Adult swim club makes big splash

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The Tri-Star Masters Swimming club, led by Tom Radam (right), attracts swimmers from all over southern Denton County and beyond. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

Swimming has been part of Tom Radam’s life since his days growing up in Virginia. So, when it came time to decide what do when he wanted to leave Corporate America, after 25 years, the choice was easy.

Radam launched the Tri-Star Masters Swimming club in 2007 and has coached its members ever since.

Today there are about 75 adults who practice weekday mornings in five lanes of the giant Flower Mound Community Activity Center (CAC) pool.

“I had always been a swimmer– either like these people as a master swimmer or as a coach– and I decided to throw my hat in the ring without a safety net and give it a whirl,” said Radam. “It’s about word of mouth. I don’t go out and recruit people to the team. I just have people, who have had a very positive experience here, bring their friends.”

Some members are just there for fitness, others to compete in Masters swim meets and more than half in the open-water events associated with triathlons.

Radam competed in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medleys and 100- and 200-yard backstrokes during his four years at Virginia Tech University, where he earned a degree in Finance. He later added an MBA from the University of North Carolina.

The 57-year old Radam met many of his members at a Masters club at Irving’s Northlake Community College. Some, like Radam, swam competitively in college, including fellow Flower Mound resident Avery Valenciano at St. Louis University and have enjoyed some success.

“This misnomer about Masters swimming is they hear the word Masters and think green jacket (like the winner of golf’s Masters) that you have to be the elite-of-the-elite to swim and that is so far from the truth,” Radam said. “It’s a way to differentiate youth swimming under USA Swimming and adult swimming under U.S. Master’s.”

After spending the first two years practicing at North Lake Community College in Irving, Radam moved to the Flower Mound CAC, where you can find some of his members practicing every day. Those with strict work schedules are there between 5:15 and 6:30 a.m., while those with more flexibility show up at 9 a.m. Some practice every day, others 2-3 times a week. In summers, they also practice open water in Lake Lewisville.

“We are among the most competitive adult swimmers in the Metroplex,” Radam said, noting there are about 30 Master’s clubs in North Texas. “It’s not uncommon for at least 75-percent of our athletes in a local competition to get onto the podium first, second or third in their respective age group.”

Those competitions are sponsored by organizations like the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), United States Masters Swimming (USMS), USA Triathlon and XTERRA World Triathlon Championships. They also have won titles in the Pan American Masters and World Championships.

Tri-Star’s swimmers come from Flower Mound, Argyle, Highland Village, Lewisville, Grapevine, to Southlake, Coppell and Haltom City, including 84-year-old Flower Mound resident Michael Abarbanell. Two people – Flower Mound’s Jamie Norman and Grapevine’s Randy Porter – have been with Tri-Star since its inception.

Flower Mound’s Austin Healy won the Texas High School Triathlon State Championships and Markku Toiviainen is the reigning Iron Man Age Group National Champion in his native Finland. Toiviainen, who Radam says is the fastest Ironman competitor in the Dallas/Fort Worth area– and Flower Mound’s Della Irby– completed in the Kona Ironman World Championships in Hawaii last year.

Argyle’s Jonathan McAlister and Johnny Staton have been members of the U.S. Men’s National Triathlon team. Lantana’s Brave Mays finished 25th in the Under 16 division of the USA Triathlon Championships. Staton, Highland Village’s Keith Graham and Flower Mound’s Jimmy Ball competed in the USAT Age Group 70.3 World Championships.

Radam is a USMS Certified Coach and the group is a USMS Certified Gold Club. Radma has won three national championships – the 200-yard backstroke and 400-IM at the 1997 USMS and the U.S. Men’s Open Water Swimming 15K open-race in 2010.

The resident of Flower Mound’s Wellington neighborhood virtually lives at the pool as he gives about 10 private lessons a week to the CAC top athletes and homeschooled children, with students ranging from age 10 to 74. He finds far more intrinsic rewards through the success of his swimmers than he ever did in more than 25 years in the corporate world.

“I think it’s the happiest I’ve been professionally,” he said. “The mission statement I wrote for myself is to enable athletes to become the athletes they want to become. At this club, I don’t set your goals. You come in with your goals in mind and we work in a partnership to achieve and fulfil those dreams and many of them have and those are the intrinsic rewards that I really didn’t get in Corporate America.

“You get to see progress and people return home after a competition so excited and that their hard work paid off; and that’s just a really good feeling as a coach.”

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