Rob Clayton

Rob  Clayton

Head Coach

Alma Mater:
Wyoming, 1991


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Email Coach Clayton

Head coach Rob Clayton, who owns four Conference Coach of the Year awards, enters his 20th season as the Academy’s head men’s swimming coach. After 19 years, his enthusiasm for the Academy and Falcon swimming hasn’t diminished a bit. 

“I love coaching at the Air Force Academy,” Clayton said. “It is the perfect school for the young man who is serious about pursuing excellence in school, swimming and life. I’m thrilled to wake up and go to work in the morning,”

Clayton has led the Falcons to a 183-94-1 overall dual record in his 19 seasons and helped Air Force claim back-to-back Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championships in 2016 and 2017, where he was named the WAC Coach of the Year following each of the team championships. In 2016-17, Clayton saw the Falcons earn two individual conference champions, two relay conference champion teams, four individual and four relay program records to highlight 28 swims that ranked in the top-10 all-time at Air Force. At the WAC Championships, 15 individuals were named to at least one All-WAC team and five were named to the All-WAC Academic Team. 

In 2016, Clayton coached Michael Barnosky to All-American honors and the highest finish ever at the NCAA Championships by an AFA Swimmer. Barnosky placed third in the 100 breaststroke with an Air Force, Service Academy and WAC record time of 51.89. He became the Falcons first All-American since Chris Knaute earned honorable mention honors in 2006 in the 400 IM and 500 free.

After a sixth-place league finish his first season (1999), Clayton led the Falcons to third-place finishes in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007. In 2003, 2004 and 2009, the Falcons finished second at the MWC Championships. In addition, Clayton was named MWC Men’s Coach of the Year in 2007 and 2010.

At USAFA, Clayton has coached men to 27 individual conference championships and two relay conference championships. 10 of his swimmers have competed in the Olympic Trials, including in 2008 when eight former Falcons participated in the Trials. In addition to the team’s success in the pool, Clayton’s swimmers have earned more than 170 academic all-conference honors and 25 MWC
Scholar-Athlete selections, while 13 have been designated Scholar All-Americans by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. Clearly, Clayton expects excellence in the classroom as well as the pool.

“The Academy is the number one undergraduate school in the country,” the coach said. “The men come here primarily to get the best education possible and to prepare for a fabulous career in the Air Force and beyond. While we desire success in the pool, we insist on success in the classroom.” Not surprisingly, the Falcon swimmers and divers were the recipients of the Academy’s Team Excellence Award for the 2003-04 school year.

Clayton is a 1991 graduate of Wyoming where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. While at Wyoming, Clayton was one of the premier swimmers in the Western Athletic Conference, competing at the NCAA Championships in the 200 freestyle, 200 IM and 400 IM. In 1991, he won the 200 and 400 individual medleys at WAC Championships, becoming only the second Cowboy to ever win an IM conference title. His time in the 400 IM set a conference championship record and still stands as the pool record at the University of Hawaii.

Clayton excelled outside the pool as well. His 3.75 grade point average in chemical engineering helped earn him Academic All-American honors. He received the WAC’s Stan Bates Award in 1991, as the league’s most outstanding student-athlete. The Bates Award is the most prestigious award an athlete in the conference can win.

Following college, Clayton served as an age group coach for the Fort Collins Area Swim Team (FAST) before becoming the men’s assistant coach at Brigham Young University. During his six years in Provo, he was instrumental in building one of the most successful swimming programs in the region. The Cougars won the 1996 WAC title, their first since 1979. Clayton helped coach 11 individual WAC champions and several WAC champion relay teams at BYU. He was very active in USA Swimming, serving as a senior coach with Hilltop Aquatic Swim Team in American Fork, Utah. Additionally, he coached an NCAA finalist and an athlete to a spot on the U.S. National team in the summer of 1997.

Clayton came to the Academy in 1997 and made an immediate impact on the program. He worked with women’s coach Casey Converse to coach the Academy’s first woman to qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships at the conclusion of the 1997-98 season. Clayton then took over the reins of the men’s program for the 1998-99 season.

In addition to his coaching duties, Clayton also instructs cadets in swimming and water survival classes. He was recognized for his teaching accomplishments by being named the 2003-04 Department of Athletics Civilian Instructor of the Year and was recently named the Aquatics Instructor of the Semester. Clayton comments on his teaching duties, “I enjoy teaching aquatics classes. It provides me with opportunity to interact with the rest of the cadets at the Air Force Academy.”

Originally from Fort Collins, Colo., Clayton was a standout swimmer at Rocky Mountain High School where he was a four-year letterman. The 48-year-old Clayton is married to the former Kelly Costigan, a 1992 graduate of the Academy who competed for the women’s tennis team. They have three sons, Robert,
Daniel and Joshua, and three daughters, Noel, Anna and Faith. The Claytons are very active in their church, International Anglican Church, and live just outside the Northgate in Colorado Springs.

Rob Clayton Family

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