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Feature by Swimming World intern Rachel Emodi
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 14. WITH Scarlet Aquatic Club alums such as Rebecca Soni, a three-time Olympic medalist in the breaststroke, and numerous other swimmers who have moved on to become NCAA All-Americans, it is clear that Scarlet's mission is to produce strong talent.
"My greatest achievement is fulfilling our mission statement, which is to have swimmers excel nationally and internationally," said Tom Speedling, the head coach of Scarlet Aquatic Club (Piscataway N.J).
Speedling has been coaching for 24 years, 16 of which have been at Scarlet, first as an assistant and now as the head coach. In 2002, he took over the helm as the head coach of Scarlet, and has focused on helping his swimmers to improve. Before that, he started small by coaching summer and high school teams. Speedling swam competitively since he was eight years old, continuing on to compete for Brooklyn College as a freestyle sprinter.
When asked if there were any coaches who influenced him, Speedling immediately replied, "absolutely."
Sue Anderson, the head coach when Speedling started at Scarlet, is the first person he names. The second is Brian Brown, who he cites as a "big influence." Speedling coached as an assistant under Brown for two years, and learned Brown's "philosophy of ‘work works'." Brown also taught Speedling that "[I] have to understand that this job is to prepare [the swimmers] for the next level and to give them the chance to be successful at a high level."
Brown previously served as head coach at Scarlet, before coaching at AGUA in Manhattan for eight years. After founding Hydro Swim Team in New York, Brown moved on to become head coach of FAST in California in Nov. 2011.
"My favorite swimming memory is 2005 summer nationals with Rebecca Soni, or her first national championships. I enjoy swimming [vicariously] through [my swimmers]," Speedling said.
His favorite part of the swim season is "midseason when the swimmers are doing a lot of work, when the kids are in a nice groove doing lots of yardage. [That's] this part of the year."
When asked what his goal is when coaching swimmers, Speedling said, "I want [the swimmers] to lay down an aerobic base so they can continue to improve beyond this program, so that they can qualify for Olympic and National teams."
Scarlet's mission statement is "to foster national and international competition and to provide opportunities for our swimmers to reach the highest levels of the sport." Scarlet prepares swimmers for success beyond the team, and always pushes for improvement.
"Since I've been coaching we've had two world records, Rebecca Soni make the Olympic team, four NCAA All-Americans, and two members of the U.S. National Team," Speedling listed, demonstrating the success his team has seen since his rise to head coach.
Soni is now the most dominant breaststroker in the sport, while another former swimmer, Stefan Hirniak, helped Canada break the short course world record in the men's 800 free relay at the British Grand Prix.
Soni and Ashley Steenvoorden, alums of Scarlet, are now a part of the U.S. National Team.
In the future, Speedling hopes to "be able to grow our team, and continue to do what we do – [which is] fulfill our mission statement and help USA Swimming by adding to the Olympic and National teams."
Certainly, if he keeps coaching and leading as successfully as he has in the past, Speedling's team will do just that.