AQUAHAWK Strong Since 1968  


The Lawrence Aquahawks is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a program of swimming instruction for competition for the youth of Lawrence, Douglas County, and surrounding communities. The Aquahawks is open to all youth who have completed basic swimming instruction. The club, is operated by the parents of swimmers, and annually elects a Board Of Directors (BOD) to manage club operations. The BOD, which holds monthly meetings, is responsible for hiring the head coach, providing oversight of the club’s operations, and coordinating fund raising and volunteer activities. 

The Aquahawk program operates year round and also offers a summer swim team program.  The program takes two breaks throughout the year, one in August and one in March. Swim practices are held at the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center (Summer only), Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center, The Jayhawk Club (Summer lessons only), and Lawrence Country Club (Summer lessons only). Practice times and locations are established each swim season and are subject to change given pool availability.  Practice schedules can be located on the team’s website under the tab “Group Calendars”.


Before the founding of the Aquahawks in 1968, Lawrence had four small private club swim teams, each with their own coach. The teams scheduled dual meets throughout the summer and the season concluded with the Douglas County Age Group Swimming and Diving Championships, which were held at Holiday Park Pool. In the summer of 1968, the parents and swimmers of these teams combined to form the Lawrence Swim Club, the original name of the Aquahawks.

One of the first tasks for the new club was to become actively involved in the campaign to support a bond issue for a new municipal pool. The passage of the bond issue provided a facility where the entire team could train together. When the new municipal pool opened for the 1969 season, it was quickly hailed as the premier facility in the Missouri Valley LSC. 

Bill Barnes served as the first coach for the new club and was assisted by Bob Hines and Bob Russell, two KU swimmers. Bill’s son, Brent, is credited with inventing the club mascot, the Aquahawk, while Bill’s wife, Jo Barnes, was the first to put green and yellow trunks on the waterborne Jayhawks. By 1973, the team was well established with approximately 100 registered swimmers. 

In 1977, Gary Kempf took over as head coach of the program. Under Gary’s leadership, the team began to expand beyond a summer program by swimming at the KU pool during semester breaks and in the late spring.

By the late 1970’s, the lack of an indoor pool in Lawrence was a serious constraint on the ability of the club to improve and expand its programs. Once again, Aquahawk families played an important role in promoting the construction of an indoor facility. Finally, in 1980, the Carl Knox Natatorium was opened at Lawrence High School under the combined direction of USD 497 and the City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department. With the addition of an indoor practice facility, the Aquahawks became a year round program. 

The Aquahawk board of directors hired Dorothy Kempf in 1988 as the club’s first full-time head coach. The club continued to expand in size under Dorothy’s leadership, but the lack of pool space at the high school pool became a serious constraint. In 1991, Haskell Indian Nations University permitted the club to use the HINU pool on a limited basis.

In 1992, Bryan Beatty was hired as head coach. With his guidance and added pool space, the team grew from 100 members to about 160 members.

Several significant events occurred in 1998 for the Aquahawks. In October 1998, after a nationwide search by the Board of Directors, Brian Barnes was hired as the Aquahawks new head coach. Primarily for financial reasons, the Aquahawks dropped the diving portion of the program and became a swimming only program. Also in 1998, the Aquahawks became active and vocal supporters of a plan that resulted in the City Commission approving a new Indoor Aquatic Center to be built at Free State High School. The Indoor Aquatic Center opened in June 2001 and includes a 50-meter pool as well as a family/recreation pool. The Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center now serves as the main location for swim meets sponsored by the Aquahawks. 

Mike Soderling, a former KU swimmer, was hired as Head Age Group Coach in the 1990's and was named Head Coach a few years later.  He served as Head Coach until 2009.  In 2008, the Lawrence Aquahawks had its first Olympic Trials qualifier.  Mike also coached the United States Swimming Sectional Champion Women’s Team in 2008.

After the second Nationwide search, the club hired Zach Devine as Head Coach in 2010.   With his departure in 2012, Assistant Coach, Justin Clossen was named Interim Head Coach.  Andrew Schmidt was hired to fulfill the Head Coach position in 2013.    


The Aquahawk program is affiliated with USA Swimming, an organization that governs amateur swimming throughout the country. In addition, the club is an active member of Missouri Valley Swimming. Each swimmer must join USA Swimming and Missouri Valley Swimming in order to be eligible for Aquahawk membership.  Registering with USA Swimming allows you to track your swimmers’ times and participation at meets.  To register go to click on the “my USA swimming” tab and register. 

While not affiliated with the City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, the Aquahawks work closely with the City and USD 497 in scheduling pool time. Without this close cooperation, the Aquahawk program would not be possible.