SwimRVA is fortunate to have a highly-skilled, experienced team of aquatics leaders from around the Richmond area and around the country. From our front office staff to our water polo coaches, we’re as friendly and welcoming as we are passionate and driven.
Steve Adams is a Native of Richmond ..grew up swimming in metro area summer leagues but his passion for swimming grew when his daughter became a year round swimmer and high school swimmer in Richmond! He graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Sports Management.. Most recently worked as Assoc Director of Development for Athletics at Virginia Tech and Director of Development for the Business School at Radford Univ. He enjoys in his spare time he enjoys broadcasting High School Football & Basketball and spending time traveling with his wife Jeannie and daughters Courtney/Katie and new son-in-law John.
An outdoor education graduate from SUNY, Ryan has been in the aquatics and recreation education sector for most of his life. Starting out as a lifeguard when he was 15 that the YMCA in Ithica, New York, Ryan returned there to work as the director of operations years later. Ryan has worked at aquatic facilities, hotels, water parks just to name a few. Soon after accepting a teaching job at Cornell University, Ryan received a call from the Safety School at SwimRVA asking him to check out the program. Ryan came down and hasn’t left us since!
Ryan once spent 2 weeks backpacking through the forest of Costa Rica.
The thing Ryan loves most about working here at SwimRVA is the people. He really enjoys the collaboration with staff and the eagerness from the members.
Carly is originally from Pennsylvania. She enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2003 and was stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA. She completed one tour overseas to Iraq in 2004. In 2008 she was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, and in 2010 she moved to VIrginia where she currently lives with her husband and their 3 daughters. Carly’s swimming career began in September of 2021 when her twins, Emma & Ella joined the SwimRVA family. The twins came in for an evaluation having never had any formal swim training or swim team experience and were placed on the Novice team. Over the next few months, she fell in love with the sport and knew she wanted to be more involved. After a few years as an Assistant Coach with the swim team, she took over coordinating SwimRVA’s Camps, Learn-to-Swim program, and swim school at Meadowbrook.
December 2022: Inspirational Coaching Award
Scott Bennett is a Richmond native. He grew up around water and swimming for summer leagues, and has a box of ribbons to prove it! Scott studied Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management at Radford University. He worked as the Facility Coordinator for the Christiansburg Aquatic Center before coming back home. He now enjoys sharing the amazing stories of the clients he serves at SwimRVA as the Director of Communications. He also enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, three crazy young boys and his dog.
Years of Service: 10 years
Coach Ben started swimming at 3 with the Chesterfield Aquatic League (CAL) from 3 until 18, and the Y- League from 3 until 18, where he also coached for five years! He swam while out Kansas for a period before coming to SwimRVA. Being a sprint swimmer, Coach Ben loves swimming the 50 Free and 100 Free. A couple of his favorite locations to swim were at KU and Florida. Ben wants to make sure Rapids swimmers become well rounded teammates, saying, “I want kids to get fun, learning, and a sense of unity from being a member of this team.”
September 2021: Inspirational Coaching Award
Coach Aponi began swimming at the age of four and began her swim team experience with the Richmond Racers. Throughout highschool and college she was a City of Richmond seasonal lifeguard and while at University of Mary Washington she continued her aquatics journey on the synchronized swim team. After earning her Bachelor’s in Music, for 12 years Coach Aponi served as the Assistant Artistic Director and Managing Director of GreenSpring International Academy of Music, where she led youth harp ensembles and was blessed to tour to Europe and perform in U. S. venues such as Carnegie Hall. She then ventured into public music education with the City of Hopewell for 3 years and along the way earned her M. Ed. in Educational Leadership from American College of Education. Coach Aponi first joined the SwimRVA family as an instructor the summer of 2019, but made her coaching debut in 2021 as one of the Novice Assistant Coaches at the Church Hill location. She has now expanded to coaching Advanced Novice and Age Group. Coach Aponi is excited to continue, as well as facilitate the growth of SwimRVA’s positive impact in aquatics in Richmond City’s East End at the Church Hill Boys and Girls Club that she attended as a young child!
March 2023: Programs All-Star Award
Ty is passionate about building strong customer relationships and using her expertise to help those relationships. She also loves exploring the outdoors and going on hikes with her dog. In Ty’s free time, she likes to learn new things and travel to new places. Her goal is to make a positive impact in every situation she is in, and strive to be a leader in whatever she does.
December 2022: Leadership Award
After his time serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Kirk continued his career as an aquatics professional. He brings 20 years of experience in swimming pool management, maintenance, training and facility operations to the SwimRVA team.
Elise has a passion for fitness and wellness. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s in exercise science. While at VCU, Elise worked with the aquatics department, lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons. She then went on to be an instructor t the aquatics facility before coming to SwimRVA.
Elsie is a world traveler, having been to over 10 different countries.
She loves working at swimRVA and building new relationships with the staff and members. She is a proud supporter of SwimRVA’s mission.
April 2022:Programs All-Star Award
Brad Flynn is excited to be the new Head Developmental Coach as well as Lead Advanced Novice Coach. He joined the SwimRVA coaching staff in 2021 after coaching for two years with Nova South. He also coached summer league with Wood Dale Swim Club for 10+ years, and coached the Thomas Dale Varsity Swim Team. Brad was born in Rosenheim, Germany, but was raised and grew up in Hopewell. Brad has spent over 25 years working for the Hopewell Department of Recreation and Parks, running the aquatic division for the last 10 years. He has taught countless local youth and adults to swim, lifeguard, shoot archery, and paddle kayaks. Brad also was the first swim instructor for two athletes that have a special place in his heart. One was a finalist at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games. The other won gold and silver at the 2022 USA Special Olympics. Brad had his first partnership with SwimRVA as they were getting their Learn-to-Swim program started, helping to teach and facilitating the use of the aquatic facility. Brad is married to his amazing wife, Jessica, and has 3 girls who have contributed heavily to the distinguished look of his beard. He loves teaching the fundamentals to new or younger swimmers, hopefully setting a foundation for future success. The thrill of a swimmer breaking new ground, or their recovery from not hitting a goal, are what drive Brad to continue to grow to be the best coach he can be. He looks forward to developing the next great group of Rapids. Rise UP!
Jacob has been with SwimRVA for two years and serves as the Head Water Polo Coach and Coaching Specialist at SwimRVA which encompasses the SwimRVA Water Polo program, Learn-To-Swim program, SwimRVA Swim School and the SwimRVA Autism Swims program. Jacob has an extensive background in swimming, both coaching, and competing. He joined his first swim team when he was 5 years old and continued until he started coaching at 18 years old. In high school, Jacob was captain of the swim team and the lacrosse team. He played water polo for two summers while helping organize the Lake Ridge Water Polo club. In the summer of 2018 Jacob also served as the head coach for Meadowbrook Country Club.
December 2021: Programs All-Star Award
June 2022: Inspirational Coaching Award
Years of Service: 6 years
Alex Jones has been around the pool all his life. He started swimming when he was 6. He has been lifeguarding since he was 16. His favourite swimming event is the 200 fly and he likes to work on technique primarily. He says pool switches and meet setup are the best part about the operations duties. In March of 2023 Alex joined the full-time staff here at SwimRVA.
March 2023: Life Safety Team Player Award
Matthew’s passion for water polo is what brought him to SwimRVA as a member of our water polo team. In 2017, Matthew decided it was time to join the SwimRVA team and became a swim instructor. A few months later Matthew decided to complete his lifeguard certification and began lifeguarding alongside swim instruction, private lessons and also is an assistant coach with our water polo team. In November of 2021 Matthew joined the full-time staff here at SwimRVA after becoming an LGI. Since then, Matthew has taught 30 guard classes and continues his passion of aquatics and life safety with SwimRVA. Matthew is also currently attending Brightpoint to earn his degree in nursing.
April 2022: Operations Season MVP Award
Years of Service: 5 years
Jonathan comes to SwimRVA after a very successful two years as the head coach at the Dolphin Club in Richmond. In two years Jonathan grew the club from 63 to 183 athletes. Jonathan believes in each child’s potential and growing relationships one swimmer, one family at a time. While at Dolphin Club, the team improved in USA Swimming’s virtual club rankings from 31st to 23rd in the state and 1955th to 958th nationally. At Virginia Swimming’s age group champs the team improved from 30th (27 points) to 15th (291 points) and his girls team finished 9th overall, while also having a Top 15 team finish (Top 10 Girls) at Senior Champs for the first time in team history.
Prior to Dolphin Club, Jonathan served as the assistant director of competitive swimming at YMCA of Triangle Area. As head coach of the Gold group he tutored 50 YMCA National qualifiers, 5 YMCA national finalists, 12 NCSA Junior National qualifiers, 2 USA-Swimming Winter Junior National and 1 USA-Swimming Winter National qualifier. Jonathan helped YOTA grow to 600 members and earn Top 25 rankings in USA Swimming’s Virtual Club Championship. While at YOTA, Jonathan worked with over 130 athletes with video instruction and stroke analyzation.
Before heading to Raleigh, Kaplan coached in Richmond for NOVA of Virginia Aquatics as the head coach of the Senior Silver group and assistant coach of Senior Gold. Jonathan’s Senior Silver group included 16 NCSA Junior National, 6 USA Swimming Winter Junior National and 1 USA Swimming Winter National Championship qualifier, 1 National Age Group Record participant, and 14 Virginia State Records. While at NOVA the team earned a 3rd place overall team finish at the 2014 Spring NCSA Championships, an overall Virginia State Championship and a 6th place overall team ranking in the USA Swimming Virtual Club Championships. Jonathan help in the organization and create of the first ever Henrico County high school swimming program.
From 2006 to 2013 Jonathan was the head swim coach of the Panama City Swim Team. While head coach the year round membership grew from 65 to 250 members. PCST earned bronze medal club status for USA Swimming Club Excellence. In 2012, PCST had its first ever swimmer compete at the USA Swimming Olympic Team Trials. In addition, Kaplan tutored 3 swimmers who qualified for USA Swimming’s Summer National Championship, 3 qualifiers to USA Swimming’s Summer Junior National Championship, 11 NCSA qualifiers, 1 USA Swimming Junior National Runner Up, 1 US Open Finalist, 5 SES Champions, 2 LSC records, 3 HS All-Americans and 6 Florida High School State Champions. In 2011, PCST won Southeastern Swimming Medium Team Championship. 17 of Kaplan’s swimmers went on to compete in the NCAA. One of Jonathan’s greatest accomplishments includes the fortune of coaching a high school valedictorian in 6 consecutive years while at PCST.
Jonathan is a graduate of Florida State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Sport Management and his Master of Science in Sport Administration. He resides in Richmond with his wife, Jessica, and their two sons Rowan and Finlay. Needless to say, he and his family are excited for the Rise of the Rapids here with SwimRVA!
Debbie is our Director of Programs at SwimRVA and more affectionately known as “The Brains” of the operation. Debbie has her Bachelor’s degree in physical education and business; she studied sports management for her Master’s and received a Doctorate in adult education and human resource development.
Years of Service: 8 years
Adam Kennedy is Executive Director of SwimRVA, a non-profit organization focused on ensuring access to aquatics across generations. SwimRVA is Richmond’s advocacy engine for aquatics wellness, safety and competition in the greater Richmond region with a goal to drive economic success along with resident vitality. To highlight the mission, SwimRVA opened central Virginia’s premier aquatics and competitive swimming venue in April, 2012. The Collegiate School Aquatics Center continues to host over 370,000 visits annually and is the leading example of aquatics involvement, advocacy and tourism for the region.
Adam’s passion for swimming stems from nearly a lifetime in the water—he began swimming at the age of six and continued to swim through college. After completing his undergraduate degree at Davidson College, he went on to coach swimming at Colgate University, Ohio University (where he completed a Master of Science in Coaching Education), the Naval Academy, and most recently University of the Pacific.
Adam is an experienced community leader with a passion for swimming as a catalyst for community development and change. As the head men’s and women’s swimming coach at the University of the Pacific, Adam used swimming as a tool for building community among Stockton’s Hispanic population. SwimRVA was a perfect outlet for those passions. Over the last five years, SwimRVA has incubated and grown an aggressive campaign to Drownproof Richmond. Currently, 63 elementary schools across nine school districts are making water safety a priority for their students.
Quality programming needs a home at quality facilities. SwimRVA is working to ensure every community in the region has access to a year-round aquatics facility. In June 2019, The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club opened the doors to a $6.8 million renovation of their clubhouse in Richmond’s east end. SwimRVA and The Salvation Army show true collaboration as SwimRVA is the aquatics operator and provider for the clubhouse. The facility is a beacon in Richmond’s east end for water safety and fitness for all ages. SwimRVA also support Henrico through its recent investments in aquatics at Regency Mall and the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center.
He resides in Richmond with his wife Amanda, their son George and dog Bogart.
Years of Service: 11 years
Danielle learned to swim for the first time as an adult. She joined SwimRVA in 2014 as a swim instructor and now serves as the Assistant Director of Relationships, ensuring all SwimRVA patrons receive a world-class experience. Danielle passionately believes everyone should have access to swim lessons and aquatic fitness! When not at work, Danielle likes to read and watch horror films.
September 2021: Most HelpfulAward
March 2023: Leadership Award
Years of Service: 8 years
Jen has been in aquatics since she was 15 years old. Her first job was working as a swim instructor under her swim coach. A graduate of Mary Washington, she began working at the YMCA in Fredricksburg, in the summer of 2021 she joined the team at SwimRVA north working as a lifeguard there. In the fall after the summer season, she decided to join us at our main location!
Jen has also previously worked in finance for over 10 years before making the career change over to aquatics!
What Jen loves most about working at swimRVA is the people. She loves training the lifeguards and seeing everyone become confident in the water. She also loves how well trained the staff is here. From the top-down, she can count on everyone being here knowing how to operate with professionalism and competency.
September 2021: Professional Rescuer Award
Ryan Miller started his aquatic career as a Lifeguard at a prestigious scout camp in New York at the age of 16, returning for many summers and eventually serving several seasons as the waterfront director. He went on to instruct lifeguard classes for the YMCA, and after spending several years in Tennessee, came to SwimRVA by way of an invitation to direct the summer camp program. Ryan quickly fell in love with the Richmond area and chose to take up the “Drownproof” mission full-time in 2020.
December 2021: Operations Season-MVP Award
Shane has been around water his whole life. A graduate from Randolph-Macon College in
Ashland, he has over a decade of competitive swimming experience under his belt, training with
NCAP and competing for his alma mater. His experience working in aquatics started at age 17
as a swim instructor in his hometown of Manassas, where he discovered a passion for coaching
the next generation of swimmers. Shane is incredibly excited to have the opportunity to share
his expertise and help in our mission to drownproof Richmond.
Coach Ashley joins the SwimRVA Rapids after a successful 10+ years as the Lead 10 and Under Coach for Fox Valley Swim Team in Naperville, IL. While in Naperville, Ashley was also the Head Coach for the Breckenridge Breakers Swim Team. During her tenure in Illinois, she also served as an Assistant Coach for Team Illinois for the Central Zones Meet. Team Illinois has been the reigning champion of Central Zones for the last twenty years.
Ashley enjoys working with all ages of swimmers to show them how much fun swimming can be while focusing on improving technique of strokes. Her coaching successes include multiple Age Group State qualifies with Top 8 finishes and Central Zone qualifiers.
Ashley brings her positivity and energetic coaching style to SwimRVA with a different approach to technique focused swimming. She encourages swimmers to find what swimming brings to their life and the joy of finding success in ways in and out of the pool.
Outside of the pool, Coach Ashley enjoys spending time with her dog, Domino, and running. RVA has been a great spot to relocate to get outside and enjoy being close to not only the ocean but the mountains as well.
Andrew was a water baby from the start. He started competitive swimming at the age 6 with Orange Otters in Orange County In the J-League then later Tri-Counties League. Later swam with CHARLOTTESVILLE AREA SWIM TEAM (CAST) until soccer became the year-round priority. Andrew attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama earning a degree in History with double minor in Politics Science and Philosophy while a member of the Soccer team. Go Badgers! After college he joined the US Army as a Forward Observer. Deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq. While in the Army, he passed and then instructed to standard the Army Combat Water Survival Training. Andrew enjoys partaking in 5 & 10K charity runs and any event involving the James River or any type of water-based activity. He has completed two Olympic Triathlons and pretends to train as if one is coming up.
Andrew moved to Richmond last year from Charlottesville to pursue a graduate degree from VCU. In April of 2023, Andrew found SwimRVA and started as a Sr Programs Coordinator at SwimRVA-Church Hill. Seeing the joy on the kids’ faces as they advance through the curriculum and learn important life skills puts a smile on his face as well. Andrew loves the community involvement in the neighborhood he calls home.
Jay Peluso, a two-time All-American swimmer, hails from Cumberland, RI and is the head coach for the SwimRVA Hammerheads.
He graduated from UMass with a degree in Sports Management where he was a seven time New England Swimming Champion and a starter on the 1993 New England Champion water polo squad. He earned his law degree from the University of Richmond in 1996 and was inducted into the RI Aquatics Hall of Fame in 2004. Coach Jay’s triathlon and open water career highlights include being a five-time member of USAT’s Age Group World Championship team and a second place finish at the USMS 2-Mile Cable Swim National Championships.
He is currently the Co-Owner and Race Director for the IGNITE SwimRun Series, the first ever multi-state SwimRun series in the U.S.
Coach Blake comes to SwimRVA after a successful 5+ years as the Head Varsity Group Coach at the Lynchburg YMCA. While in Lynchburg, Blake was also the Head Coach for EC Glass High School Swim Team and Boonsboro Country Club. During his tenure he served twice as an Assistant Coach for the Virginia Swimming Zones Team and served as an assistant coach for 10+ years at Oakwood Country Club.
Blake thrives working with the 11-18 year old swimmers helping them to become more self-confidant and improve their swimming skills, along with developing a strong mental attitude. His coaching successes include several Junior National qualifiers, numerous YMCA National finalists, and high school state champions. He also takes pride in coaching the kids who never swam competitively before but discovered how awesome swimming can be after dedicated training and encouragement.
Blake brings his energetic and enthusiastic coaching style to SwimRVA in a fresh approach that mixes mentality building and technical knowledge to help his swimmers understand their performance and develop a sense of ownership in their results. He encourages swimmers to act with integrity and develop character as teammates, leaders, and future adults
Coach Blake likes to play disc golf and guitar when he isn’t at the pool coaching or swimming. He is a huge music fan of all genres and time periods. We welcome Blake to SwimRVA and look forward to seeing some fast swimming coming from his groups!
Rebecca has worked in aquatics for more than half of her life (17 years and counting!). She loves everything about it, but her particular passion has always been to help provide opportunities for people to get in and enjoy the water who would not normally do so. In addition to everything from parent-child sessions to adult swim training, she has also taught lifeguard certification classes to Richmond area lifesavers for 6 years. A dedicated water safety advocate, she also manages our in-house lifeguards and helps to ensure that the day-to-day operations of our complex run smoothly.
Years of Service: 7 years
Natalie was born in and raised in Richmond. She learned to swim at the JCC and joined the Dolphin Club at age four. Natalie swam competitively on the NOVA swim team from 1997 to 2010, an experience she credits with teaching her self-discipline and the value of hard work. She studied Journalism and Public Relations at VCU and earned her Master’s Degree in Strategic Public Relations from the Robertson School of Media and Culture. Natalie is passionate about making mental and physical wellness accessible to all people in the Richmond community. She loves working for SwimRVA because the Drownproof Richmond initiative allows her to share her love of swimming with children in underserved communities. When she’s not in the pool, you can find Natalie cycling somewhere in the mountains.
December 2021: Development-Major Gift Award
Jessica is an Oregon born Coloradan. Having moved every few years with her father being in the US Air Force, she finally started to settle in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2009, where she later met her husband Mark. With Mark being active duty US Army, orders brought them and her daughter Ada to Virginia.
Jessica developed a love for swimming after a near drowning experience as a child. She took every lesson and class that was offered until she was placed on a swim team in Japan at age of 10, she then swam for teams in New Mexico when military relocated her family back state side. She is ecstatic her daughter Ada has taken to the sport and Ada also swims for the Rapids.
Few fun facts about Jessica, she hates even numbers, can easily be bribed with Starbucks, loves the band Imagine Dragons and enjoys all sorts of music genres, crochets, speaks fluent ‘Friends’ T.V. Show quotes, is a licensed cosmologist, medical assistant, phlebotomist and loves watching or hearing murder mystery and true crime.
Jessica is really excited about serving and getting to know the SwimRVA family and community.
December 2021:Operations Curiosity & Growth Award
December 2022: Operations MVP
Breagan Wallin has been swimming since he was 5 years old. His first job was as a lifeguard. He continued to be a lifeguard for quite some time after that. He lifeguarded at SwimRVA while he was earning his degree in English at VCU. Now he is working at the front desk as a Relationship Manager. His hobbies and interests include reading novels, collecting vinyl records and watching foreign films.
A native of Richmond, Jacob attended Hening Elementary, Manchester Middle, and Monacan High School, where he graduated in 2014 from the Humanities Center. He grew up swimming for the Meadowbrook Country Club Piranhas from 1999 to 2014, and swam year round for Poseidon between 2002 to 2012. He attended George Mason University from 2014 to 2019 where he got his degree in Political Science, with a concentration in American Politics, while coming back to Richmond in the summers to be the Head Coach Meadowbrook Country Club. He was hired by SwimRVA in February 2020 and has been the Relationship Manager of Enrollment since August 2022.
September 2021: Customer Service Award
June 2022:Leadership Award
Maia has worked in aquatics and safety for roughly 15 years. She started her love for the water, literally, when she had a crush on a lifeguard as a little girl. Her passion for aquatics has led to her being a steadfast employee of SwimRVA.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Maia is a professionally trained ranch hand!
Maia loves working at SwimRVA to see people challenge themselves daily. She loves to see the wellness members be committed to living healthy life.
Kim is your customer service expert! Kim wears many hats that includes making sure your visit to SwimRVA is the best it can be. She also oversees concessions, hospitality, and all administrative work for the organization.
Kim’s major passions outside of work would be her kids. Her family is always on the move with sports and school activities. Another passion is being able to do the score books/table for both our schools volleyball and basketball teams. Kim loves being able to go to the games and be that team mom to a wonderful group of kids and see them learn to work together and become great team players to bring home some awesome victories!
As a child/teenager Kim played several instruments and was also part of her high school show choir. She always loved to sing and would love to be able to sing more often again.
Her personal motto is: “You can make someone’s day by giving a smile, showing kindness and being humble with everything you do. Always give it your best in everything you do!”
Years of Service: 8 years
September 2021: Swim School Adult Instructor Award
Coach Wes is super excited to join the Rapids this Fall, especially because he grew up swimming nearby for VACS (now NOVA South) in Hopewell, VA. After high school Wes went on to earn a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science at Marymount University (VA). There he competed all four years as a well-rounded swimmer while specializing in the 400 IM, 200 Fly, and 100 Breast.
Prior to joining SwimRVA, Wes coached at NCAP and was a college coach at Olivet College in MI, Bridgewater College in VA, and Arcadia University in PA. In his time guiding and leading young adult athletes on the college scene, Wes helped produce many Confrence Champions, including a Female Swimmer of the Year. More importantly though, he felt the most pride in watching his athletes turn into confident leaders both in and out of the pool. In addition to his skills as an age group coach as well as higher elite level competitoin, Wes is looking forward to being used as a resource for aspiring college swimmers & families. He brings to Rapids a plethora of college coaching connections and guidance in the college selection process that will prove to be very useful for our aspiring athletes.
Coach Wes resides in Chester VA where he plays in a Richmond area men’s lsoccer league and loves to watch and connect with MLS and Premier League Soccer! SwimRVA is beyond excited to have Wes on the coaching staff and look forward to enjoying many years of his expertise and enthusiasm.
September 2022: Inspirational Coaching Award