Ahwatukee Foothills has been raising competitive swimmers for more than 10 years.
Sun Devil Aquatics began at Arizona State University. Michael Chasson, president of Sun Devil Aquatics, was head coach of swimming at ASU from 1998 to 2009. He started Sun Devil Aquatics in ’98 as a way to promote swimming, reach out to the surrounding community, help with recruiting at ASU, and to give his assistant coaches more opportunities to coach.
At the time, Chasson was a resident of Ahwatukee Foothills where there were no club swimming teams. It was an opportunity for growth so Chasson made an agreement with the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center and started signing up swimmers.
Jessica O’Donnell, head age group coach, grew up in Ahwatukee and said she remembers a time before there was club swimming in the area. She learned to swim at Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center but drove to Tempe to find club teams once she was old enough to compete.
O’Donnell swam through college at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, returned to Phoenix after college and began coaching part time as she started her career. Eventually, she was invited to coach at Sun Devil Aquatics and was thrilled when she was offered a spot coaching at the pool she first learned to swim in.
“The really cool thing is people I grew up swimming with have their sons and daughters on the team now, which is kind of surreal,” O’Donnell said. “It’s such a small community. Even though people I went to high school with move away, I think it draws a lot of people back. People are starting their families and you just run into a lot of the same people. It’s comfortable and easy to build a repoire with the community when people kind of know you already, and know the program.”
Like in most sports the coaches of Sun Devil Aquatics say their goal is to teach good technique, make sure the kids are having fun, and teach lessons that will make them successful adults as well as athletes.
“Like any business people have to find value in the service you provide,” O’Donnell said. “We have families find value in it not just as something that keeps their kids happy and fit, but the family has to find value in the culture of our team in order for them to buy into being committed... We swim year-round. We ask families to sacrifice a lot.”
In all, Sun Devil Aquatics has about 180 swimmers, 100 of which swim in Ahwatukee. The club practices Monday through Saturday at the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center. Chasson said the success of Sun Devil Aquatics in Ahwatukee is based on a combination of things.
“The community is very into sports in general,” Chasson said. “I think families are looking for activities for their kids. It’s a very family-oriented area. That’s where a lot of younger kids live is in the Ahwatukee area. The community center at 48th and Warner is a good facility. Everyone knows where it is, it has been there for a while. That helps as well. You tie that in with swimming being popular in Arizona in general because of the weather and I think we’ve got a winning combination. We’ve been able to put in good coaches and find people who are interested and committed.”
Sun Devil Aquatics has groups for all levels of athletes from kids through Olympic swimmers. For more information on the club, visit www.sundevilaquatics.com.
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