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Where are they now? Paul La Raia Class of 2000

posted Dec 30, 2019, 2:59 PM by Rey Aguilar   [ updated Jan 7, 2020, 10:44 AM ]
Paul La Raia learned to swim at Dads Club and still holds several club age group records. He graduated from Memorial High School in 2000, where he swam on the school team. He also swam for his college team at Washington & Lee University.  Paul is currently a Houston area attorney.
Paul with his family

How did you get into swimming?

My mother loves swimming. And she loved taking all four of us kids to the pool during the summer, wearing us out, and watching us learn to balance in and move through the water with minimal effort. Dads Club was an extension of our family and our home — we were all in. If my mom was going to fight I-10 traffic to take one of her kids to Dads, we were all going to go.

Now that I have kids of my own, they too have learned to love going to the pool with Grandma.


What did you love most about Dads Club?

The friendships. The fun. And the lifelong lessons that transform you forever. I have great memories of our three mile runs through Spring Valley, early season soccer at the fields near Spring Branch ISD’s Reggie Grob Stadium, Saturday morning practices, get-out swims, New Year’s Eve marathon swims, and spending time with teammates and their parents at Texas’ motels, hotels, McDonalds, Luby’s, Chili’s, Bennigans, and all the other places we stayed and ate at while traveling for swim meets season after season. I especially remember the joy of swimming with all my fellow age group swimmers at TAGS and chanting cheers like “the pool is on fire from the mighty Dad’s heat.”


How did your years of training change you?

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of vital lifelong lessons learned at Dads Club about success, failure, discipline, goal-setting, competition, visualization, encouragement, leadership, respect and compassion.


How did your coaches impact you?

All my coaches at the Dad’s Club made an impact and influenced my life in a positive way. Chrissy Dunn ignited my life-long love for the sport. Kelly Rives challenged me with his imported University of Texas swimming dry land exercises (for example, the power wheel crawl over the small hill by the 50m pool) and taught us discipline in and out of the pool.  When I wanted to miss practice because of an exam the next day, I remember Kelly telling me the importance of planning ahead to complete my studying, so I would not have to miss swimming.  Larry Glass taught me the importance of not taking yourself or swimming too seriously.  Last but not least, Mark Boerner was the best swimming technique coach that I ever had, and he encouraged me through my own struggles during my teenage years.


What kept you motivated?

Success for both myself, my teammates, and the Dad’s Club kept me motivated. As I succeeded and dropped time, it made me want to practice even harder and listen more carefully to my coaches’ advice and wisdom. Swimming is an individual sport, but also about the team. I wanted to succeed, and I also wanted success for the club, my coaches and teammates. Because of the sacrifice and dedication we shared for the sport of swimming we were all in it together.

Paul with team mates at the Texas Age Group State Championships


Are there any long lasting friendships you developed at Dad’s or in the world of swimming?

When you spend that much time experiencing both success and failure with the same group, you develop lasting relationships that I have maintained throughout the years. I recently was a groomsman at the wedding of one of those friends. And I have enjoyed catching up and watching my fellow Dad’s Club teammate, Rey Aguilar, coach his Dad’s Club swimmers over these many years. He is one of the most understanding, knowledgeable, and experienced coaches around United States Swimming.


How your experience as a swimmer influenced your life in college, after college and your work?

After growing up swimming, I wanted to continue the sport in college – the fact that I went from two practices per day to one made it even better! I swam three out of my four years at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and was a co-captain my senior year.  During those college years, swimming helped me structure my time for studying, swimming, and socializing, and built more lifelong friendships.


Throughout graduate school and still today, swimming has continued to be part of my workout routine. I have learned that you do not have be the fastest or most fit swimmer out there in order to enjoy the benefits of the sport. Swimming strengthens your heart, lungs, core, and mind regardless of you speed or endurance level. Within the exercise community today, you often hear about the benefit of high-intensity interval training for your body and mind — which is what I’ve been doing since a very young age at Dads Club.


Is the rest of your family still swimming?

It runs in my family. My sister, Laura, has raised her kids swimming.  My other sister, Ginger, also raised swimmers and coaches a high school team at Georgetown, Texas where last year she was named State Coach of the Year by the University Interscholastic League for boys swimming and diving. My brother lives in San Diego, for many years I have joined him to race in the La Jolla Rough Water Swim (a 3 mile open water swim) — we have even convinced some old Dads Club teammates to join us!

Check out our other Where are they now alumni

Hannah Cooper