Written By: Scott Thacker
I am privileged to share this small glimpse into our team here at Roanoke College and to tell you about the incredible young men and women who have built our program from the ground up. Watching our people take ownership together, grow together, and accomplish great things together has been the most remarkable experience of my coaching career. I am a firm believer in fate, and it was fate that brought my assistant coach Brandon Ress into this venture. His dedication to our craft, fierce love of our people and his ability to pull the best out of our team is inspiring to watch on a daily basis. He has made me a better man, a better coach, and a better friend. Our program would be naught without him.
Start with vision.
Roanoke College Swimming started with a clear vision: to be a team that molds exceptional scholars, uncommon leaders, and stellar athletes.
This vision informs and influences our every belief and action, allowing us to tell our story – a story that attracts the people we want to be a part of our team. Through the incredible young men and women on our team, this vision comes to life.
Our vision is not finite; it is always breathing, always growing. It is ever-present and alive, serving as a reminder and inspiration to continuously give and be our best.
Know who you are and where you want to go.
Our team ethos serves as our True North. This set of guiding principles was written by our team in our first team meeting of the 2019-2020 year. While last season was the first time this ethos was penned to paper, it has long been forming in the hearts, minds and daily actions of our team. This ethos begins to tell the remarkable story of the young men and women on our team and the journey of our becoming.
Roanoke College swimming serves as a network of personal relationships that molds exceptional scholars, stellar athletes, and uncommon leaders.We continuously seek excellence academically and athletically through unparalleled character utilizing the opportunities gifted to us by Roanoke College.We belong to something greater than ourselves and are fully committed to building an outstanding, lasting legacy.Through deliberate, repeated actions and impeccable integrity we overcome adversity to grow and excel as a program and to reach unprecedented goals through a unified effort; we are a family of remarkable people that exemplify what it means to be a Maroon.We are defined by our actions, and we conduct ourselves with the utmost integrity.
This program exists to create uncommon individuals driven by an innate desire to be great contributors to our team, school and communities.Unique, Unmatched, Uncommon, Maroons.
Find leaders, and let them lead.
Our team’s model of leadership is a collaborative council. The council is comprised of our two captains and four other members of the team. Together they share responsibilities, make decisions, and solve problems. This collaborative model is designed to empower our leadership to create accountability and maintain trust within the team, allowing all members to face problems and challenges together in an organic and edifying relationship.
Cultivating ownership is central to this model – the team takes responsibility for who they are and where they are going together. Members are accountable to one another, sharing the responsibility and privilege of continuously upholding and advancing our team’s culture and environment.
Do what you can with what you have, and know you can do it.
Our team is fortunate to train out of two facilities, one of which is the local YMCA, located on Roanoke College’s Elizabeth Campus, located about a mile from the college’s main campus. We have an incredible partnership with the YMCA and would not be where we are without their support and collaboration. From the inception of our team in 2017, they have continuously gone above and beyond for our student-athletes, and we are grateful to train and compete in their facility.
The second facility is a pool we affectionately call “The Tank” – a three-lane, 20-yard pool built in the 1930s. At our first practice, we didn’t have backstroke flags or lane lines, the clock was broken, and the deck was fully carpeted. And though we only recently shared this with the first members of our team, the pool heater was broken the entire first season.
Since then, we have replaced the heater, resurfaced the pool deck, added lane lines, backstroke flags, T’s on the bottom of the pool, and our collection of power racks, power towers, and weight belts. Our team loves “The Tank” and embraces the possibilities they can find and test in its 20-yard lanes. We use “The Tank” as a tool to prepare all of our athletes, from the 50 to the 1650. We run practices with power, underwaters, and lactate. Our milers do pace work in the tank, and our sprinters sprint. The possibilities of this humble pool only keep evolving.
As our team has grown, so has our need for organization and creativity. We organize our groups first by specialty and then by class schedule. Our weekly cycle is predominantly event focused versus energy system focused, with systematically planned days of de-load, aerobic work, and utility work. On any given day, our coaching staff of two is running 6-7 separate practice groups between our two facilities. While one coach has the 500 freestylers and 400 IMer’s at the YMCA, the other has our sprinters and 100 stroke specialists at “The Tank”. While one coach is running dryland or weights, the other is coaching a group in the water. Then, we switch. And switch again. And switch again.
Our practice routine and flow for Monday through Friday crescendos with Saturday morning. Saturdays are a special day for us, as it is the only practice where the whole team is together at the same time. This is generally an all-groups practice, and we almost always suit-up for the main set or a fast swim. We do this from the beginning of the season until the Saturday before our conference meet, with very few exceptions. Suiting-up during Saturday practice is a staple of our program and a weekly rallying point for our team. We want our athletes to know how the suit feels, how to use it, and what it can do for them. We want them to have the confidence to swim fast and to understand how to utilize the tools that will help them do so – any time, any place. But most importantly, we want them to learn these things together as a team and learn to compete as a team.
Celebrate success, but stay hungry.
In our first season in 2017-2018, we had 16 swimmers. Now, we are about to begin our fourth season with 48 remarkable young men and women. In our first season at the 2018 ODAC Championships, our women placed 5th and our men 4th. Since then, both of our programs have made the steady climb to 2nd at last season’s 2020 ODAC Championship. Our program equally excels in the classroom, with both squads having over 3.0 GPA’s and have been named CSCAA Scholar All-America teams the past three consecutive semesters. In our team’s first few years, we have placed 38 members on the ODAC All-Academic team and 38 members on the ODAC All-Conference team. We’ve claimed 13 ODAC conference gold medal swims and hold 5 conference records. We saw our first NCAA qualifier and have had a CSCAA Scholar All-American Honorable Mention the past two seasons.
Our team has grown tremendously from the first days in our humble three lane, 20-yard pool. But “The Tank” is more than a pool. It serves as a daily reminder of where we have been and where we are going. “The Tank” is where we have prepared for our greatest wins and recouped after our hardest losses. “The Tank” is where our vision was first forged. “The Tank” is where our story started. “The Tank” is where our champions are made.
Scott Thacker was named head swimming coach at Roanoke College in November of 2016.Thacker comes to Salem after serving as the Director of Competitive Swimming for the Shenandoah Marlins Aquatic Club in Waynesboro, Va. There he was involved in all facets of the Marlins program which included training swimmers, developing training programs while organizing each teams travel and competition schedule. Seven swimmers achieved YMCA National qualifying times, with two earning top-16 finishes under Thacker's tutelage. One swimmer achieved USA Winter Junior National Qualifying standard, and three athletes achieved NCSA qualifying standards."It is with great humility and excitement that I accept the head men's and women's swimming coaching position at Roanoke College," said Thacker. "I would like to thank Roanoke College athletics, the search committee and Scott Allison for this incredible opportunity to become a part of Roanoke College's coaching staff and community. I am thrilled to not only have the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level, but to also embark on the challenge to start and build a complete men's and women's swimming program. Roanoke College's men's and women's swimming will embrace the overall mission of Roanoke College. We will hold the responsibility of representing Roanoke College, our community and our sport in high regard both in and out of the water."
Thacker's coaching career began shortly after his participation in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in July of 2012. A few weeks after assuming the Associate Director of Competitive Swimming position for the Greater Richmond YMCA Tritons, Thacker was promoted to Director of Competitive Swimming. Thacker led the Tritons to over 125 team records, achieving the highest placing at the Upper Southeast YMCA Regional Championship, qualified six swimmers for YMCA Nationals and three athletes for the 2013 NCSA Junior National Championships, and coached one swimmer to YMCA All-American status.In the fall of 2013 Thacker became the Associate Director of Competitive Swimming for the Lynchburg YMCA Piranha's under long-time coach TJ Liston. During his time at with the Piranha's Thacker coached all levels of the program, from first time swimmers all the way through to the National Team. As head age group coach, Thacker coached swimmers to team records, top 3 Age Group Sectional finishes and Virginia Swimmer All-State statuses. Thacker also sits on the Virginia Swimming Age Group committee and is an ASCA level 3 certified coach.Over the course of Thacker's coaching career the training practices and methodologies have produced 16 YMCA All-Americans, 14 YMCA National qualifiers, six NCSA Junior National qualifiers, six Futures Championships qualifiers, two YMCA National top-16 finishers, a Virginia High School State Champion and a USA Swimming Junior National Qualifier."I'm pleased to have Scott lead our program," said Allison. "His intercollegiate swimming pedigree is top-notch. In addition, his positive approach to the challenges we face as we build Roanoke College Swimming will serve our student-athletes well."
Prior to coaching, Thacker was a 17 year veteran of competitive swimming. Thacker was the 2005 VHSL state champion in the 100 breaststroke, a three time YMCA national champion, has held multiple Virginia Swimming state records, and was a four year member of the Florida State University Men's swim team.While at Florida State, Thacker was a member of the Seminole men's first ever ACC team title, securing top eight finishes in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Thacker went on to compete at the NCAA Championships in 2009. Thacker was a member of multiple FSU team relay records, and was the 2010 ACC Champion in the 100 breaststroke. Thacker's swimming career culminated with his participation in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials where he competed in the 100 breaststroke. Allison announced in September the addition of men's and women's swimming to Roanoke's NCAA sponsored sports. Roanoke, which now has 21 athletic programs, will begin competition in 2017-18. The two programs will swim at the Salem YMCA which is located on Roanoke's Elizabeth Campus. The YMCA features an eight lane, 25-yard pool that includes a scoreboard and accommodations for fans, officials and timers.