colleges coaches at all levels
  • Competition
    • As mentioned above, competition focus will primarily be on Junior Nationals (short course and long course), high school championships (for college recruiting), and possibly Sectionals or Grand Prix meets
    • National swimmers will also travel with the team to Clovis for a spring senior “team” meet.  While they may not shave down, they will play a strong leadership and management role.
    • Components of race evaluation include; starts, strategy, pace, stroke rates, stroke counts, turn technique and speed, underwater speed/distance, and race finish.

Coaching Staff Skill, Expertise & Experience


  • Coaches have over thirty years of experience (each) with proven success at all levels of swimming
  • National Team coaches (2) are ASCA Level 5 certified
  • Coaches are adept at creating very positive coach-swimmers relationships/partnerships
  • Orinda Aquatics has developed national-level swimmers in all strokes and distances, including sprint and mid-distance freestyle
  • Coaches are recognized nationally, and have spoken at clinics throughout the country, on team development, culture, technique, and stroke rate/tempo training. 
  • They are also acknowledged for their skill and expertise in technical development with strokes, dives, turns and underwater speed.
  • OA is respected by collegiate coaches for holistic swimmer development with leadership and character focus
  • There has been no staff turnover in twenty years

What makes our program perennially successful and unique?


  • The development is safe, gradual and balanced, and at a pace that can be maintained and improved through high school and college.
    • Over 20+ years, we have sadly witnessed the overly aggressive training “too much too soon” and the resulting plateauing of times and burnout, both physical and emotional
    • Swimmers improve systematically and consistently as training intensity increases, stroke technique is improved, and stroke flaws are eliminated
    • We work to find the balance of training aggressively to reach national-level competiveness and still have the room to improve through high school and through a four-year college career
  • The development is healthy both physically and emotionally
    • Our goal is for our swimmers to maintain a love and passion for the sport well into college
    • The emphasis is as much on personal and athletic growth as it is on performance 
    • We have extremely close and positive relationship with our athletes and care deeply about them
    • There is never undue pressure to reach a certain level to add to the coaches’ resume or to make the team look good. The expectations are always in partnership with the coach, swimmer, and parents.  Ultimately, we will always do what is in the best interest of the athlete’s long term swimming career.
    • A recent quote from an OA college graduate. “As I finished my final college season of swimming, the end of my swimming career, I never loved swimming more.” She has been with OA since sixth grade.

Case Study – Andrea Ward: Orinda Aquatics, U.C. Santa Barbara


  • Began swimming at OA at age twelve – humble beginning (not a young star)
  • High school Freshman times: 100 Fly 1:01, 200 Fly no time, 200 Free 1:58, 500 Free 5:16
  • High school Senior times: 100 Fly 56.5, 200 Fly 2:05.5 200 Free 1:53.0, 500 Free 4:57.8
  • UCSB Freshman times: 100 Fly 53.83, 200 Fly 2:03.0, 200 Free 1:49.1, 500 Free, 4:48.6
  • UCSB Senior times: 100 Fly 51.4 (4th at NCAA’s), 200 Fly 1:55.7, 200 Free 1:47.0, 500 Free 4:46.9

Orinda Aquatics’ Results:


  • Over 20 Olympic Trial swimmers
  • One Olympic Silver Medalist
  • Over 150 national level swimmers/high school All-Americans
  • 12 Pacific Swimming Records (individual and relays)
  • Two National High School Records
  • Orinda Aquatics male swimmers held nine of eleven California (CIF) North Coast Section records in 2013
  • 42 Orinda Aquatics swimmers competed in collegiate aquatic programs in 2014 (from a team of 150 members)
  • Over 25 OA graduates have been collegiate team captains

Orinda Aquatics has placed (multiple) swimmers in the following colleges: Blue denotes competing in 2014

Stanford

Harvard

Williams

West Point

U.C. Berkeley

Columbia

Middlebury

U.S. Naval Academy

UCLA

Dartmouth

Pomona

U.S. Air Force Academy

USC

Brown

Claremont McKenna

Maryland

Notre Dame

Princeton

Tufts

Emory

Duke

Yale

Pepperdine

NYU

U.C. Santa Barbara

Penn

Johns Hopkins

Boston College

Washington

U.C. Davis

U.C. San Diego

Cal Poly

Georgetown

Franklin & Marshall

MIT

U.C. Irvine

Hamilton

Washington & Lee

Fordham

Drury

With an average team size of 125, Orinda Aquatics’ team successes include:

  • First place, Junior Nationals West, 2000
  • First place, Far Westerns, 2000
  • Third place, Junior Nationals Long Course 2012
  • First place, Sectionals Short Course, 2001
  • Second place, Sectionals Long Course 2013  
  • Orinda Aquatics has been the top scoring team in USA Swimming under 150 members (based on USA Swimming Virtual Club Championships)
  • Orinda Aquatics was highlighted in Swimming World Magazine as the “Club Spotlight Team”
  • Orinda Aquatics was recognized by USA Swimming and ASCA for “Best Practices” in 2009
  • Campolindo High School (OA coaches and swimmers) was ranked as the #1 public high school in the nation in 2013 (3rd overall) Swimming World Magazine

Links

  • National History (historical success)
  • College History (career longevity)
  • Development Plan (progression to leadership and performance)
  • Senior Letters (a life perspective)
  • Stroke Analysis/Goal Sheet (detailed swimmer review)
  • Dg. G video/review (velocity analysis)
  • Swimming World Club Spotlight (national success from the beginning)
  • ASCA Book (character impact)
  • SwimSwam article – Merging culture and elite performance)
  • Debi Stumph Letter (a parents perspective)
  • Swimmer letter (Lauren B/Eric T, Heather W)
  • ASCA Article (cultural emphasis)

Critical questions for every high-level athlete to ask themselves:

  • Does my training support technical development?
  • Does my training support long-term development?
  • Am I highly motivated to train at a high level every day?
  • Do I have a daily commitment to stroke development?
  • Am I a role model and team leader and do I demonstrate that daily?
  • Am I more (self) identified as a “swimmer” or a person/leader?
  • Do I love and respect my training group and my coaches?
  • Is swimming teaching me critical life-lessons that I will carry beyond the sport?
  • Am I excited about the prospects of training at the collegiate level?
  • Do I have a college plan and support throughout the process?
  • Do I still love the sport?

“Live a life you are proud of. In the end, your greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things that don't matter to you.” unknown


Orinda Aquatics 2014-2015 National Team

The focus on national team and collegiate athlete development below reveals a life balance of well-rounded, academically-oriented, and leadership-centered individuals who have come out of our program and our methodology.