The Suburban Seahawks Club is now in its 61st season. USA Swimming informs us that we are one of the oldest continuing operating clubs in the country—an amazing accomplishment and a testament to the dedication and perseverance of many good people! Suburban has undergone many metamorphoses during its long life, but the intended goal has always been the same—the pursuit of excellence in swimming competition and instruction.
In 1950, Peter Daland, who later became the renowned coach of the University of Southern California, gathered together a group of strong summer swimmers from the Suburban Swim League to form the initial Suburban Seahawks Club. At the time, it was the only summer league in existence and was composed of 5 teams—Rose Valley, where Peter was the dynamic coach, Aronimick, Marple Newtown, Colonial Village and Martin’s Dam.
Over the years, the strength of Suburban during its most successful periods has been its strong parent support, exemplifying what cooperative initiative can accomplish. When Peter left the club, coaching duties were taken over by 2 parent-volunteers, Bill Taylor and Gus Schell. In the formative years, Suburban sought only experienced swimmers for membership, however, its real growth came about because of a change in basic philosophy. It was recognized that the club must start with very young, promising swimmers, and develop them. In those early years, the team was “nomadic”, renting pool time wherever it was available. This sometimes meant trips to downtown Philadelphia. Then in 1959, the SSC parents took the plunge and decided to establish a central location in Newtown Square, and a nonprofit corporation was formed. Under the capable leadership of Frank Edwards, the site was selected and after many trials and tribulations, the Suburban Seahawks Club and Swimming School opened its doors in November 1960.
Swimming as a sport proliferated in the Delaware Valley over the next 10 years and along with that growth, Suburban progressed to a position of national prominence in age group and senior level swimming. The initial goal of having a professional staff was achieved in 1966 when “New Havenite” and Villanova graduate Frank Keefe took the reigns of both the swim team and the swim school. Over the next 10 years with Frank at the helm, Suburban enjoyed what many who remember might consider a “Golden Age”. The team swelled to over 300 swimmers, thanks in part, to the year round availability of a beautiful Olympic size pool on John DuPont’s estate in Newtown Square. In addition to developing a throng of national level swimmers and several Olympians, Frank initiated an exchange program with the Wuppertal Swim Team in Germany which lasted several years.
In the fall of 1976, after having placed Tim McKee and Brenda Borgh on the Olympic Team, Frank started his own club on the DuPont estate, the original Foxcatcher Swim Club, and former SSC swimmer and assistant coach John McFadden became Suburban’s Head Coach. McFadden continued to develop strong age group swimmers, among them, national age group record breaker Blaise Matthews. John guided the team for the next 5 years until the fall of 1981, when Suburban attempted what was ultimately an unsuccessful merger with the West Chester Swim Club. Head coach Jack Simon, who had coached Paul Hartloff onto the 1976 Olympic team, had been lured to the east coast from California to head the remnants of Foxcatcher. John DuPont had closed his pool in the wake of the US boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games. Jack was hoping to use Suburban as a “feeder” program for his club, which at the time was comprised primarily of some very talented, but older swimmers. When Simon abruptly “dropped” Suburban in July of 1982, Board members Jim Meehan, Bill Clark, Jim Mackey, Joan Stewart and Eileen Sidorski formed a search committee to find a new head coach. Shortly thereafter in August, the Board gave the nod to University of Iowa alumnus and former Suburban swimmer Charlie Kennedy.
Over the next 28 years under Kennedy’s watch, thousands of youngsters passed through the doors and the team grew from an anemic 28 to an annual average size of 200 swimmers. Suburban reestablished itself as a local powerhouse and a nationally recognized program. Middle Atlantic Junior Olympic Champions, Senior Champions, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware High School State Champions, USA Swimming Junior National and Senior National Champions figure prominently among the ranks of the many swimmers who have trained under Kennedy for nearly the past 3 decades. Suburban has sent squads to 5 Olympic Trials and to the Junior and/or Senior National Championships every year since 1983. Although Coach Kennedy is certainly proud of the accolades many Suburban swimmers have earned over the years, at the core of his coaching philosophy is the desire to use the athletic experience as a template to help youngsters navigate their path through life—to build character. “Fast swimmers can certainly inspire us, but great people can change the world.”