Building Revenue with Competitive Groups by Tammy Hopkins, De Anza Cupertino Aquatics (2012)


[introduction, by Jennifer Gibson]
Good afternoon. I would like to welcome everyone. I was trying to wait a few more minutes. I keep telling Tammy that this is going to be a more popular talk than she realizes. It is a real privilege to be able to introduce Tammy to you. I have been fortunate enough over the last several years to hear Tammy speak. But not only speak at clinics but actually witness her work, watching their athletes in action at meets. So their/her method is amazing. I have heard her talk about organization of a big team, I have heard talk about swim lessons and transition to their competitive team, I have heard her talk about great ways to make big teams work in small pools; so I am sure she won’t disappoint today. This is Tammy Hopkins and she is from DACA; and I told them that I would make sure everybody knew their real name: it is De Anza Cupertino [Aquatics]. They are from the San Jose [California] area. They were telling me that, right now, they have approximately 800 swimmers on their team. So I am sure their challenges are every day, and new challenges come along. But with Tammy Hopkins on board, I am sure they face those challenges and triumph. So with no further ado, I would like to introduce you to Tammy Hopkins.

[Hopkins begins]
I have to apologize about the lack of hand-outs. To be honest, I thought there was going to be about 12 people in the room, and I quadrupled it, made about 50 copies, and it looks like we are a little short. I will email them to anybody that would like a copy, and I think that Guy said that he would be able to be putting them on the ASCA website as well. Standing up in front of adults is not necessarily my forte, so if you give me all a few minutes to get the quivers out of my voice, I would appreciate it.

First, I would kind of like to talk about what DACA is as an organization, we are more than just a swim team. We have a year-round, indoor, swim school; that is open seven days a week, 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. We run about 3,000 students through that program every week. We do regular swim lessons, we do adult swim lessons, we have lessons for special-needs children—and we do have instructors that are specifically trained for those children as well. And we also do adult aquatic therapy. Again, specific instructors that are trained to work in dealing with stroke patients, people with arthritis problems, things along those lines.

We also have what we call a Summer Swim program. Our Summer Swim program is swim lessons specifically over the summer months, kind of like your traditional Parks and Rec-type lessons. This year we moved those to week-long sessions. You can do one session throughout the course of the summer; you can swim every week throughout the course of the summer—we try to be as flexible as possible with that program. Also involved in our Summer Swim, we got what we call Pre-Competitive Water Polo and Bug Ball. Bug Ball is a program for kids that are pretty close to non-swimmers or just very novice level swimmers. We run it at the shallow end of the pool; they float on noodles if they are not good enough. But we put a ball in their hand and by the end of the summer a lot of these athletes turn out to be really great swimmers. My son was involved in the program when he was 4, and he absolutely loved it.

We also have an Adult Lap Swim program. I want to be specific: this is not a Masters Swimming program. These parents are not actually DACA’s members; they pay a splash fee. It is offered Monday-Wednesday-Friday mornings, at one of our locations from 5:30-7:00 a.m. They come in, they pay five bucks [$5] for a splash fee—we also have punch card that they can get 80 swims for $40. But we do have a coach that works it; if they want a workout, the coach will give it to them. If not, they just do their own thing. But again, they are not members of our program.

We do have a year-round Water Polo program, and I know that is a little bit frustrating to so many people in the room that do not feel that Water Polo and Swimming go together—we run under the philosophy that does. Year-round program that runs month-to-month for 14&Unders; people can stop or start that program at any point in time throughout the course of the year. The high school program that we have, it is a sessional, seasonal program. So we have a Winter program and a Summer program for those athletes, so it does not conflict with the high school water polo seasons and the high school swimming seasons.

We also have a Pre-Competitive program. Athletes, to get into our pre-competitive program, have to be able to get across the pool 25 yards doing freestyle and backstroke. And then we teach them all four of the competitive strokes from there. Most of those groups swim two-days-a-week: we have Monday-Wednesday classes and Tuesday-Thursday classes. Starting at a half-an-hour; the most advanced groups swim for 40 minutes. This year, actually just several months ago, we added Friday-only classes and Saturday-only classes; and we doubled the time: so hour-long Friday classes and hour-long Saturday morning classes that have proved actually to be quite popular.

And lastly, we get to our Swim Team. Like most swim teams, we run twelve months per year. Structurally, we have:
• two 10&Under groups,
• three 11-14 groups, and
• six high-school-level groups. Some of those are at the top-end of the spectrum, where they are attending Nationals. Some of those… our JV group, for instance, is actually swimming at more of a pre-competitive level but we did not want to put high-school-aged athletes bulked in with our younger kids.

DACA, in general, is a community-based aquatics program. We view our swim team and our families as our customers. And I think this is a really, really important point, and has an awful lot to do with our success in terms of numbers. A lot of people run under the theory, with their swim team in particular, that they want to keep their parents [at] as big of a distance as possible. And we just do not always run that way.

DACA’s Swim Team, we draw fairly large numbers, I think; depending on the time of year, we have got 800 plus/minus athletes. Those swimmers run out of two of our competitive facilities that are about four miles apart. One is at DeAnza College, in the middle of Cupertino; one is at Saratoga High School, just a few miles down the road in the middle of Saratoga. Truly, only about 35-40% of our athletes are what we would consider “competitive”. By that I mean athletes and parents that really have the desire for their children to attend competitions. I know everybody probably runs into that type of problem, but it is a really significant portion of our membership that really has no desire to attend swim meets. Why have them on the Swim Team then? That is a really big question; and to be honest, over the years, we have asked ourselves that question many times and have questioned whether we want to move in a different direction or not.

Non-competitive athletes are the single greatest, participant source of revenue that you have—single greatest, okay? Why? Non-competitive athletes do not take a lot of space. You can pack a whole bunch of them in a group, and your normal average-daily-attendance is fairly low because of those non-competitive athletes. So you are able to generate more revenue by bringing more athletes into the group. It is not what it says on paper. On paper, you might fill your group out at 35. But if only 15 kids are really coming to the group, you have got a whole lot of space and a whole lot of people that are paying membership dues, and it is not costing you any pool time at all. The other piece is: their families provide a very large volunteer base for you to draw off of. We host six or seven swim meets a year, and that is a lot of work—those of you that have been involved in hosting meets, I am sure know that. But we can host six and seven meets a year, have a little bit more control over the types of meets that are offered, the types of events that are offered; but our families and our membership is not exhausted, because it is not a small group of people that are participating in the meet function. So that is another huge benefit to it.

So what are some different ways that we use to generate revenue with some of these competitive groups? First and foremost, absolutely use the pool space that you have creatively and effectively. We all would love to have more pool time. And that is always the first thing you do, you run into a little bump and you think, ‘Oh, I need to go find another facility.’ That does not always need to happen. That is going to cost you a lot of money, first of all. Pool rates are at a premium right now, and it is really difficult to keep a program afloat with how much everyone pays for pools. So, use what you have effectively, creatively.

At one of our facilities, we have a diving well; a diving well that is 25 yards and 7 lanes. Some times of the year when things get too crowded, we will put lane lines in in a different way, and I will have 20-yard lanes but I can run 10 of them across the pool that way. And make-shift flags, put them up. And you can put some 10&Under groups there that all need practice on their turns anyway, and it is not affecting anybody or hurting anybody’s chances of progressing in the sport.

Another thing that you can do is take advantage of every single lane that you have. If you have got a group of athletes that are swimming with three kids in their lane, that is nice but they do not need that. If you have another group that is overflowing or you are turning athletes away from, if you have one lane, start a group with that one lane. And then depending on the level…. So for most of the groups in our program, if I had one lane, I would put 9 athletes in there. My average daily attendance for those 9 is probably going to be 6. If they are paying $100 a month, there is ten grand [$10,000] a year off of one hour. You do that for two hours, you get twenty grand. It is a lot of money—I certainly would not scoff at it. So just be creative with what you have, it is possible. There are ways to do things, do not feel like that you are running into walls.

Utilizing the current staff to the maximum. You can have one staff member work a 4/4½ hour shift. Some of ours are even working 5-hour coaching shifts; we have the pool space and the ability to do that—in fact, that is what most of the coaches on our staff do. That will cost you a lot less than it will to have two coaches each coaching two groups. You have got payroll taxes that you have to pay for each-and-every coach, and all kinds of other legal requirements that cost you money for every single person that you bring on board. So keep that in mind as you are developing things.

Use popular coaches at popular times
Right now at our De Anza College location, the later times are our most popular times. Six o’clock, the parents are off work, they want to get their kids in at six o’clock. Well, if you have got a really popular coach—and this works best with 10&Under athletes. If you take that coach and move them to an unpopular timeslot, you have a 3:45 timeslot; you take that coach, put them in a 3:45. Guess what? Suddenly, their schedules can change, and they can make it at 3:45 because they want to go see… they want their kids to stay with that coach that they absolutely love. What that does is that opens up your 6:00 timeslot. And that opens-up space for new families to come into the program; families that have no clue who that popular coach is and could care less. Families that all they really want is that particular timeslot because it works out with their schedule.

Another thing that we do: creating waiting lists. Believe it or not, if you have a group of athletes that are prevented from getting in a group time because you max-out and there is a waiting list, when registration times come and there are particular times of the year that it is really difficult for people to get in the program, people will stay paying with your program instead of pulling out and withdrawing for the month that they are going to Europe because they do not want to lose that spot, okay? So waiting lists actually generate all kinds of different energy and get people to think about things in different ways.

Absolutely convenience is probably the number one way that you are going to get new families into your program. I do not know how many of you are parents out here. My son is 6 going on 7; he’s played baseball, basketball, he swam, he is playing water polo. I could care less at this stage in his life about what the quality of the programs are. It has to be convenient for me to get to, it has to work around my schedule, it has to work around my husband’s schedule. And if I’m looking at a program that I am going to be enrolling him in for the first time, I toss the paper to the side if it does not look like it works out—I will not even go any further, I will not do research about what that program is. Your idea has to be about getting bodies in the door. That is number one: get those bodies in the door. After they are in the door, those people, as the kids advance, as they become more skilled in the sport and have the desire to progress and move on to higher levels, they are going to stay because of the quality of your program. So if you are doing your job and doing it well, those people are going to stay with you.

Just some examples. We offer multiple times for most of the groups in our competitive levels. And it is really important, I talked before a little bit about something that is on paper and what is actually happening out on pool deck. You have to know the numbers that work for you. At DACA, for most of the groups in our program—not the advanced groups—most of the groups in the program, 25 kids for 3 lanes works out great. That gives us an average daily attendance of about 15-18 athletes. But you have to know that specifically about your program because it’s going to be different everywhere. The other thing that that does, if you keep those groups smaller in 3 lanes, max them out at 25, every parent does not want to see 50 kids swimming in a pool with one coach—nobody wants to see that. If you are there, you have got to coach and they are working with 15-18 athletes, that is something that does not do anything but make your program look really good. Your kids are getting a lot of individualized attention because of the size of that group. That is a really important point, and as a parent, that is one of the things that I am looking for whether it is in school or other programs: are they going to get the attention? So 3 lanes, 25 kids works for us.

In the advanced groups, again, that does not work, because we do have attendance requirements for those kids that are truly competitive and advanced to the levels where they are moving on to going to Sectionals, going to Far Westerns, going to JOs. Obviously that does not work for those levels of athletes, so they get a little bit more lane space as they move-up and become truly competitive athletes.

Just an example, at De Anza College, our Yellow group, is an entry level for 10&Under athletes. They swim 5 days a week for 45 minutes. There is something for everybody: I have a 3:45 group-time for those early people; I have two middle times, I have got a 5:15 and a 6:00; and I have a 7:00 p.m. You know, when people come in and look at that schedule, they are going to find something that they are going to be able to do. They are not going to move ahead and shop-on at the next club because they have already found something for them. And again, this is about bringing more people, more athletes into your program.

Group move-ups
We offer group move-ups at very specific times of the year. At DACA we do that four times per year: September, December, April and June. The one that is really important here is our December move-up. We do that very specifically, because that is the time-of-year that you get a lot of families that want to bail-out of your program. And they figure: Okay, I don’t want to pay the month of December because… we are leaving for the holidays for a couple of weeks; we’ll probably come back in January. Oftentimes they do not come back in January because it is still kind of cold, so maybe you will see them in February/March. If you do a move-up in the month of December, what you get, you have kids and parents that are so excited about moving-up to the next level that you are going to keep a lot more athletes during those couple of months than you would have before. You do not keep all of them, but it certainly helps.

Diverse coaching
One of the biggest strengths, I think, of DACA’s program is that we have a big diversity in coaching styles. We are very, very fortunate to have, in my opinion, some of the best coaches around. We hire for character and I think the people that we have on staff are simply amazing. And if you get a chance to talk to them and ask them some questions—there are four of them here today, I will introduce you… 5, sorry, 6, 7. I will introduce you to them later. But different children respond to different things, okay? I am a teacher, or used to be a teacher, so this is kind of where a lot of my ideas come from. Some children respond to male coaches, some respond to female coaches; that is just the way it is. Some parents really prefer very rigorous coaching style: no messing around, here we go, this is what it is, we don’t joke around, get to business—very literal in their approach. Some parents and kids really enjoy a really energetic presentation, a coach that jokes around and has fun with the kids. Both of those are great things to have; you are offering something for everyone. The diversity of delivery, not necessarily philosophy, again, is nothing but a strength; and if you have an opportunity to offer that in your program, I cannot imagine that it would be anything but helpful for you.

Supply and demand
Right now, I think I mentioned at the beginning, our customers swim twelve months a year. This is actually something new—I think we changed this two years ago. We used to do eleven months a year. We would swim till Nationals were over, till Far Westerns were over; and then all of the coaches were exhausted from all the Summer swimming programs that we offer. Everybody took a couple of weeks off and then we regrouped again in September. Well, we had kids that were going to other teams because their parents could not stand them sitting around at home doing nothing. And as a parent, now, I understand that completely. We also had people going out to other programs, taking stroke lessons from so-called “stroke gurus”, and they would come back with these habits that were questionable at best. So it was something the parents wanted. So it was something that we provided.

And it has been… we do not lose people in August. People will stay, they have not missed a beat and the entire membership stays. The only additional piece that it costs us is pool rent. For our coaching staff, we used to have… force everybody, essentially, to take vacation time in August. Now they take vacation time at any point they want throughout the course of the year. It gives the coaches a little bit of choice in the time that they take. And, again, it has been nothing but successful.

Our customer also wanted individualized stroke instruction. Again, I go back to there are stroke gurus in our area that claim to be the answer to every stroke problem that ever existed on the planet. And they would go to people, and we would come back and you would look at them… and it was obviously done by people that did not… at least were not on the same page as we were—let’s put it that way. So now, the majority of the coaches on our staff offer private lessons. And it is strongly encouraged from the administrative end: we give them pool time to do it, and we really, really want that to be a part of our program. We have also added stroke clinics in; we have offered swim camps, water polo camps as well. And that is all done within pool time that we have already purchased, that is already there. We are planning on doing clinics on Friday evenings during practice time, so it is not an additional cost to us and we are going to be utilizing the staff that we have already got in place.

Our pre-competitive… yes?

[question from audience]: Given all that, with the private lessons, do they go through the club accounting system? Does everybody pay the same rate with the coaches, regardless of which coach it is? It is 30-45 minutes and you get billed by the club or do they pay that coach separately?

[Hopkins]: The question was: how do the private lessons work with your club, and do the coaches get paid individually or does it go through the club? We have actually done it both ways. Several years aback we charged… the club took a percentage of it and they signed-up through me at the office and then I assigned it out to a coaching staff member. It did not really work for us very well: it was hard to stay on top of, to be honest with you. Now what it is, we have standardized the process in terms of: they do it on their own. They have been instructed that any money that they make as a result of the private lessons is their money to claim with the IRS. We have standardized the price, however; what our standard price for everyone is right now is $40 a half an hour. So that was one thing that we have done.

Our pre-competitive program, I think I spoke earlier that we added Friday and Saturday programs this year. That goes back to a scheduling thing. Our pre-competitive athletes are usually doing violin and piano lessons and model U.N., and all kinds of other things during the week. Membership really wanted to have Friday and Saturday classes: a one-day-a-week class to fit in with their program. We did it, and I think I mentioned that those are the most popular days for our program.

The last point that I really want to stress is that: listening to the people that you have in your program is really quite important. And I do not mean that in the sense that you should allow parents to come-up on deck and tell you what your coaches should be doing in the water and what the workout styles are like. We do not have any part of that; in fact, the coaches are fairly well-protected from that type of parent input. But, in general, Swimming parents are not usually stupid people. They are very highly intelligent people, from all different walks of life; many of them grew up through the sport of Swimming. And some of them have some great ideas. Some of them will allow you to see things from a different perspective. And I think it is really important that you listen to them, and do not keep them at that arm’s distance. I am not saying that we do not have pain-in-the-rear parents: we absolutely do. And those usually fall on my plate to deal with—it is lots of fun. But you do need to listen to your customer base and what they desire. And do not automatically assume they are wrong, even if it is with regard to something that you are doing coaching-wise. I have had parents come up to me, and after my initial frustration with all their criticizing me and my coaching… what they are doing; sit down and think about it. Think about if there is any truth to what it is they are saying, first; if there are any good points in what they are saying. And then use that to your advantage, whether it is in your coaching and how you run your program, and whatever you do. You know, people, parents, can be an asset to you.

Lastly, I just want to kind of bring up some difficulties. I have been with DACA, I do not even know how long now, maybe 13 years—long time. And it was not as large as it is now when I started with the organization. We started to grow very rapidly, and what I did, is I just kept plugging in groups and putting them out: I need another group, I will put it here. There was not any rhyme or reason, or forethought, to adding the groups that we had; I just knew we needed to add them. The process has been fine-tuned, and now, four years down the line, I started to realize by the parent feedback: Oh, this really is a great thing to have different groups at different times. This really is helpful to a program; this really is what people are looking for.

So now, from time-to-time, we do have to change things and change times. Like everyone else, we go through times when coaches leave and you get to bring someone new in that might not be the best fit for the groups that the former coach had. So, when you have those opportunities to change things, it gives you an opportunity to, if you have got to change it anyway, design it a little bit more closely to what your plan is. I guess what I would say is: think about what you want. You might be small right now, but it might not be the case three/four years from now. But if you begin to dream and design and create and think about exactly what is you want, as you need… begin to add different pieces, you will be able to create an end-product that is exactly what you desired.


[question from audience]: I just have a question—I mean I couldn’t get it. What do you guys want… I’m just curious, are you board-run club?

[Hopkins]: We do have a board. They go to two meetings per year. But in general we have an Executive Director; he is sitting right there: Pete Raykovich. He oversees all of the DACA programs; my specific niche is the Competitive Swimming program. But, basically, everything competitive swimming-oriented, if we have got issues or problems, we run through Pete.

[audience member]: The question… it sounds obvious that we want, but are you doing all this work to pay your bills? Is that the objective of all the number of athletes, the competitive, the non-competitive, etc…? Is that your first objective, to build a base… what is the overall objective?

[Hopkins]: Paying bills would be one. But actually we are very fortunate to be able to have a staff of people that are coaches. There are very few people that we have on our staff that have two other jobs to pay their bills. So we have, many of them as I said are coaching 4, 4½, 5 hour shifts, and do other things within our organization as well. But the goal here is to be able to have a staff of truly professional coaches, not just someone that is a part-time lifeguard, and be able to pay them a living wage.

Going back to being flexible. Things do not always happen in the way that you want them to. Be warned that the more athletes you have, the larger your organization is, it is much more difficult to change. It is a beast that is really challenging to move. We have debated over the years with this issue that we have of: we only have a small percentage of athletes that are truly competitive. Should we split these two programs? How should we move forward? We have looked a lot into doing that. One of the reasons we have not, we would have to probably… in order to do it and do it right, we would probably have to lose a very significant portion of our membership. People that have been with us for years, maybe even with us from the time they were water babies at our swim school. And what that does, you say, “Okay, see you later”; 100, 200 people go somewhere else. What that does is that throws them out to the community with really a terrible taste in their mouths about your program. And I do not think that is a really smart thing to do. So be flexible, be prepared; because sometimes you do have to change directions.

Lastly, if your ultimate goal is to have a successful, competitive swimming program, creating ways to establish a base for you to be able to draw athletes from is really important. And it goes back to the point that we just discuss with the question that we had. I love that our coaching staff, they are professional coaches. And we have got… I think we have got twenty coaches on our staff. This is what they do for a living, and they are quite impressive people.

So that is all I have got, if anybody has any questions?

[question from audience]: One more question. Would it be easy to go monthly with every group?

[Hopkins]: Yes.

[audience member]: Have you tried, you know, I have come at it that way and some of the other teams charge per season, it seems like the attendance is much better because when they are writing the checks they have things to give them more focus. Have you tried it both ways?

[Hopkins]: Our Pre-Competitive program currently runs that way; that is a sessional program. To my knowledge, in my time here, we have not done it that way, but not anything that we necessarily would not consider at some point.


[question from audience]: How do you work… as far as… you are essential renting water from schools, how do you work your time with them and how does that [inaudible] ?

[Hopkins]: One of the things that we work to do is we usually have people on our staff that are working at the school with various programs. For instance our De Anza College site, Pete for many years was their swimming coach there; and we currently have one of our staff members, Jerry, that is working there in the Aquatics department at De Anza College; and one of our water polo coaches is on staff there as well. Out at Saratoga High School, the high school swimming coach there, Christian Bonner, is one of our people. That keeps our ear to the wind in terms of figuring out sometimes what happens with the programs. But we really work, quite hard actually, to make sure that the relationships that we have at the facilities are mutually beneficial. We work very hard at that.


[question from audience]: How much would one of your stroke-and-turn clinics cost, and how much time would that be?

[Hopkins]: The clinics that we have had in the past, and that we are looking to plan in the future, are going to be minimum numbers. Hour long clinics; we have done a diving one in the past, that was an hour long that we limited to 15 kids. And I think we charged $20.


[question from audience]: What is your best return on investment, as far as what programs you offer and in-terms for grow and revenue?

[Hopkins]: Our swim school.

[question from audience]: So when you do the clinics, you do it on Friday night and you have a practice?

[Hopkins]: Yes.

[audience member]: So how does that work?

[Hopkins]: The bulk of the kids that are going to the clinics, it would probably be offered with a 6:00-6:30 time frame. The bulk of the kids that are going to the clinics probably are not going to be swimming in that time frame. So we have our Gold Age Group athletes for instance, or our National athletes, would already be complete with practice at that point in time.

[question from audience]: Regarding your lessons program, do you run your lesson program out of both De Anza and Saratoga, or do you have another facility for that?

[Hopkins]: Our year-round swim school is a completely separate site and it is indoor. Our Summer Swim programs where we offer lessons, are offered both at De Anza College and Saratoga High School; but those are summer-only swim lesson programs.

[audience member]: And the lesson program, did you build out that facility or is that community pool?

[Hopkins]: We did build that facility; it is in a shopping mall, a little strip mall.


[question from audience]: So you have mentioned that when you started the team it was very different than it is now. Can you define some of those differences?

[Hopkins]: The main difference is that it was much smaller. We had, when I started, probably close to about 200-250 kids on the team, depending on the time of the year. There was not really much of a structure to it; it was fairly haphazard. We called groups different names at different times, but there was not really a… we changed the tracks. We now have levels in the competitive program for 10&Unders, we have got the three levels for 11-14 year-olds. It was not really like that. We had a lot of kids that were mixed in different age groups and different levels; just because: all right, here we need a group, we need to throw kids in; here we go, let’s offer it at this time. So it is a little bit more… there are tracks for kids to be able to move through.

[question from audience]: I guess my question is: are you coaches [paid] hourly or salary? And how do you decide?

[Hopkins]: Most of the coaches in our program, I think everyone with the exception of one, is a salaried employee. I try to get everybody a full shift. There are some coaches that… we are very fortunate to have Bill Thompson here—he is a great resource, if anybody wants to talk to him about coaching stuff. But he is gifted a two-hour shift, because he works with our Gold kids and he needs a short shift.


[question from audience]: I know that DACA originally was a traditional competitive swimming club. Were you there when they transitioned into this more of a bigger community?

[Hopkins]: I was not here at the onset when Pete started the swim school at the very beginning. But I have been here for the, kind of, huge growth of the organization, yes.

[audience member]: How did that happen?

[Hopkins]: How did that happen? I think obviously there was a little carry over from kids from our swim school moving in to the competitive program. But to be honest, we were not doing a whole lot of advertising when the program was growing. We have a fairly good reputation within our community, and there was a lot of word-of-mouth that helped us get there.


[question from audience]: You talked about kind of bringing the parents closer and including them in your programming. I am really careful about that. Can you provide some examples of how you have be able to do that, and has it been able to work successfully?

[Hopkins]: I would not say draw them in; I am not out soliciting information. However, we do have a working office that is open 9:00 to 5:00. And from phone calls that we get from parents, I am the person that deals with most of the complaints within the program, to be honest. People that are frustrated and angry about different things, that have concerns; ultimately those calls get to me. And I will listen. You know, you always have to take things with a little bit of a grain of salt. Our coaches are very well-protected: they are never harassed, parents do not get to go out on a pool deck and yell at them. From that end, I am the buffer.

But I do listen to everything; I listen to everything they have to say. And if it is something that is totally ridiculous, I will tell them: well, you know, I’m sorry we’re just not going to go in that direction. But I do think about it; they are not always wrong. But we do not draw-them-in; we are not out soliciting attention. But if there are people that are coming-up talking to you, they might have some really good ideas. They are just looking at it from a parent’s perspective, a totally different angle than you might be looking at it. And they do: they have ideas.

[question from audience]: In that idea of protection, do parents have access to the coaches’ emails or do they have to go to the office?

[Hopkins]: No, they go through…. If they have a quick question that can be answered in about thirty seconds on pool deck. An appropriate pool-deck question would be: what events should my child swim at this meet? If they have a concern or question about how is my child doing, things along those lines, they can call the office, schedule a meeting. For most of those meetings, I sit-in with the coach just to make sure that everything goes fairly smoothly. But no, in general, our coaching staff does not have email correspondence with the membership. That can get you into trouble from time to time.


[question from audience]: You guys [inaudible]… Do you do surveys or have… [inaudible] ?

[Hopkins]: We do not. Like I said, we are not out soliciting the information. But I do go out and I talk to parents quite a bit. Sometimes I am not coaching out on pool deck, and I will just walk around and chit-chat with parents. See how they are doing. I like to know who the kids are, I like to know who the parents are in the organization. And we will just have… sometimes very friendly conversations about things.

Okay. Thank you very much for coming.

##### end #####

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