Club Excellence Spotlight: Dayton Raiders
By Emily Sampl//Correspondent
The Dayton Raiders of Dayton, Ohio, have consistently established themselves as one of USA Swimming’s top clubs. After regularly earning Silver or Bronze medal club recognition in the Club Excellence program over the past few years, the Raiders elevated to Gold status in 2013, finishing eighth in the overall standings.
“We’ve always wanted to be a gold medal team; that was a goal that we set as a coaching staff a few years ago, and we sold that to our senior-level swimmers,” said head coach Kevin Weldon.
Weldon has been with the Raiders since 1989 and has seen the program steadily grow into a national powerhouse, sending a dozen athletes to last year’s Olympic Trials and placing fifth as a team at this summer’s Speedo Junior National Championships.
With about 160 swimmers, the Raiders aren’t one of the largest clubs, but their experienced coaching staff and training philosophy has made the most of its numbers.
Weldon offers five keys to the Raiders’ continued success in the pool:
- We’ve been around as a club for more than 50 years, but I’ve always felt like we have a really streamlined program – from learn-to-swim to age group and senior level. We have a nice schematic for the groups. I think the key has really been educating our senior-level swimmers on what it takes to get to the top level. Ohio used to be really well-known for its swimming, and that’s kind of fallen off, but we’ve started to really push the national-level swimming with our older kids.
- The staff works really well together. Our senior-level coaches have a season plan that they follow – including monthly plans and weekly plans – and we don’t deviate from that plan once it’s established.
- The last three years we’ve really stressed swimming fast at every practice. We do something fast every day with the senior-level kids. Not just 25s, but race-pace, specific swims. And, we’ve upped our kicking 100%. That’s something that we were hesitant to do at first, but it’s really made a huge difference.
- One practice a week, we have a talk with the senior kids, and it’s a chance for them to ask questions of the coaches. Sometimes those conversations are better than any swimming we could’ve done. It brings the kids closer together and allows them to interact. The kids don’t always like each other, but they learn to respect each other. The “team” concept has really taken off in the past few years.
- We’ve really worked at getting our kids to be “students” of the sport. There’s so much out there on the Internet. We’ve really tried to get them more involved and paying attention to what’s going on in the sport.