The History of RSA, a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization
The Raleigh Swimming Association (RSA) has a rich history of team spirit, achievement, parent activism, community service and friendship that has made RSA the premier year-round team in the Triangle for over 50 years.
RSA was founded in 1960 by Bill Sonner, Director of Physical Education at NCSU. Mr. Sonner was the first Head Coach, assisted by Willis Casey and Dick Fadgen, fellow NC State athletic staff members, during the early years.
Two sponsors initially financed RSA: North Carolina Equipment Company, and A. E. Finley Associates. An appeal was also made to Raleigh citizens to support the association by buying a $10-$25 membership. This community support allowed for yearly dues of only 25 cents per child, plus an additional 50 cents for AAU fees.
The team’s first practices were held at the Hayes-Barton pool (the old Pullen Park pool) and Peace College. RSA swam in the “bubbled” Candler Swim Club from 1972 until the bubble deteriorated beyond repair in 1982 and RSA moved practices to the Garner Road YMCA and Optimist Club Pool. During the summer, practices were held at various neighborhood pools, including Scottish Hills and the Triangle Swim Club.
In 1987, in response to increased costs and constantly dwindling pool time, RSA purchased a new bubble for use at the Candler Swim Club. On December 6th, 1987, the bubble was installed and Candler Swim Club became the fall and winter home of RSA for the next twenty years.
In October of 2007, after years of planning and fundraising, RSA moved out of the bubbled Candler Swim Club and into the Triangle Aquatic Center (TAC). TAC became RSA’s home for almost five years. In the spring of 2013, once again due to dwindling pool space, RSA diversified its pool space and began practicing at NC State University in the pool named after one of RSA’s first coaches, Willis Casey. Additional locations were secured including Cary Swim Club, Sport2Sport and Garner Road Community Center in anticipation of RSA building its own facility.
On August 15, 2013, RSA purchased the former Candler Swim Club. An extensive renovation, including demolition of the original diving towers and pool decks, reconstruction of the existing pools, modernization of the Bathhouse and Gym, construction of coach offices and construction of an instructional pool began. On September 3, 2013, the facility was officially renamed the William H. Sonner Aquatic Facility in honor of RSA’s founder and first coach. On June 20, 2014, the Wahoos came home.
RSA’s commitment to excellence is evident from the achievements of its athletes, both in and out of the pool. RSA consistently produces nationally ranked athletes across all age groups including Junior and Senior National Teams and Olympic Trial Qualifiers. Athletes also achieve high GPAs and rank as Academic All Americans, obtaining scholastic and athletic scholarships to some of the most recognized and respected universities across the country. These results were driven by the efforts of our many fine past coaches: Bill Sonner, John Calvert, Mike Weeks, John White, Kay Bowman, Woody Caudle, Rick Kobe, Buddy Bowman, Bruce Griffen, Greg Sanchez, Paul Silver, Jozsef Nagy, Dan Flack, and Kit Raulerson.
In the spring of 2013, Brent St. Pierre, former RSA swimmer and four-time Virginia Senior Coach of the Year, joined RSA as the Head Coach. Michael Joyce, former University of Florida All American and two-time Olympic Qualifier, became Head Age Group Coach in the fall of 2013. Coach Brent and Coach Mike doubled the size of the swim team during the 2014-2015 season, while celebrating the many successes of their athletes. In August of 2015, Coach Mike traded his red and black for orange and black to become the Assistant Coach of Princeton University's Men's Swimming and Diving team and coach alongside famed coach Rob Orr. Shortly thereafter, Megan Onstott, an Academic All-Big 12 First Team swimmer at Texas A&M and 2012 Olympic Trials Qualifier in the 200 Breaststroke and 400IM, joined RSA as our Head Assistant Coach. In August of 2016, Gavin Spake, former UNC-W swimmer and Head Coach of Cape Fear Aquatic Club, joined RSA's staff as the Head Age Group Coach. Today, Coach Brent and his dedicated staff continue RSA's commitment to excellence.