I began my aquatic management career opening a new Boys & Girls Club pool facility in a small community near my hometown in East Texas. My experience was limited to having a competitive swim background in high school and college, and growing up with a backyard pool.
If I’d known exactly what I was getting into, perhaps I would've been too overwhelmed to even consider taking on the challenges of this job.
That first summer approached like a speeding train, but we had been successful in hiring a good crew of trained lifeguards and a handful of WSIs for swim lessons. Thanks to special advertising and a grand opening, the community was primed and excited for our first summer.
They came in droves. Some days we saw so many people, we had to turn a few away. I had to scramble to train and hire additional staffers to be there during those peak times.
As the summer took shape, I had to figure out how to organize my own personal time and use it most effectively. The pool was open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. including Saturdays, and I needed or wanted to be there for every minute. I also was beginning to transition into taking on an additional swimming pool. Now I began to see myself getting stretched thin as the load of two facilities started to take their toll on me.
It was very overwhelming at first, to say the least. But as I pushed through that first summer, things began to fall into place. I must've put 10,000 miles on my truck over those months!
I had to learn to give up some of my controlling behavior and allow my staff to handle some of the issues. By stepping back and taking on a more supportive role, I began to recognize how my staff grew and matured into making smart decisions. Though not all of the issues were resolved as well or as we had hoped, I think my staff that first summer really stepped up and began to take pride in what they were accomplishing. I saw a change in their attitudes: This was more than just a job — this was our pool and we wanted it to be successful.
At the time it seemed as if the first summer would never end, and each week felt like a month. I can look back now and appreciate the lessons I learned those first few months out of the starting gate. Since then, we've become a well-rounded, organized facility with many more programs than when we first began.
Overall, I think organizing my time effectively and trying to prepare for the unexpected is one of the most important things I can do to support the pools and staff. There’s no substitute for being flexible with your ideas, trusting your staff, and learning from your past experiences to make things better for the future.