The U.S. Swim School Association’s new executive director is an experienced association executive eager to take the organization to new heights.

Lisa Zarda comes to the USSSA from the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, where she served as general manager for 11 years.

Swim and beauty schools share something in common: Both are concerned with increasing admissions. “There are a lot of parallels that I can draw from my experience working with beauty schools that apply to this organization,” Zarda said.

Her background also includes working as the membership and education director for the Association of General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee for nearly seven years. In addition, Zarda holds designations as a Certified Association Executive and Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional.

She comes aboard as the Fountain Hills, Ariz.-based association prepares a strategic initiative to recruit more members. One recent change included broadening its base to include individuals, such as instructors and administrative staff who work for swim schools. (USSSA traditionally comprises school operators.) Zarda helped the beauty school association deploy a similar tactic, which included creating a conference exclusively for teachers.

The USSSA also recently announced plans to open up membership to nonprofit swim schools, such as those that are part of a YMCA or city-owned facility, though there are no new developments on that front.

“We’re waiting for more feedback from our members to decide the direction of that project,” Zarda said.


She’ll help steer other efforts underway, such as expanding educational offerings and developing relationships with sponsors. And she has ideas of her own, such as exploring a partnership with USA Swimming.

“I’d really like to see if we can build on the positive energy that comes with the Olympics,” she said.

Zarda is a mother of two: Clare, 6, knows how to swim; and Ian, 3, is taking lessons.

“Being a parent, I could really connect with our mission here of teaching a life skill to our kids,” she said.

Zarda replaces Sue Mackie, who recently retired after nearly 12 years with the organization.