Ray Essick directed USA Swimming since its inception to a position of leadership in Olympic sports. US Swimming grew to an operating budget of 10 million dollars, 50 employees, a fully capitalized, self-held insurance company, and a 30,000 square foot office building.
He started out coaching at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, from 1959 to 1966. In 1964, the New Trier High School team placed 3rd at the USA National AAU Championships. During that time, he coached Fred Schmidt who went on to win an Olympic Gold medal by swimming the butterfly leg for the U.S. team in the men’s 400 meter medley relay, and Bronze medal in the 200 meter butterfly. Essick coached 5 Illinois State Championship teams in his 7 years as an assistant coach to Dave Robertson. He had five swimmers lead the National Interscholastic High School All American lists in their specialties: Terry Townsend, Dave Lyons, Roger Goettshe, Dale Kiefer, and Jack Kiefer.
In 1960, he started Lake Forest Swim Club as Head Coach. In 1966, he left it to coach for Southern Illinois University (1966-1973). During his time at the Southern Illinois University, he held a dual meet record of 64-21, with 10 NCAA Top 20 finishes. He was awarded as the CSCAA District 4 Coach of the Year. In 1971, Essick coached at the Pan American Games.
Essick went on to coach at Harvard University from 1973 to 1976. While at Harvard, Essick held a dual meet record of 29-1 and coached the team to Ivy League Champions in 1973. Coach Essick left the collegiate scene and went back to coaching a club swimming at the New England Barracudas from 1974-76. In 1975, he was a coach for the 1975 Hapoel Games.
Later on in 1980, Ray Essick served as U.S. Swimming’s first Executive Director. This opened a new era as AAU turned overall national swimming revenue to United States Swimming. From there the four person staff moved to Colorado Springs from Indianapolis in 1981. In 1984, the first U.S. Open Meet was held, formerly known as the USS International Meet.
During his tenure, the USS created its own insurance company (an NGB at first), coaches safety training requirements, and the USS House of Delegates approved SWIMFUND (a trust fund for post-grad athletes). In 1989, the American Red Cross presented Ray Essick with the Good Neighbor Award, one of the highest national awards given to an outstanding volunteer. In 1992, the ground was broken for the Aquatic Olympic Training Center and the Coaches Incentive Program was debuted. In 1997, Ray Essick ended his tenure as Executive Director and was presented with the USA Swimming Award. He was also awarded the National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Award in 1997.
Coach Essick served off the deck as well in committees such as the ASCA Board, USOC and regional committees, National AAU Men’s Swimming Committee, and various U.S. Olympic Committee – Marketing, Coaching, & Substance Abuse. Outside of swimming, he served as the Director of Sports Division, First Counsel from 1997-99 and President and Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Sports Leadership (1998-2002).