The Scottsdale Aquatic Club has been a breeding ground for college-level swimmers for nearly six decades, sending swimmers across the country to continue their careers in the pool.
Kevin Zacher, the head coach of the national swim team, has been with the club since 2002. He spent five years as an assistant before he was named head coach in 2007.
Under his direction, the Scottsdale Aquatic Club continues its legacy as one of the premier competitive clubs in the U.S.
“It’s rewarding. We’ve developed a lot of fast kids here,” Zacher said. “But what I’m most proud of is we’ve helped develop them into good people. They become great citizens more than just great swimmers.
“I love having fast swimmers but it’s a byproduct of what we do to teach them how to be good kids.”
The Scottsdale Aquatic Club runs year-round, providing high school athletes an opportunity to continue swimming outside of the normal fall season for the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
All kids interested in swimming competitively are welcome to the club, as it boasts teams ranging from ages 10 and under to high school.
At the beginning of March, the national group, led by Zacher, will compete in the Arizona championships. They will then head to Oklahoma to compete in a sectional tournament at the end of March.
From there, a handful of swimmers will move on to the Olympic Trials in June in Omaha, Nebraska, where they will get a shot at qualifying to be selected to the U.S. Olympic Swim Team.
For many, if not all, of the swimmers competing on the national team, making it to the Olympic Trials is always a dream. This includes Matthew LeBlanc.
“This program taught me a lot, from learning how to train to just making friendships,” LeBlanc said. “It’s been one of the great joys in my life and it’s led me to having a great future.”
LeBlanc has spent the last 10 years with the Scottsdale Aquatic Club. Both of his parents swam at Arizona State University. His dad, David, also swam for Team France in the 1988 Summer Olympics.
A senior at Chaparral High School, LeBlanc won gold in the boys 100-yard backstroke and took fourth in the 200-yard individual medley last fall. In August, he will head east to the University of Pennsylvania to continue his academic and athletic career.
“Academics is the most important thing for me, swimming is just kind of a way to help me get there,” LeBlanc said. “Penn had the best combination of being an overall great school to get me an amazing degree and the swim program is phenomenal. I couldn’t really ask for more.”
Like LeBlanc, Sadie Edwards, also has family ties to Arizona State. Her mother swam for the Sun Devils.
But she decided not to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Instead, Edwards, will attend the University of Utah, where she will also prepare for nursing school.
“Utah has this balance of academics and swim I was looking for,” Edwards said. “It’s a competitive program and they have a fantastic medical program. The unity within their team was something I was really drawn too.”
Edwards is nearing graduation from Paradise Valley High School. She won gold in the girls 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard fly and 100-yard breaststroke at the AIA state meet back in November.
The four titles add to her other honors won at various divisions throughout high school.
Now, she hopes to win sectionals with the Scottsdale Aquatic Club in March.
“We are both close to the times we need for Olympic Trials,” Edwards said. “It’s the main goal for us. It’s one of the fastest meets in the world. It’s exciting.”
Both swimmers are just two examples of the talent coming through the club.
Just this year, the club produced swimmers soon head-off to college at the likes of Oklahoma State, Penn State, BYU, Colorado Mesa, Texas, Kansas, Army West Point, Air Force, Denver, Georgetown and Yale.
Several other swimmers still remain undecided on where they will attend college but hold scholarship offers to several universities.
“They’ve all bought in to Kevin’s vision of what is possible for them,” said Laurel Hill, who has been coaching with the program for 10 years. “I’m just super proud of all of these kids.”
Sue Cox has served as the club’s college recruiting liaison for several years. She helps the swimmers prepare for the recruiting process.
But more importantly, she teaches them and their parents how to go about choosing a college right for them.
“My goal is for them to have already thought about the process when they sit down to make their decision,” Cox said. “I want them to think about their academics and work with their parents.”
Before she became the recruiting liaison for Scottsdale Aquatic Club, Cox was a parent. Her three daughters all went through the club and went on to swim at major division I programs.
Cox doesn’t look at her role with the team as a job but rather her way of giving back to the club that allowed her girls the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of swimming at the college level.
“This was a great road for my family,” Cox said. “Even now, my girls are still reaping the benefits of coming through this program. It’s me giving back for as a family, what we have reaped from this program.”
Despite the long days, grueling practice schedules and dedication it takes to compete at the level the Scottsdale Aquatic Club does, it’s rare to see a swimmer or coach without a smile on his or her face.
Scottsdale Aquatic Club has become a family they can always rely on no matter how long they have been away from the program.
It’s this type of atmosphere that not only has helped breed successful college swimmers, but also keeps those like Zacher coming back.
“We’ve created an environment where kids and coaches like being here,” Zacher said. “That helps getting them to work hard. These are just good people and good kids. It’s a really good sport to be a part of.”