Pacific Swimming
Level 4
Excellence 300

Putting Character First

Swimmer/Parent Letters

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

Take from Character Book & NL's

Eric Tang

Eva Erickson

Lauren Beaudreau

Paige M

Simone Oslter

Kelly Noah

Jesse Krompier - Banquet Speech




Other Comments

Hi Donnie!!
I'm writing to you from Singapore! I have been here for almost 2 months now, and it has been an absolutely incredible adventure. Studying abroad is one of the most important things that I have ever done in my life. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity during my time in college.
So guess what...I am swimming with the National University of Singapore swim team! I never thought I would be swimming on a real team again after high school. At UCSB I go to the rec center frequently to swim before class with friends, but I haven't swam competitively for 2 years now. I am severely out of competitive shape, but it feels wonderful swimming with a real team again. The triathlon team practices with the swim team, so the practices are less technically oriented and more endurance-based. The coach is welcoming, as is the team and its captains. Swimming has been such a fantastic way for me to meet local students here. There are a few other exchange students swimming with the team, one from Norway, one from Denmark, and one from the Netherlands. I have found that swimming is a universal language in that no matter where you come from in the world, you can connect with others through a shared passion for the deep satisfaction earned from completing a challenging workout together. I am pretty proud of myself for being able to swim on a team again. It is rewarding knowing that I am still physically capable of working through difficult sets and that I still have the drive to complete a set even when I am tired. During my first practice I was surprised by how exhausted I felt just half-way through the main set. I was thinking about your "climbing the mountain" analogy, and that was what kept me going. I think about OA a lot, actually, because clearly the lessons I learned in self-discipline and motivation have stuck with me through all of this time. I am grateful to you and Ronnie for giving me tools that will last me my whole lifetime.
Speaking of OA, I also wanted to let you know that I saw Kim Vandenberg competing at a swim meet in Singapore! Singapore held this "Swim Star" meet in their new swimming complex, and I got a free ticket to go from my coach here. It was a blast, the whole team went and we got to see Nathan Adrian and other Olympians/national swimmers compete. I didn't know that Kim would be there too. I took a picture of her standing behind her block before her 100m fly. I have attached it to this email for you.
So I hope that this email finds you and the team well. I believe school is starting soon again for the high schools over there, so you must be very busy around this time preparing for the new season. Good luck with another fresh start, I am sending you good swimming vibes all the way from Singapore! :)
Sincerely,  Kelly


Hi Ronnie and Donnie-

Something that you all said last week at the parent meeting really struck a cord with me. With so much stuff the kids have to do with school and swimming. What has to give? The social life.  In our observation, our childs' involvement and commitment to OA got her THROUGH her freshman year. I was really surprised in the strong/intense friendships she developed through OA. 
She is an only child and became very close to several of her older team mates.  It was surprising that they would spend HOURS talking in their cars or out on walks, etc during last year and this past summer. They may not have realized it, but those girls were acting as her mentors. Personally, I would never have hung  around a freshman, but maybe guys are different that way, Or perhaps this was an example of the strong "character" building program that you both have developed.  I personally believe it's the latter. Of course those girls are exceptional, but they were there because of the commitment to your program. 
I feel that her had the equivalent of my freshman year in COLLEGE last year as far as personal development. Luckily she is pretty communicative with us about the goings on of the average teen age kid around her so we have no illusions that it is all sweet and sugary. However, we feel very good about what she takes away from OA as a whole and applies it to her everyday life. Her life philosophy and principles have really grown this past year. She really appreciates what she gets out of OA at "the end of the day". 
Just some thoughts and thank you.  An OA Parent

Amy Thurman Letter, Meadow, OA, Miramonte, UCLA

I just wanted to say thank you again for coming to my graduation! It meant a lot to me to have you there. I felt very honored that you went to all the trouble to fly to LA and be there for me and Katie. I have always cherished your support in all my endeavors, especially school. I may not have been able to show that in the proof of my grades until my last couple years of UCLA, but hey, better late than never!

Sometimes when I would win races or get good grades I wasn't as proud as I should have been. But as I graduated college, I really was proud. I think that arriving at that place in my head where I could feel that way, had a lot to do with you and Donnie. The importance you placed on school and college it helped me value UCLA so much. You two created the opportunity for me to be at UCLA and prepared me to graduate from it as well. And I truthfully had been thinking about it all of graduation week.

Even though I haven't been around you guys for the past five years, I have felt your influences, and grown up enough to recognize how it has shaped my life. I wanted to let you know how thankful I am to you for playing such an important role in my life; especially when you didn't have to.

Love Amy


Ashley Knapp, OA, Miami

Hello Ronnie and Donnie!

I know it has been a very long time since I have talked to you and seen you. I wanted to let you know what I've been up to lately. In may of 2007 I graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Business Entrepreneurship. I worked as an intern in Orlando with the Walt Disney company over the past summer, and realized that a large company was not for me. So, I moved to Texas (where all my family now lives), and got involved in the one thing I know the most about (no, I am not talking about elevators).....swimming! I know this may be very hard for both of you to believe, but I am actually a swim coach for Keller High School, and a full time substitute teacher.....soon to be a certified teacher. I know, I'm probably the last person on earth you ever expected to be a swim coach. I am still shocked when I think about it! But I actually do love it, and I love the kids.

I wanted to e-mail you, and let you know how lucky and thankful I am to have swam with such wonderful and loving coaches as yourselves. I know I was not one of the "Orinda Kids" who grew up swimming with you, and maybe that is why I can appreciate what you have done for me so much. I know I only swam with you for about 2 years, but you made the largest positive impact on my swimming career than any of my other coaches. As a swim coach, I strive to be more like you every day. I admire the amount of interest and love you have for all of your swimmers not just in the pool, but outside as well. I know how important it was for you to see your swimmers grow and strive to be the best possible person not just in swimming, but through high school, in college, and in their careers. As a coach, I strive to promote the same positive growth experience for my athletes in and out of the water, not only in athletics and school, but also in life. I am so proud and so thankful to have been a part of your program at Orinda Aquatics. I have learned so much from you, and strive to be as great of coaches as you. I think as coaches, it is important for you to see the impact you've had on your swimmers lives, and that is why I am writing you this e-mail. You guys were always so positive, and encouraging towards me, and I want to thank you for everything you have done for me as a swimmer, and more importantly as an individual.

I am not surprised to see that Orinda Aquatics and your college swimmers are doing amazing. I have never met such positive coaches that set their swimmers up for such great success. I just want to say congratulations, and good luck. You guys have done such an amazing job, and I know you will continue to do so. Thank you again for everything you have done for me, and everything you have taught me. You guys have been such a great inspiration in my life!

Let me know what is new with you, and if you have any great coaching advice. As Donnie always used to tell me, "I'm going all the way to the top"! And yes, just in case you were wondering, my dad still owns his elevator company in California, and he commutes back and forth every if coaching doesn't work out, I might be out in California again "rising to the top". Haha!

Ashley Knapp


Hello Ronnie and Donnie,

I just want to let you know that it was so great hearing from you the other day. I miss you guys, Orinda Aquatics, and the bay area so much. The next time I am in the area, I will most definitely come visit you. You guys have had such a positive and great impact on my life, and I am so lucky to have swam for such caring and fun coaches. I want you both to know that I had saved the e-mails you had sent me, and I just re-read them. They were both very funny, I was cracking up! Anyway, I hope the team swam well at Far Westerns, and you had a great time ;). I forgot to ask you the other day if you guys were going to Beijing to watch the Olympics? If you are........Thanks for inviting me! I'll be on a plane tomorrow for the opening ceremonies! Haha. Anyway, here is my address you asked for. And if you are ever out in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area you better let me know, we can go salsa dancing like we planned to do last time you were in Miami (Ronnie).

Ashley Knapp


Vinny Liang, Miramonte Rec, Campo, OA, UCLA (not swimming)

Dear Ronnie and Donnie,

I heard last night that I was awarded the Reagan Perry Inspirational Award at the banquet. I just want to thank you guys for honoring me with, in my eyes, probably one of the greatest honors I will ever receive in my lifetime. I say this with true sincerity and seriousness because I really can't see myself being part of a program as great and unique as Orinda Aquatics in the near future. And to be considered an "inspirational figure" from the program, among the likes of Scott Lathrope and Zach Disbrow, both of whom I look up to, is incredibly rewarding and humbling.

I can't take much credit for what I have accomplished to receive the award. You guys shaped me into the person I am today. My time with OA was more than just hard workouts and fast times. The emphasis on character and the team and the "big picture" is what differentiates people who come out of OA from those who do not have a chance to have such an experience. I'm truly grateful for this experience, and I really can't thank you guys enough for impacting my life in such a huge way.

I'm having a great time at UCLA right now. My classes haven't gotten much worse since I last visited, but I do have another round of midterms coming up next week. Hopefully I won't disappoint you with another "C" this time, Ronnie. Here I have a lot more free time than I used to, so I have been trying to stay in shape by swimming and going to the gym, but lately I have been out of the water because I have been bogged down by a lot of homework. I'll try to pick up the pace so I don't completely embarrass myself at the Thanksgiving workout. How's OA doing? I've been keeping up with some of the meet results and it looks like you guys are going pretty fast already, so it must be going well.



Note from Shelbi, OA, Campolindo, Washington State

I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am to have had you for a coach, friend and a second father figure for the past five years. I never could have made it without you. I will call you all of the time in college and I hope that we never lose touch. I remember all of the great days that I have had just sitting and making small talk. And those deep conversations about God, boys, stressing out, whatever it was, I enjoyed every single second of it. I love you so much Ronnie. You will forever be in my heart. I see you as an angel sent down from God. God Bless you.

Love always, Shelbi


Jesse Krompier, 2006 Orinda Aquatics & Campolindo All-American, Stanford Swimming

"Orinda Aquatics and Campolindo Swimming have been the best things to happen to me in my adolescent years and my life. Since joining in December 2003, my perspective on "team" has made a 180 turn and my love for the sport has only grown stronger.

Because of what both you and Donnie have established, I have been able to be a part of something larger than myself or any individual. I’ve always tried to be a "character" person, but I’ve never been in "character" environment, where respect, commitment, and sportsmanship are the norm. I was absolutely taken aback by the humility and welcoming attitude exhibited by every OA athlete. I realized that this team was special because of the coaches and the expectations. The possibility of social discrimination is eliminated because it isn’t tolerated. Everyone is on an equal playing field, which is the best environment for a true team.

You have given me more than just a better idea of how to swim butterfly or the importance of kicking underwater. You have shown me how to handle disappointment, how to handle success, how to exhibit leadership, and how to be a good teammate. You taught me that a bad race is an opportunity to progress.

The people at Campolindo were more than just teammates – they were my family. I felt this way because you created this amazing environment. The stories that you tell of past leaders, the team atmosphere you expect of all swimmers, and the idea of character being more important than talent are all things that have genuinely affected me. I hope to always find myself in the company of teammates like those at Orinda Aquatics and Campolindo, in and out of the pool. Because of you, I am living my dream. – to swim at Stanford. Thank you for everything you have taught me and given me, especially your [email protected]"


Shane Tutass, 2008, Orinda Aquatics and Campolindo HS, Jr. National Swimmer; Columbia Swimming

Maturity. Integrity. Responsibility. At the first team meeting, it was these characteristics that Ronnie told us we should embody. Throughout the season, day in and day out, Ron demanded that we uphold these values. It was a simple request. All they ask of us was that we act like adults, that we are honest, and that we be accountable for our actions. He told us that to be excellent student/athletes, we need to embody these values.

Through the four years of chest punches, and nose grabs, Ronnie taught me the importance of being a model student/athlete. Swimming taught me the value of time management, and making sacrifices. Success both in the classroom and pool required an enormous amount of time. I had a strict schedule that I would adhere to everyday. Swimming kept me focused on school. And school kept me focused on swimming.

Ronnie frowns upon mediocrity, always demanding that everyone strives for excellence. He forces everyone to achieve, makes people work hard, and challenges everyone to give his or her best effort. It is this standard of excellence that has propelled Campo Swimming to such great heights. There is no compromise with Ronnie. He has his vision of what this team needs to get to where we should be. He treats us as adults, and holds us to such standards."


Megan Baumgartner, 2002, Orinda Aquatics All-American, Stanford Swimming"

Words cannot describe how grateful I am for all that you have done for me. Single-handedly, you have changed my life for the better by giving me a new perspective on life and a new attitude; I have rediscovered my love for swimming and my passion for training. Thank you for being there at such a critical time to help guide me on the right path."


Shanna Hoversten, 2008, Orinda Aquatics Swimmer, Claremont-McKenna Swimming

"In looking back, I realize how many things I appreciate about my years with Orinda [email protected] Primarily, I feel lucky to have landed in a program that values character and dedication above anything [email protected] I knew I was never going to be the fastest swimmer in the pool, but I still always felt like you valued my presence on the [email protected][email protected] have really come to respect the high expectations you had for all of your swimmers, in their swimming and in the rest of their lives. We were all asked to be respectful, to work hard, and to show maturity. The kind of environment that expectation created I think was a very positive one. As much as I enjoyed my high school swimming experience I can tell you that the same level of respect and leadership that you demanded was not there."


Allison Merritt, 2007, Orinda Aquatics and Campolindo HS Swimmer

From College Essay "I came to understand that although I was not gaining the national status that had been my original goal, I had gained something far more valuable—the opportunity to strengthen and build my own character. My team (Orinda Aquatics) placed a great emphasis on the theme of "Character First." The ability to put the team first and to lead by example, and a willingness to sacrifice short-term values for the sake of long-term success were highly valued. We were given articles to read about people who overcame adversity. Practices were opportunities to encourage teammates through hard sets and set examples for younger swimmers. Even covering the pool bred responsibility. I’ve been shown how to see this Big Picture, and that character really should come first. With character comes success and the self-satisfaction that comes when you know you are the person you want to be. That self-satisfaction, to me, means much more than swimming the fastest, being the smartest, making the most money, etc. It is what brings the happiness that makes it possible to get the most out of life. It has taken me a long time to come to this realization, but as Ursula Le Guin said, "It is the journey that matters, in the end."


Dave Black, 2005, OPP, Orinda Aquatics Swimmer, Emory University Swimming

"I also started all my medical school applications in July and have written essay after essay like you wouldn't believe (I applied to 22 schools)[email protected] At almost every school, there is a question that asks you to talk about challenges in your life, or experiences that have impacted you during you development or something of that [email protected] I wrote about my competitive swimming experience almost every [email protected] Not about times, or awards, but about lessons learned and friends made through trial and [email protected] I feel so fortunate to have had two swim coaches who always emphasized what's most important: dedication, respect, and [email protected] I recently looked through an OA/MHS swimming photo album and was reminded of everything my teammates and I accomplished, but looking back now, I realize we also learned about what the phrases hard work, dedication, respect, and team sacrifice really [email protected] Developing those intangibles as an OA swimmer that are applicable to almost any life situation are what I write about in my essays, and what I'm most proud [email protected] I think they are a big part of my success at Emory, and why I've already received 7 interview offers and 1 acceptance at medical schools for the fall of 2007 entering [email protected] So, thank you for the strength you've help instill in me to pursue a medical career."


Senior OA Swimmer, 08

As soon as I stepped onto the Soda Center pool deck, I felt like I was already part of something special. [email protected] Coach was really fun and the junior group was the stepping stone needed to become a year round USA Swimmer. I loved it.

My next year as a freshman, I was in Ronnie’s group. Ronnie and Donnie are two of the greatest and funniest people I have ever met in my life. [email protected] was a little intimidated at first, but once I got to know them, that all changed. Sometimes Ronnie would just pull me out of the pool to talk about Global Warming and Soap [email protected] Ronnie, Donnie and Dave have always been there, as coaches, but as something much more, as friends. They always push the kids on OA to become people of character, with good morals and high standards for themselves. The other thing that I have always admired is their consistent teaching of respect. They taught us to always be thankful for everything we have and take absolutely nothing for granted because in reality, all of us are blessed. Blessed to live where we live, blessed to have the supportive families we have, and blessed to be within the loving family of Orinda Aquatics.

Character first; these are the two words I live by. Nothing is more important to these coaches than outstanding character, and in my eyes they have absolutely achieved that. They have achieved this by example. [email protected] have achieved this from their leadership and dedication to never skip a practice. They have achieved this through meetings every Friday that discuss how one person can make a difference and how we can help to make that difference count. There are a number of other things that we do here at OA that put us a notch above other programs. There is no place I would rather be than here on Orinda Aquatics. OA has given me as well as my fellow seniors, so many opportunities.

College is a very important process that Ronnie and Donnie have always felt to be a main goal for every swimmer here on OA. Ronnie and Donnie have always looked at the bigger picture. No matter what, they are always thinking about somebody other than themselves. Now as I embark on a new journey to college swimming, I can only hope that I can find half as much inspiration and support as I received here at OA. Thank you Ronnie and Donnie for allowing me to be a part of your OA family, I will cherish it forever. GOD BLESS YOU



Steve & Carol Claypool, 2000 Parents of Orinda Aquatics swimmer and Stanford Swimming All-American"Your Orinda Aquatics’ award ceremony was by far the most uplifting, positive sports presentation we have witnessed. We particularly liked the "put it in perspective timeline". Your whole philosophy towards coaching is a refreshing break from what we have experienced in many other sports. You are a special person. Know that your efforts are being noticed by many."

Liz, 2006 Parent of two Orinda Aquatics swimmers"We want to take a moment to thank you for running the most incredible swim team – a team that TRULY cares about each and every swimmer. You have created an environment that swimmers at any level can excel and feel good about themselves. Our first experience with US Swimming was not a good one. We wanted our girls to learn initiative, hard work, perseverance, good sportsmanship and camaraderie. You and the team you have created have done all of that and more. We as a family of swimmers at all levels feel incredibly blessed to be participants in this wonderful program."

Bob, 1995 "I admire you as a leader. You clearly have high expectations for your swimmers. In some instances, you believe in their capabilities more than they themselves do. You set outrageous goals and, sure enough, they are often met and exceeded. You seem to be unyielding in your pursuit of excellence. You have certainly earned your reputation as a coach who builds great swimmers. I also admire your principled style of leadership. Your quotes, stories and songs all speak to what you believe in. You not only appeal to swimmers’ minds, but their hearts. I am thankful for the moral compass you provide."

Cindy, 2001 Parent of Orinda Aquatics & Campolindo HS All-American and Princeton swimmer and team captain"You guys are such a class act. If I can move forward in my life with even half the humility, sense of meaningful purpose, and commitment to excellence that you both exude, I’m confident that I will indeed achieve inner peace and a rewarding and meaningful life. me in your 40th birthday celebration. It was one of the most inspiring evenings I’ve ever been a part of." Anne, 2005


Parent of Campolindo Swimmers.

For having one child go through the Campo Swim program for 3 years and the 2nd child just completing her 3rd year, I have not spoken more than 10 words to you in those 7 years. Each year I have attended the swim banquet religiously and always anticipated the time it would take to get through the zillions of kids on the team. Each year I leave the banquet a better person for attending. Not one year have you ceased to inspire me and impact me with your thoughts and perspectives about Campolindo Swimming. Along with that, showing your dedication and commitment to being a Mentor and Role Model for these kids.

You dedicate your life essentially to this and it does impact them. Myself as a parent not only admire that but also am in Awe of it. I learn from your words each year and feel lucky that my children get to learn from them every day during swim season. If not from hearing your directly then from knowing other team members whom you have influenced in a positive way. You are making a difference and impacting many lives.

We chose not to make alcohol a part of our life while the kids were growing up. We made that decision when our kids were young and we have never regretted it. Did it make a difference? We refuse to doubt that it did. Asking our oldest daughter now that she is 21 if it made a difference and she says absolutely. They have never experienced seeing us drunk let alone driving drunk. We feel this has set an example stronger than words.

You should never question whether you make a difference because you make a huge difference. My husband and I thank you for all you do for the kids of this community and for us as parents and people."