Introduction by Dave Salo: One of the reasons that I was asked to introduce this session on business–running a business as far as swimming is concerned–is I think a lot of people thought when I went to the University of Southern California recently that I was giving up my own club. I did a pretty good smoke and mirror job that the Nova Aquatics was actually not my club – I don’t own the club, but I think I ran it effectively enough to build the business – a very good competitive business and I am still staying on as general manager. The club is just a different model that I think a lot of us can learn to explore as we evolve through our programs, but nonetheless – this talk will be from Paul Silver of Marlins of Raleigh and building a team from scratch.
A lot of times I am asked by young coaches what they should do as they get into our sport to become Olympic coaches and be very successful and the first thing I tell them is learn to build your business. Worry about the Olympic part of it much later on in your career, but learn to build your business – if you are really smart, go back and build yourself a swim school and make a lot of money – then you can toil uncharted waters of becoming Olympic coaches. And Paul is one of our successful coaches in America and I am glad that he is here today and I am going to turn it over to you and you can go from there.
Paul Silver: Thank you. Dave, thank you – I am one of the few coaches still staying in North Carolina – we got a few of them here this week. It has been a busy year in North Carolina. What you have on your handout is a picture sporting the Marlins of Raleigh in 2001 and you have got two pictures and this was in the first month of the team – we got a team picture there of six swimmers and then about two years later – you got a team picture in 2003 of 150 swimmers. When I left Raleigh to come up here I thought I was going to have to change all the headings on this because I knew that we were going to grow some more this year and going from 6 to 300, but when I left we had 296 registrations – my God. I am going to have to go through and change all of these–I called my assistant coach and he said we got 15 registrations yesterday so we are over 300, so I am not lying to you when I say we have 300.
Now what this shows you is that it looks like maybe I know what I am doing; what it doesn’t show you is that I left a team of 265 swimmers to go to the team and form a team with 6, so maybe that is not so smart. I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – I am a Tar Heal – born and bred – have been forever. As you can tell by looking at me – I played football in high school but I am kind of a slow learner – it was my senior year in high school before I realized there were not scholarships for defensive backs who ran the 40 yard dash in 5.1 seconds – it took me a while and going to FSU of course, they don’t have many spots for that either.
I went to Florida State University. I started swimming when I was 18 in Chapel Hill so I really got a late start in the sport, but loved the people involved in it right away and went to Tallahassee and swam on the USS team there. The head coach was Mike Eddy and he was really a person that had a big influence on me because he taught me to love the sport and also coaching it because I would have done anything for him. The other swimmers we had there in Tallahassee would have done anything – they would have walked on water for Mike.
Mike later moved on to Colorado where he developed George Decarlo before George went on to Arizona and won a Gold Medal. In Chapel Hill I had swum for Rich DeSalmn, as well as Frank Comfort in the summers there. I also swam for Terry Moll in Tallahassee and I learned a lot about the science of the sport there. I spent a brief time with Matt Kennedy in Swim Florida and then I made a decision that I was going to go and work for Greg Troy at Bolles. Now, Greg didn’t know this yet, but I had decided that and so I saw him at a meet and said, you know – this guy knows what he is doing, so I decided to go up and interview for a job that he had available. Fortunately, I got the job working for him and for two and a half years – from ’82 to ’84 – I worked with Greg and had a great time and learned a tremendous amount about coaching, about managing people. But, Greg, as those of you who know him know, did not have a Board of Directors at the Bolles School in Jacksonville. He worked for one man – the Headmaster, who was great – Harry Dumont Mallen.
But from Greg I learned a lot about coaching from the standpoint of pushing kids’ buttons. We had Chrissy Linehan swim with us one summer and she could come in and she wasn’t the best kicker and she wasn’t the best puller, but he would get her up to race and she would beat everybody and I learned a lot from him about that. I learned about supporting your coaches – always being publicly in support of them. If a parent comes up and has got a concern about a coach – you say – “you know, maybe that is not exactly what the coach was trying to get across, but you know – this is maybe a different way of looking at it.” Now if I had to go back to the coach privately and talk to him and say look – you need to do this differently then that is what we do, but always publicly support them – I think that is real important with your staff – developing loyalty. Greg was real patient with me – he had to pull me aside after about a year and try to explain to me what my role was there, but once I got it, then it worked out pretty well and we had a lot of great athletes there. Martin Zubero – an 11-12 year old in my group and fortunately, I didn’t mess him up and let him get up to Greg’s group where he really took off.
In 1984 I was 24 and I decided that at that point I knew everything and so I was going to go and be a head coach. I got offered a job at the Raleigh Swimming Association and a chance to move back a little bit closer to home. When I got there, I had inherited a team that had a great workout ethic – the guy that was there ahead of me, Greg Sanchez, had really developed that in a very positive way and really challenged the kids. He had swum at Carolina and the team grew from 90 over the next 15 years to about 265 swimmers. During the first six years or so that I was at RSA, working for a Board of Directors was new for me and I learned a whole lot from these people who were a bit older than me–I learned about budgeting and about managing people and so I felt like working in that environment was something that was a good learning experience for me. I will talk later about how that part kind of helped – overrides or outweighs itself at some point.
I had some great assistant coaches along the way and we hit a tough spot in 1995 – we lost some swimmers and we were down in the 130’s after having been up around 180 and we had to make some really tough decisions. We had a good President and one of those decisions I made was I wouldn’t take a salary for three months because I felt like we had to hire an assistant coach. We hired Troy Emmons from Oregon and he came in and from that point on our program really took off. The Board, though, at some point, became cumbersome. You know, like I said, the first six years I kind of got the message and then I went for another 11 and it just got more and more frustrating in trying to re-educate people. You would always have either a different President or a different treasurer who want to structure your contract one way or another and they wanted to do one year contracts and I finally got to the point of saying look, we got too much to do – I want to focus on the athlete, I don’t need to be negotiating with you guys for four months every year about a contract for the next year. Let’s just do a three year contract and they said well, we don’t want to do that, but maybe in six months we will take a look at it.
Well, I had been there 17 years and I wasn’t sure how much more I was going to do in six months and we had just completed a merger with Team Tar and it was something I felt was really good. RSA was going to maintain its Board structure and Racer was going to maintain a separate financial structure and the teams would swim as one. The Head Coach there, Billy Thorn, had a model that was a non-profit, but he was the president and so it was different and that didn’t necessarily always work– so I left. And that was another one of my smart moves – I left right as the merger was about to take place. We had already voted in – we were just waiting for the 120 days to get kids so I was going to have a team of 200 and it was going to go to 300 a and that is when I left and my assistant coaches all came up to me and said “what are you thinking? Every decision you ever make you always bring us in – you always talk to us about it – you listen to what we have to say – you take notes – you take forever to make decisions.” But it had been brewing for about six months so I didn’t feel like it was a decision that I wanted to burden them with and so I spoke to two people – my wife, who I will talk about in a second – and Coach Troy. Since it wasn’t him going out and starting a team of his own, he said, yeah – you go ahead and do it – so, if it didn’t work I was going to blame him.
I went through all the processes with the board, trying to get just a three year contract – not like one that was escalating – just a three year contract. They didn’t want to do it and so I said, alright, well then you got two weeks to find another coach. I had planned that that was what I was going to do if they were not going to make that decision to do the three year contract. I hadn’t gotten a whole lot of pool space, so I sat there and figured out some of the things that I needed to do and so Ultraswim in 2001 was my last meet.
It was a pretty long drive home from Charlotte to Raleigh after the meet and I came in on Monday and cleaned out my stuff. Tuesday was the first practice for the Marlins of Raleigh and there were six kids that first day. I got there about 20 minutes before we were going to swim – I had gone to a summer pool at that point and asked them if we could rent some time. It was a six lane pool and they were only going to rent us two lanes and there was no one else in the pool, but I could only afford to pay for two lanes so we swam in two lanes with four lanes open. Nobody else there, but that is what we did because we needed to make it work financially. There were a lot of people that would say it couldn’t be done. The Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill area has six teams that are silver medal clubs or above, all within 25 miles of each other, so it is a pretty busy area for swimming and competitive and most of the time the teams are able to work pretty well together to make some things happen. It is not always fun, but the things that make it so you can work with that many clubs in the same area.
We developed a mission of developing champion citizens and athletes through commitment to excellence in swimming and try to think about that as we make budget decisions and I am not sure that all clubs necessarily do that. I think you always need to put your money where your mouth is. That fall we started with 35 kids, but I went into this knowing I wasn’t going to make any money that first year. That it just wasn’t going to happen. If I could pay my expenses – well, then that would be great. You know, if I could get a phone bill paid and my mileage paid, that was about all we were going to be able to do. But I went into it knowing that we were going to be that way. In fact, I had to put money into it to get it started. But that’s what had to be done.
Now, moving on to the development of the team and how we got to where we are, more from a competitive standpoint. As I mentioned, in the summer of 2001, we had six swimmers. I would go into practice every day and I was excited every day. My wife noticed right away – you know, you are happier now than you have ever been. I wasn’t making any money, but I was a lot happier because I was able to focus on things that needed to be done for the kids to swim well. I think it’s important to look at every opportunity and figure out, alright – what are the advantages? What can we turn around and make an advantage? We had a girl a year before who was 13 and weighed 77 pounds and the first time she got on the block she kind of looked like that runner that just spoke a little while ago and I said, well, Rebecca, how are we going to turn this into an advantage? You know, those girls have to pull a lot more weight through the water than you do. They are going to be more tired at the end of the race than you are and she says oh yeah, alright – that is a good idea so she ended up being pretty good. She swam for Jack at Georgia.
So one of the things that we always talk about is you get more attention when you only have six swimmers – you know – that is an advantage – their strokes will be better. Well, they also found out that getting more attention is a disadvantage because they couldn’t take a bad stroke – one breath off the wall – they were dead meat – every time. There were a lot of people that didn’t think that it could be done because of lack of pool space and things like that, but over the course of the next year we had a girl win the State Title, JO’s and that next summer, 2002, we had one of the college kids that came back to swim with me make the first national cut and that was as exciting a race as I have had.
In 2002 or 2003 we got a call – maybe in June of ‘02 – from Maureen Blamford, who was Scott Hammond’s former assistant at NC State. She was the aquatics director at this new health club going up about 25 minutes east of town in Clayton. She said we’re building a pool here, can you help us with dimensions and programming – we don’t really want to have our own team, would you just bring your team? Start a team out here and run it out here and I went out there and the pool was right across the street from a middle school and elementary school in this development – it is kind of a city inside a city. I thought it was a good opportunity so we hired a coach and put him out there so that helped us grow quit a bit and we had that Riverwood site and the team grew. We were probably about 125 in Raleigh.
That next summer in ’03 we had a girl win the zone championship, then in the spring we had five kids at nationals and we were 4th at North Carolina Senior Champs. So just within a short period of time we had been able to move up fairly quickly. In the summer of ‘03 we had eight swimmers go to nationals at Maryland and that one guy who made his first senior National cut – now this guy really wants to swim. He was going to be a senior the next year at NC State, swimming for Brooks Teal and he had worked all his life to make nationals. Well he was getting married that summer. He was getting married pretty young and he had told me he was going to get married on August 20 or something and I said well, good, then you will be able to go to Nationals and then go get married.
Well about six months before that he came up and he said, well we have had to move the wedding up and it is going to be August 1. I said, oh well, we will miss you at Nationals and he said “coach, I have worked all my life to go to nationals – I am not going to miss it now.” So the wedding date was the Saturday before nationals started. I said – are you kidding me? And he said, yeah, I am going to go. So he spent his honeymoon up at the University of Maryland in College Park swimming at nationals.
We had a relay there and it was pretty exciting – it had four guys – barely made the 800 free relay cut – I think they had been 7:53 or something like that. Well a couple of weeks before, Larsen Jensen had gone 7:48 and I told them – guys, the only thing I got to tell you – don’t get beat by one guy. You know, one guy went 7:48. So that was the motivation for our relay and they got up there and they blistered a 7:47, so they beat Larsen by about half a second and they were all off the hook, but it was a good relay for them.
In 2003 and 2004 we grew to about 150 swimmers now and word of mouth really was a big thing on it. It wasn’t like we were getting a ton of transfers from other teams – I will talk about some of the advantages we have in our area in being able to do that, but from a competitive swimming standpoint, we hit a very critical point. The senior swimmers had been training not real well – they had a horrible Christmas training – they were whining and complaining and we went to a meet in Charlotte and Mecklenberg was there – I think Lakeside, Curl-Burke and we were there at the meet and it was the absolute worst swim meet of my career – bar none. I have never had a group swim so poorly and I had been trying to listen to them and understand their problems and whatnot and help them along the way and you know, I just was despondent.
I spoke to Pete Morgan, talked to Mike Gabore – sat down and talked with them and said what do you guys think? I mean – our guys were rolling over and they were not doing well. So, I made a decision on the last day of the meet. The meet finished on Martin Luther King Monday around 1 o’clock and about 9:30 or 10 I told them look – if these 200 backs are not good, we are out of here. We are going home and we are training and one of my guys who just graduated this year reminded me at our team banquet that he was the last swim before we got on the van so he – he took the responsibility for it, but our 200 backs were not any better. So I got them on the van and it was a real quiet van ride back to Raleigh and we couldn’t get in the pool so we went in the weight room. We normally do two sets of ten or something; well I told them – go 5 sets of ten – not to speak and that they had better be barely lifting the last one each time and I said, better not say a word you guys. I have been listening to you – trying to help you out along the way – enough is enough – there is a new sheriff in town – we are going to do things my way. We are probably going to lose some people and we ended up losing a couple, but they were nice kids and they still come back and see me. But they were kids that were just there to swim and they just were not real interested.
We did a 3000 and I told them that it had to be their best one and everybody made it but one and the one girl who didn’t missed it by about 15 seconds. Her cap fell off and I said Laura, you know, that was a good effort with your cap falling off, but you are going to have to do it again. She said, I am not doing it again and I said well, I am sorry then–you come back when you will do it again. And her parents were great–they realized that this was just not something that she wanted to do anymore, so that was a really tough time and as far as coaching – that is about as low as I had ever gotten, but things started to turn around about two weeks later. They started training a little bit better – attitude got better and within six weeks we shaved at our sectional meet and had probably one of the best meets I have ever had.
And we had our first Olympic trial qualifier down at Orlando Nationals – I guess they were in February that year and so that was a big step for our program. Then in 2004 and ’05, we grew to 165 kids and in Indianapolis, Kirsten Smith made the national junior team on the first day of the meet in the 200 IM and we really thought she had a pretty good chance of making the 400 IM. But when she made it the first day in the 200 IM it was a pretty nice surprise for us.
In ’05 and ’06 – the group that I had originally merged with, the Racer group, had just about had enough with their merger with RSA because of dealing with the Board of Directors and they had come up to me about six – eight months before and they said look – this isn’t working – your model is one that works a little better for us and we would like to break off and then come with you. I said well – these are some things and we sat and met and talked about ways that we need to get things to happen. They then told the RSA folks and everybody on both sides there were relieved. We ended up getting 4th at sectionals in Nashville last year, which was the highest I had had a group place and we won about three or four events there.
We had another dip in training before Ultra Swim this year and I had been telling them the same thing and their attitudes were not that bad – they just were not going fast. Maybe that is partly my fault, but we went to Ultra Swim and they really got their butts kicked. Larry and I were both commiserating about how our groups were swimming there and our 400’s were dismal and so I had made a decision – we were going to do some swimming the next Saturday and I had planned on going about 80,000 that next week. Well, by Friday morning, l we had already gone about 78,000 and I knew we were going twenty 400’s on Saturday. On Thursday they knew something was coming and they said, what are we doing on Saturday? I told them and they just kind of gulped and got in and did what they had to do and then on Saturday, they came in with the best attitude of any group that I have had for a hard set ever and did great.
We went out to Santa Clara and had a great meet out there. Some things worked out well for us. We had split our senior group this fall to have kind of a 15 and over group and a 14 and under group and fortunately for me – unfortunately for him – John Watson was fired at New Wave on the other side of town – a team he had started 20 years ago. So I brought him on to help us coach and we have now got six full time people that work with us. John Fachetti swam for me, Kara Cameron had swum in Raleigh growing up, Timmy Minyard, my head age group coach, Ted Pearson, who we just hired from this area, from the Sea Devils. So, I feel real good about the staff.
So that is kind of a process of some of the things that we did competitively along the way. When you get to how did we do it – I kind of broke it into various sections of swimming – the coaching part – the business – some things that you need to know about non-profits if you want to do this or if you are not going to do it there as non-profit talk to Chris Davis. The guy makes a lot of money and he is a firm believer in doing things for profit and it is Swim Atlanta and then some of the staffing and marketing.
You know, one of the biggest things is just having a passion for what you do. That first summer when I left and went from 265 to 6 swimmers – yeah there were a lot of mornings when I would kiss my wife on the way out the door and say, I am really nervous about this. Then I would get to practice and these six kids would be all excited to go. Now. three of them were college kids, who were half injured and half coming, but they were there early each time. So we really only had three swimmers you would call year around swimmers, but we developed immediately a culture of work, a competitive environment.
If you want to learn about competition – particularly girls – you need to look at Anton Dorinth – anybody know who Anton Dorinth is? He is the women’s soccer coach at UNC and they have won 18 NCAA titles since 1981. He is a great speaker and he has written a couple of books that are about half soccer, which I hate, and the other half talks about motivating kids and getting them to be competitive and things like that. They will play a scrimmage and he will tell the girls – you guys need to be aggressive – if you don’t go and tackle that girl hard you are showing her disrespect. It means, basically, you are telling her that she cannot handle a hard tackle and so they really push those types of things.
Well, we fortunately do not have any physical type of things that go along that way, but we did talk a lot about pushing each other in practice. The first Saturday practice we had in the fall of 2001 – we had about 35 kids on the team – 20 of them were senior swimmers – about five of them were really senior swimmers and the other 15 were kids who had swum part-time and were looking for some magic wand or something. I am not sure what happened, but that first Saturday practice every single kid in the group was there and I thought that was a big step. If you can convince them that Friday afternoon and Saturday morning practices are a given, then I think that you will get them hooked because those are the ones that–they can come up with any excuse in the world for them and maybe the fact that I told them we were going to play a game at the end of practice got them all there, but they all made it.
We do a lot of things together as a team. Ryan Rimley – who is one of the guys who was a swimmer when we started the team – invited all the kids over to his house and had a scavenger hunt. I didn’t tell him to do this – I am not nearly creative enough to come up with stuff like that, but he invited them all over and he sat them down and explained to them, after the scavenger hunt – some of our training philosophies. He had been with me for a number of years and what was interesting was when he was 14 he swore he was never moving into my group. He said, I am not working that hard – I am not doing it. I am going to stay with Coach Matt for the rest of my swimming career – doing the 13-14’s, but he was the first one that came over because he really believed in what we were doing. So he talked to them about the cycles of training that we do and once we get into shape after about six or seven weeks, we go through nine weeks where we go a week aerobic work, a week of anaerobic threshold work and a week of lactate work with recovery in there. He sat down and explained all this so they would understand.
Now, this is all his doing – not mine, but probably a very important thing that happened in the development of our team because they all understood the types of things that we were doing and why. We had team captains and they developed a tradition where a different kid brings in breakfast every day so that they are getting something good. They don’t have to waste extra time stopping at McDonalds on the way and they kind of look forward to it because everybody has a different thing they bring, so you are not getting the same thing all the time.
You hear a lot about how kids are different today and they sit there and get on the Internet and if they don’t have high speed or something, they just cannot sit there and wait for it to come up. But I am a firm believer that kids will work just as hard now as they did twenty years ago. I had a great group of kids 20-25 years ago to work with and the kids I have today – I really believe they will work just as hard and I may not be able to use as many colorful words as you did back then, but you can challenge them and if you believe in them, they will work just as hard. You are selling them short if you don’t because then you are sitting there saying, “well, I don’t think you are good enough to do this” and that is the worst thing that you can do to a kid, because they know it and they understand when people do not believe in them. So we really try to tell them they can do things that they never thought they could do.
You know, the 20 x 400 set, they never thought they could do it, but they were going to come in and give it their best. A guy talked earlier today about doing things that you never thought you could do. We did some educational things with Dave Thomas from USA Swimming. Allen Goldberg, if you are looking for someone to do a Sports Psychology seminar for you, he is up in Connecticut I think, and he is outstanding. He is really good and he will talk to your age group kids and then he will talk to the parents and then he will talk to the senior kids and spend a lot of time with them. You will pay some money for him, but he is worth having. You do it every three or four years – something like that and he is really good. I think our kids got a lot out of having him come down.
I have a house on the beach at the coast that actually – those of you who know Chip Peterson – it is about ten or fifteen minutes from where he lives – down Emerald Isle. Also down there I ran into Greg Burgess, who is the former American record holder in the 200 IM. Greg is stationed at Cherry Point down there as a marine and I ran into him at a restaurant and he said you know, Coach, you want me to come to Raleigh and give a talk to your team? I said sure, how much is it going t cost me? He said, just buy me dinner and get me tickets to a NC State Football game – that is all you need to do. He didn’t have an agent – he didn’t have all this stuff that is going on – he just wanted to come in and help. He exemplifies what most people in this sport are about and he has come in three times and done that. He is a great guy and, just so you know, he has been to Iraq once and he is going again in January and fighting for our country.
Last spring I had Kirsty Coventry come in and do a clinic for us, thanks to Speedo, and talk at our banquet. She was great. We have had Rowdy Gaines. Evan Morganstein lives in Kerry, North Carolina, so we get to see him and he has helped arrange some of the stuff through Speedo. We had parent meetings early on and explained the goals to them and explained that at least at the senior level, their school and their family came before swimming, but if they really wanted to be good, swimming needed to be #3. It took some planning and I asked the kids to communicate to the parents – alright I got a big meet here on March 10th – so we probably don’t need to be going to the beach on February 25 for two weeks because that is when spring break is. So we talked to them about making sure the kids are communicating that, but we also talked to them about taking responsibility. If a kid comes in to me on Monday and he has been given five tests for Tuesday – says I need to leave an hour early – got to study for these tests, I will tell him fine, do well on them.
They come in on Monday and say I can’t be at practice – I have a term paper that is due tomorrow. I started on it Sunday – I didn’t watch any football or anything. I worked all day Sunday on this term paper and I just got a little bit more to do. And when did you get the term paper? Six weeks ago, but I worked all day on Sunday. Well, I am not going to have much sympathy for him so they are either not going to get much sleep or something because they are going to need to be at practice. We really worked on communicating with the parents and talking to them. You will hear what our structure is in a minute, but they don’t have to go through any layers to get information. They can come directly to me and if they have a complaint, they come directly to me. Probably about half the time their complaints are correct and I will sit there and say, you know what? I didn’t think that we were doing it that way. That is probably not how we want to do it. We will change it. You admit when you are wrong. It builds a lot of credibility. But they will also come up and if they say, well, you know, we need to be doing this or going to this meet – I will say – well this is how we are doing it. These are the reasons why. I hope you can understand that and leave it at that.
Our head age group coach, Tammy Minyard, swam with Ralph down at Pine Crest and then at Alabama with Jonty, so she has a great background. She hadn’t really done much coaching, but she is a very positive person and has been a huge reason why we have grown because of her positive motivation with the kids. People like to come and swim for her. We talk about under-promising and over-delivering all the time. I am not a used car salesman; I hope there aren’t any in here or their dads are or something, but I can’t have a kid come in and say to them, “hey, look, you come in and work hard and I am going to get you to Olympic trials.” I just can’t do that. There are some people who will, but I cannot do that. All I can promise you is that you will work hard – you will have a goal-oriented program, we will take you step by step and what you decide to do with it is going to be up to you. I think that is real important that you tell them the truth and that there aren’t any guarantees in this sport.
Business standpoint: this is something that is a real advantage for me and why I was able to do what I was able to do. My wife is an optometrist and when I met her she was on her way to optometry school, which I didn’t really understand – my eyes were always good, but now she tells me they aren’t…… But she is in a group of guys and the head doctor is a great businessman. He doesn’t really even see patients anymore and I just found out this summer they are the 37th largest practice in the country. I was like – wow – you guys are pretty good, but when I started the team, knowing that I wasn’t going to be making much money at first obviously, I had to sit down and talk with her and we were doing well enough – she was – that we could make some adjustments for a couple of years and that was a big sacrifice on her part, but she wanted me out of there more than I did probably.
You know that Board meeting that Rick Curl talked about – about the $20 cake or the $30 cake? Well, we had the same one, only it was “is the banquet going to have chicken or pork” and that went on for about 30 minutes. So I got a 4:30 wake-up call the next morning about why I was anxious to get out of the situation where there was a Board of Directors. We applied to get our US Swimming team sanction right away and got that within a week. It’s not that hard to do. Probably one of the other big things I did is I hired a bookkeeper, Dianna Lord. Her kids had swum with me a few years earlier at RSA and she had done some bookkeeping for us and I didn’t even think her kids were going to swim. I really didn’t want anybody whose kids were going to swim because I want somebody who was going to be completely objective. So she came on and her kids decided they did want to swim, but she is one of the most objective people that I have ever met and keeps me grounded. But whenever I look at things and we want to make some decisions – she can give me a really different perspective, but probably one of the most important things that I did was hiring her. Don’t come down and try and take her.
We met with an accountant who a friend of mine had set me up with to begin to set up a non-profit corporation. That is a decision we decided to make on how we were going to go and she gave us some good ideas, but she cost us money. Then we met with an attorney, Hill Carroll, who has done a lot with the USOC, and I sent her a brief of what kind of things I wanted in our by-laws. She looked over those things and she called me back and she said, “you know, I was up about 11 o’clock sitting in bed reading over your information…” which told me right there that this was the right lady. She was going to take the time to read it at home and do that for me. She said, what it seems like you want is you want to be able to run this non-profit and you be in charge of it and nobody would be able to mess with you – is that right? And I said, yeah, you pretty much hit it and she said, oh we can do that. People do that all the time.
Now, you need to understand, I am not giving you attorney advice because these are the words that she told me to say, “you want to have somebody help you with that – you need to call an attorney and she said, we can set this up and then in North Carolina the laws allow for that. Your state may be different, but she was great and so we set it up with a Board of Directors of two: Dianna Lord is the treasurer and I am the President and we are not elected. The board can choose to elect more members to it. Those two people can or they can choose to take it down, but there are two of us to take the 75% vote to get one of us removed. So as long as I am smart enough to keep two of us there, then I think I am okay.
We did some things that I felt like gave back to the community. As I said, we started the team in June of 2001 and five years ago was September 11 and, unfortunately, one of our parent’s brother was in the World Trade Center and he died. He left a wife with five kids under the age of 9 and so when we did our first Swim-a-thon, we were going to donate $1,500 of it to the trust fund for these kids. We felt like that was something that the kids needed to understand that they need to contribute to things more important than just them and not be wrapped up in their own little world all the time. We raised – I think – about $8,000 on that first Swim-a-thon. That is more than I had ever raised with 200 and some kids in 17 years at RSA, but I think the kids really bought into trying to help someone else out and also just trying to help the team out – knowing that it was a small team.
We have also given money to “make a wish.” We sent money to the Red Cross for tsunami relief to last year. And we sent a check down to–I believe the team is called New Wave in New Orleans. I think they may have changed their name, but they were devastated by hurricane Katrina – they had two coaches who had to leave because their homes were destroyed and obviously their facilities were racked up pretty bad. The letters I got back from them were just so appreciative. We had our Swim-a-thon in January and when we sent them the check in, I think, June or July, and it was really nice to get the notes back and the importance for them – that people still remember. That was from September through November, so everybody was really into trying to help down there and sometimes after a while that fades and so they were appreciative of being able to get some help after that–not so much what it did for them financially, but just knowing that there were other people out there and it made them appreciate the community that we are in as far as the sport of swimming goes.
A year ago we raised a little over $15,000 on our Swim-a-thon, which, again, was almost twice as much as I had ever had a group raise at RSA. I am not sure if the reason was being able to help with Katrina or the fact that they got to throw a pie in the coach’s face if they raised $200–so that may have had something to do with it. I saw a picture of Randy Reese getting pies thrown in his face and I figured, well, if Randy can sit there and take this, I guess I can do it. So we had a 12 year old girl who was getting ready to move into my group, but she wasn’t in my group yet, so she was going to throw her pie in Tammy’s face. Well, I was sitting right next to Tammy and she walked up – she looked at Tammy and then she thought a second and she comes over to me – mashes it in my face – in my hair – all over the place – and said “that is for next year when I am in your group.” I was like – I think this kid is pretty competitive – I am going to like having her.
We do a budget every year in April and, again, that was one of the things that I learned a lot through working with a group of parents at RSA. But, after six years I kind of got it. But we do it every year in April and we would look at every single thing that we spend money on and try to project as best we can what we are going to do the next year. I think it is a real important process for us because we are trying to get ahead of the curve – not waiting to try to do it in August or something like that.
What I found in working with this team was that I could get done in two hours what it used to take me 12 or more because I was the one making the decisions. I didn’t have to go through people or I didn’t have to then go back and explain to people what those decisions were. So there are not less problems when you don’t have a Board of Directors, or we do have a Board, but it is a board of two–but at least you get to pick them and you get to pick how you are going to approach how to solve them. I think that is real important.
I think that tomorrow Larry Shofe is talking about what he has done down at Sarasota, which is probably an even more important way because I think he has changed some things with an existing team. I wasn’t smart enough to do that. I had to go out and start from scratch and do it and get it set up the way I wanted to have it set up.
If you are interested in building a pool – and want to get anything out of it – you probably want to form a separate corporation that is either a “For Profit” or an LLC because when you are a non-profit, you are not going to be able to take it with you. I will go over that in just a second.
The next thing on the list is what a non-profit is and what it isn’t. A non-profit in North Carolina – it doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit, but you have got to pay reasonable salaries. You can’t be making Pat Riley money or anything like that. Also, you don’t have to have an elected board–I think everybody thinks that if you are a non-profit, you have to have an elected Board. You do not, but you can’t gain any money from it, so if you were to build a pool through donations – you want to retire in 20 years so alright – I am going to sell this pool – it is going to be my retirement. It is not happening. You can’t sell it. You can’t sell a non-profit. You can’t sell a pool and have anybody make any benefit from it. It has to go into some other non-profit organization and again, I am talking about laws in North Carolina.
You also have got to have by-laws. You have got to have Articles of Incorporation and I am telling you again – pay a lawyer, alright? It is well worth doing. It takes about six months for the IRS to get you processed, but in the meantime, they will tell you that you can act as a non-profit, unless they call you back and tell you otherwise. Then they will give you a determination letter after about six months. And I have got Cathy Stewart’s phone number – she is our attorney –if you are interested in calling and talking to her afterwards.
From a staffing standpoint, I hired Tammy Minyard – I talked about her and what a great job she does as our age group coach. We hired age group coaches who were former swimmers of mine or people who have cared about kids and that was important. I gave Tammy goals and objectives for her groups and a season plan the first year because she hadn’t coached before. She had taught a lot of lessons, done some clinics, a little bit of summer league, but she hadn’t really coached. I will go back again and say that you always support your staff – and that is how you build loyalty. That has been one of the things that I have been most fortunate over 20 some years of coaching is having assistant coaches who, if there are issues, they can come and bring them to me. They don’t sit there and stew about them or go run to the Board of Directors and complain about things.
Marketing and Recruiting: How we got things done. I told you one important thing was my wife is an optometrist and the other thing is the summer league in Raleigh – it has 8,000 swimmers in it, so there are plenty of kids to go around. We put up flyers about our team at all the pools and Ryan Rimley went around and helped put those up for me. So we got them up before anyone else. We had a tent at three city meets that they have – one of them was being run by my former team—well, not run by them, but the summer club was pretty much mostly those folks. They told us, well, you can’t set up a tent here and we said, why? And they said, well, you didn’t buy an ad in the heat sheet and I said well, here is a hundred dollar check – is that okay? We don’t need an ad since the meet has already started. They said, no, you still can’t do it. And we said, well, what about if it is off your property? They said, okay. So we went in the church across the street. So there we were, sitting across the street and it was actually the best thing that ever happened because it just drew more attention to us and we had more people coming over to us.
We developed a brochure – I have got a copy of that here. We did clinics at all the summer pools – one of them I remember I was doing and it was pouring down rain – 60 degrees and the kids wanted to stay in so I told them – well I will stay here if you guys want to and I think that shows some of the commitment.
In Raleigh, anyway, press releases are free. You send stuff to the Sports Directors – they are glad to get it because they don’t want to have to go out and work to do anything. So if you write it up all the way for them – most of the time, they will publish it, particularly in the smaller papers. But I developed relationships with the news media over the years and we got quite a bit of TV coverage and stories because I knew those guys. We have a Website – MarlinsofRaleigh.com, banners, T-shirts – a lot of the same stuff you guys do.
In concluding, one of the things that I always told my assistant coaches – because of how political it is in the Raleigh area – you don’t really want to listen to people who are willing to talk about other folks behind their back because as soon as you are gone – they are going to do the same thing to you. I got that from a Carnegie book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
I am there all the time. My wife is very understanding. She was a swimmer and so she understands my passion for this sport. So that helps make it so I can ask the kids to be there. Being up here just this week is enough to make me nervous because I don’t like missing practice ever. As I said – going without a Board of Directors is a better way, alright? I am a firm believer that a Parent Board of Directors is a situation that at some point is destined to fail. You have seen a lot of things happen with coaches over the course of the summer. I am not afraid to say that because I know that I will never work for a Board of Directors again because I am living in Raleigh the rest of my life. As good as my wife’s job is, we are not going anywhere. The only other thing that I would say – always get up there and have fun with what you are doing. If there are any questions – I have got a copy of our by-laws – you can glance at if you want afterwards.
Q. Why did you decide to go non-profit as opposed to full profit? I wasn’t smart enough to go for profit. I thought at some point we might want to build a pool and I had talked to somebody who was willing to give us some money – and so by doing that, but I also knew that I was going to have to form an LLC and so I felt like we could kind of kill two birds with one stone. The non-profit and for me – from the standpoint of managing the team – this wasn’t going to be really a whole lot different because I was in charge of it. You know, the parents – if they want to see our budget, they can request that because we are non-profit. But if they want to make decisions on how the team is run – unless they convince me – it is not happening.