Pacific Swimming
Level 4
Excellence 300

Putting Character First


Orinda Aquatics Character Camp

“Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.”

 Lamorinda Weekly Article 

The Character Camp was initiated by Don Heidary and intended to teach and educate young children about character in swimming (sports) and in life, especially at such an impressionable age. In June 2011, Orinda Aquatics offered its first "Character Camp" open for swimmers aged 10 and over. It was run by Ron and Don Heidary, Head Coaches and Founders of Orinda Aquatics and Head Coaches of Campolindo and Miramonte High Schools. The Camp was organized to cover two tracts-- one “wet” and one “dry” -- a blend of classroom leadership discussion, as well as pool sessions which integrated technique and strategy with high-character training.   Additionally, there was an optional orientation for parents the first day of the camp. Held at the Soda Center in Moraga, the one week camp ran during the afternoons of a week in June.  Each participant received motivational materials in addition to a cap and t-shirt.  Below are some highlights from camp.

All net proceeds are donated to support Orinda Aquatics’ Charitable Swaziland, Africa Swimming Program.

The wet or aquatic track - covered areas critical to swimming development:

  • High-Character Training – Understanding and discipline
  • Technical Fundamentals – Short axis and long axis balance and progressions
  • Training/Racing Around the Walls – Starts, Turns, Finishes, Streamlining
  • Race Strategy – Pace, Breathing
The dry or personal side - covered non-swimming areas critical to swimming, athletics, and personal growth:
  • Putting Character First in Swimming and in Life (Attitude and Effort)
  • Goal setting and the Big Picture (plus swimming and water balance)
  • Support Networks – Relationships with Parents, Coaches, and Teammates
  • The Swimming World and its Role in Your Life: High School, USS, Collegiate Swimming


Here is what parents and coaches are saying about Character Camp:

If I didn’t already tell you, these materials are incredible. Your trainings could really do a lot to advance the field of youth development. Dave Brown, Head Coach of Moraga Ranch


"Hi, I was hoping to have the opportunity to see one of you this morning to Thank You, and congratulate you on a wonderful camp for these young swimmers.  My daughter has come home every night to enthusiastically share the objectives she learned and reviewed in the water that day. There is still one day remaining, but from our standpoint, this camp is already a huge success and should be a requirement of all middle school aquatic athletes in the area.  If you could have been a fly on the wall last night, listening to her talk bluntly about the challenges of alcohol and drugs in our community with her brother, and how it is a reflection of self-esteem, you would realize the impact you have made.  Tremendous community role models as yourselves taking time from your already busy schedules, and donating your time to reinforce lessons about Character as it relates to life and sports is a true gift.


I can't thank you enough for developing this camp."


"Dear Donnie and Ronnie,  Thank you so much for choosing to have a Character Camp.  I expect the values shared and stories told during this camp to be a constant thread in the next 4 years in my household.  I love the concept of values being emphasized in swimming as it is my son's most time consuming activity and it is everyday as opposed to Church on Sundays and Boy Scouts which is based on great values but I don't think spends a lot of time discussing the application of those values.  My personal favorites are the butterfly and the apple which helped me explain to my son why I  make him do some of the things that I make him do (great answer to his "why don't you do it?" if I ask him to do some special task or refuse to give him extra help for something that is his responsibility).  The apple also applies to every day family life.  Again, thank you, and I hope the Character First emphasis continues in all of life's little opportunities for life lessons."



"Dear Don and Ron, My daughter wanted me to tell you that she really liked your Character Camp.  She feels the pool work you did with her helped her improve her swim times this weekend even in her "off strokes".  She thought using the pacers was really inspiring to her.  She also liked how you timed her turns to help in decreasing time in the turns.  She has selected a few younger swimmers on our summer recreational team to mentor. She is talking with them before their races about what stroke they'll be swimming.  Then she watches their races and talks with them after their race. 


I have seen a few changes in her behavior at home that I believe are a result of the classroom work you did.  One day after Character Camp, she took her own laundry out of the dryer and folded it the first time I asked.  I asked, "Do I need to thank Ron and Don for that behavior?"  She just smiled.  She was also interested to see that I had the articles you discussed in class. We talked together about many of them. 


As usual, I was very pleased with Orinda Aquatics and I wanted to thank you for your wonderful program."


"Hi, Donnie: I wanted to let you know that my son shared what he learned from the camp with his brother and me over  the last couple of days. He is learning lots of good and important stuff. It is so great that you and Ronnie are offering this to the community! I wish I had attended character camp when I was young!"