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
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