It doesn’t have many fancy bells and whistles — no giant play structures, slides or wave pools — but Gold Medal Swim School is meeting its mission to “promote healthy and lasting lifestyle choices” through a commitment to quality instruction.
Approximately 1,500 kids a week are learning swimming and water safety under the leadership of owners Mike Troy, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Mike Walker, a former NCAA and Olympic coach.
“We believe that Olympic-level skills start at the fundamental level, meaning things that Olympians do fundamentally are things that we try to develop in a 3-month-old,” Walker says. “Breaking down swimming to its most fundamental aspects is what makes our program different.”
Those elements include things such as controlled relaxation, the quality that makes Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes look so effortless in the water.
Other keys to the school’s teaching strategy are small class sizes and enthusiastic instructors. “The kids can really develop a connection to the staff and feel nurtured,” Walker says.
Helping to perpetuate that warm environment is the strategy of promoting from within and relying on staff referrals. Walker estimates 75 percent to 80 percent of new hires come from direct referrals. “That way, we’re always cultivating our value set [among staff],” he adds.
Walker and Troy opened the Gold Medal Swim Club in a strip mall in June 2007. It includes a traditional indoor pool and dry-play area, and the modern design is meant to create a positive, exciting energy. The facility also features many eco-friendly components: compact fluorescent lighting; low-flow toilets; recycled rubber flooring in the kids’ play area; recycled glass; low volatile organic compound-releasing paint; and Strata, an eco-friendly building material used in the changing room.
To attract students, Gold Medal skips traditional marketing methods such as advertising or fliers in favor of efforts that will directly involve young swimmers. There are free community water safety days regularly, and other promotions have included free swim diaper giveaways.
Currently, the facility offers all levels of classes for all ages, infants to seniors. Troy is a former head coach of the U.S. Paralympics team, and adaptive aquatics classes are available for those with special needs. The competition program includes a high-end technique class, with students getting to show off their skills at various meets.
A testament to the success of the program, Walker says, is the fact that most students who come to the school leave knowing at least the basic strokes. — Kendra Kozen