John Leonard: I am going to give you the theory and what we think it does for coaches and for swimming. I am also going to give you some of what we call the marketing advantages of it. I will introduce you to part of what we do in our SwimAmerica model school and then Karen will give you the actual examples of how we make the model school work. This is one of the places we learn how to make the entire SwimAmerica system work. After that we will talk about how a coach becomes a SwimAmerica program director.
I want to start out with what the purpose of SwimAmerica is. SwimAmerica was formed back in 1987 or 1988. It was formed by 2 committees of 5 persons on each one. They are thought of as some of the most successful swim coaches by many people in the United States. Some of the characteristics that these people shared was that they had also been involved in learn to swim for their entire coaching career. That is how they were selected.
When you go back to the original purpose of the ASCA, which goes back to 1958, one of the things that were in the constitution was that ASCA would be involved in promoting and directing learn to swim programs. Nothing had been done about that until 1987. In 1988 we started to pick up on that theme in the constitution and the 2 committees met and we talked about purposes.
One thing we talk about in the SwimAmerica training is we always go back to basics. I’m going to talk about some of the very basic, fundamental things that are the absolute most important things we do in SwimAmerica.
One thing that came up is why do we want to do this. The short cut term I use to explain this is we want to do good and we want to do well. We want to do good in the sense that we want to be good for the swimming and coaching community and we want to do well because we want the people who are involved in this to make a good living. This is an issue we deal with in our office every single day. Somewhere around that magical age of 30 to 35 many good young coaches have to make decisions about whether they can afford to coach. My family has to come first. Can I make a good enough living? One of the things that was very important to both of those committees was, is this a way coaches can earn a better living? We thought the answer was yes but at that time we weren’t exactly sure what the practical ramifications of that were. One criteria was let’s do well. Let’s make some money.
The second criteria is let’s do good. We are all concerned about doing good. What kind of good are we talking about? We have the number one problem of drowning. We have to prevent people from drowning. The second thing is we must look at the base of competitive swimming teams. They must come from somewhere. They come from learn to swim. One of the most common complaints from 1980 to the end of that decade was that it is unbelievable what we get in our programs at the novice level. We are teaching people to swim at our novice programs. We are wondering where these people are coming from. They are coming from Red Cross programs, they are coming out of unnamed community learn to swim programs, they are coming out of all sorts of unstructured, undependable programs.
Some of them are great, some Red Cross programs are fantastic, but it all depends on the individuals who are teaching rather than on the system. There is no coherence in the country where you can get good swimming lessons that do a good job of preparing young people to participate and succeed in competitive swimming. How can we improve that situation so that everybody who runs a program can have people come into their novice program prepared to succeed? And I’m not talking about the old American system of throw all the eggs against the wall and the one that doesn’t break becomes a competitive swimmer. How can we do better than that? The very first thing that the committee talked about was why do people learn to swim? It’s safety, safety, safety. What sells swimming lessons is safety. There isn’t anything else to sell swimming lessons. Nobody brings their child into the pool thinking that their child will be an Olympic swimmer. Nobody comes into learn to swim for anything other than safety. So SwimAmerica sells safety.
It sells other things like fun. It sells fun because there are so many things you can do around the water safely, if you know how to swim, that you can’t participate in if you don’t know how to swim. Fun is the second part, it’s safety, safety, safety, fun and fitness. That was the basic concept and the basic thinking. One of the most dramatic discussions that these 2 committees had was what do we mean by learn to swim? Let’s define it. The definition that the committee came up with after discussing it with some physiologists for a couple of months, was this: A young person has to know how to swim 300 yards and they have to know 6 different strokes. Why did we come up with 300 yards? The physiologists told us that some people can swim as far as 200 yards using a lactate energy production system. That sounds long for a lot of swimming coaches but physiologists always have a different answer than we as coaches. We use 300 as a safe standard. A standard meaning that if you can swim 300 yards you are able to get a descent air exchange in a consistent manner. So it became 300 yards and 6 different kinds of strokes.
The four competitive strokes plus elementary backstroke and sidestroke. These are two more safety strokes. That became the definition of when you know how to swim in the SwimAmerica program. That definition was very important because there was no standard definition in American swimming. We wanted to make that our standard. In a nut shell, do good and do well, those are the purposes. Have we succeeded? The program is a decade old now, let me give you some numbers. There are 780 sites around the United States, with a couple in other countries, that are running SwimAmerica programs at any given time. We estimate that the average SwimAmerica program is dealing with 1000 different clients a year. That gives us some where in the order of 750,000-800,000 young people taking SwimAmerica lessons in any given time period.
There are now a lot of people involved. Frankly about twice the size that we anticipated it would be in 1997 heading for 1998. We have doubled the rate we expected. Let’s talk about children going on to swim team. This is the hardest thing for us to quantify. It is very difficult for us to get statistics even from our own program directors. What we are estimating is that 10-20 percent of the children that take SwimAmerica lessons wind up for some period of time on a competitive swimming team. Let’s talk about real numbers. If it’s the lower side (10%) then 75,000 children a year at least try a summer swim league program. To put that into perspective in all of USS there are 200,000 athletics, in all of high school swimming there are 220,000 athletics. Let’s be ultra conservative and say only 5%, half of 75,000 is 30,000, we are getting a lot of people involved in competitive swimming by starting in a SwimAmerica program. The numbers are very good. It has to be financially successful. Less than 5% of programs that start up stop. The ones that do stop operating are typically because their program director decides that there are other interesting things to do — other things they want to concentrate their efforts on.
Karen and I and anybody else in our office has never heard of a single SwimAmerica program that ever failed financially. That’s a remarkable statistic. Given the number of businesses that fail. 4 out of 100 businesses make it past 10 years. We don’t know of a single SwimAmerica program that has not made it financially. You can talk to any SwimAmerica program director and they will tell you that the doing well and the doing good part is easy. In the last 12 months Karen has trained 35 program directors, 73 site supervisors, that’s just the last 12 months. It is growing quite fast. There are 6,340 coaches or instructors in the water teaching SwimAmerica. It is no longer a baby size program, it’s has grown to be quite substantial. Those are the statistics, those are the things that tell us we are succeeding. You can always do a better job for those who are running the programs. Let’s talk about what we see as the competitive advantages of SwimAmerica. Why would somebody want to run a SwimAmerica program as opposed to any other kind of learn to swim program. We will start with the two most important things from a technical standpoint.
The program is goal oriented. It is organized into stations. The parents can see progress at a very rapid rate, it is readily identifiable and the progress is objective. We can see right away that the goal for each station is measurable, objective and obvious when a child has made it. The stations are arranged in a manner that children learn that they can learn quickly. One of the great criticisms of other learn to swim programs is that a child can linger in beginner swimming for a summer or two, because there is a list of 30-35 things you must conquer before you can move on. I would suggest to you that out of that 30-35 things there are 1 or 2 things that are absolutely crucial to a child learning to swim. The skills asked for in other programs are so great that people stay in one place, there is no goal direction, no progress.
SwimAmerica is designed to show the parent and child that they can learn and knowing that you can learn is a critical factor in motivation. Technique oriented is the second thing. We start with professionally trained swimming coaches. For a while I struggled with this. I knew that it was right but I couldn’t figure out intellectually how it made a difference. Now I am real clear. Steven Covey said begin with the end in mind. As a swimming coach you always have the end in mind because every single day you see good swimming. I ask you to think about your own community and reflect about the people who are not professional swimming instructors, ask yourselves when was the last time they saw good swimming. The picture that will probably come into your mind is maybe never. Maybe a very long time. If you don’t know where you are going how are you going to get there?
SwimAmerica program directors are coaches who see good swimming every day. They know what it looks like and they know where we are trying to go, the end is already carefully in mind. We are teaching good swimming skills right from the beginning, technique oriented. We also don’t tell you, professional swimming coaches, where your child’s hand is going to go into the water. You all know those things, you have those pictures. The training we provide doesn’t concentrate on those things, it concentrates on organization, structure and making the program goal directed and making your business run well. We assume that you do a good job technically. Now assume is a funny word, we don’t guess. We make sure that you have had a level 2 school, that you have had learn to swim teaching experience and that you are an experienced coach before you are accepted as a program director. We are quite sure we are starting out with people who are technically competent and good teachers.
The first two competitive advantages, goal directed and technique oriented. Even the newest parent into swimming can walk into a SwimAmerica program and look at another program at the other end of the pool and will intuitively make the right choice. They can see right away where the child is learning, where the child is progressing through the program. It’s instantaneous. It’s a tremendous marketing advantage. The third thing is we do not sell on price. We go back to the idea of why do people learn to swim? People learn to swim for safety. We emphasize to parent that they can pay $20 for a set of swimming lessons, or you can pay $80-$90 for swimming lessons, but what you are paying for is your child to be safe around the water. We are going to deliver that. Does $70 really matter? Not only are we going to deliver but we can prove how well we deliver and nobody else that I know in American swimming learn to swim circles can do that.
We can give you objective measures and you can see how well we teach. We are not selling on price, we are selling on the quality of the lessons and we can prove it. To prove it is absolutely critical. Another competitive advantage that works very well is when you are working with a third party agency. Sometimes those people are training the people you are going to have work. The quality of people you have in your program is dependent on someone else. In SwimAmerica you train your own instructors. We give you the method and the materials, you give them the technical content that you want taught. That is a critical feature, being able to train your own people gives you tremendous advantage in the market place because you are getting people you know. You will know exactly what they know and if they are failures you are also responsible for that. The training system is so good that that is usually not a problem. You are linked with our national office and 700 other sites around the United States. When you have new ideas or practices that you want to try, you call Karen or her staff and you tell Karen or her staff your ideas.
They will be able to put you in contact with people who have done it and you can get the best practices from the other 700 sites. That is one of the major functions of our national office which links you to a bunch of other highly successful professional swimming coaches conducting learn to swim programs. Competitive advantages that we have in the market place. The last competitive advantage we have is we have the best award system for young learn to swim people in American swimming. They work for the young people and they work for the parents. The parents are vitally important in the ages 2 up to 16, the parents are the people who get them there. If they are not encouraged to get them there and continue to get them there, those children aren’t going learn to swim. The awards work extremely well from both ends.
I want to introduce you to what we do in our model program. In addition to running our national program, Karen also runs our model school which is in Davie, Florida, which is out in the middle of the Everglades. Five years ago this pool was the Everglades. It was part of an area that was developed and drained. It is a beautiful 50 meter pool by 25 yard. It is in a fairly isolated area but like most areas in South Florida it is becoming less isolated. Everything is growing up around it. The number one reason we put this together is we had so many ideas regarding teaching and business that come into our office from all over the country and we needed a way to evaluate those ideas. We needed a way to test them and try them out to see if those things work. That’s why we call it a model school. Like any other model school, we test things there and try things out. Some of the new things we’ve done is with our signs on the various stations. We had a new technical concept that we changed to in 1993 and we started getting out to people regarding side glide kick. So we could start to teach core rotation, trunk rotation. This was not just for advanced competitive swimmers but right from the learn to swim. So we now have 3-4 year olds swimming with good core rotation.
Again, we are talking about technical excellence. We learned how to teach it, we experimented, we failed for months, then finally figured out how to do it. Now every time we go out and do a training session we are showing people how to teach a new technical thing. Is this new to competitive swimming, certainly not. Is it new to learn to swim, talk to anybody who is not a SwimAmerica program director, they won’t know what you’re talking about. We have learned technical things to do and more importantly we have learned how to teach them. We also run programs there to teach people to do pre school and baby learn to swim. The only state that I am aware of right now that regulates pre school and baby learn to swim is Florida. All legislation in the United States that has to do with aquatics comes from one of two places. It comes from Florida or California.
There is now legislation in California that will do the same thing and begin to regulate. Once California begins to regulate then it will spread across the country. We are ahead of that because we were the second program after Red Cross in Florida to get our pre school and infant programs approved by the state of Florida and then henceforth will be approved throughout the United States. That came out of our model school program in Davie, Florida. Some new teaching things we are working on now is teaching the Boomer principals. We call them the Bill Boomer principals. We are working now on incorporating this into the learn to swim level with our teaching methods at our model school.
Karen Leonard: When I first moved to Florida I had never worked in an office. I had only taught swimming lessons. I was a physical education major and had done outside activities. I had run a successful swim school in Virginia and I thought it was easy. So I thought I would take this nice job in Florida, sit at a desk, and type stories about how to run swim schools and everything will be peachy. After being into this 2-3 months I forget a lot because I didn’t have my hands on it. John thought of the idea of a lab school and I thought that would be a good way for me to keep my hands on so I don’t go around the country talking to people about things I did 5 or 6 years ago. We started the lab school in December on 1995. We started in December because for me coming from Virginia it was warm here. I didn’t know the some people in Florida thought that December was winter. It was 80 degrees and I thought we should go swimming. We got 2 kids out for swimming lessons.
The board at ASCA gave me no money to start a swim school. So I started a swim school with no dollars and myself to teach. I went out and I taught 2 children how to swim for 8 lessons. After their first 8 lessons they brought a few friends and we kept moving along. We started out in the winter with 2 children and by that summer we had 234 children in swimming lessons. I had no budget, I had no money and I was saving because I wanted to hire someone to come in a help me. In May we had about 50 kids and it was getting out of my control so we hired staff. We had in the summer 234 children but we taught more lessons than that. At that time I kept track of number of children, not the number of lessons sold. I had 234 names so I had 234 lessons. Actually most of the children stay, usually they repeat at least 3 times.
For me that was 24 swimming lessons and a lot of them stay indefinitely and go on to swim team. We kept growing and this summer we had 733 swimming lessons that were paid for. We don’t run a large program because I have another job and I travel a lot and I’m not around to supervise the swim school as much as I’d like. So we try to keep it a reasonable size. Could we grow? Yes. We have had offers to grow and some real nice situations but we need to keep it under control and manageable. I’m going to show you someone who is running a very small swim school. This was based on 349 paying customers and 175 non paying customers. How was I so lucky to get 175 non paying customers?
This is a program of the American Swimming Coaches Association, which is a not for profit center, so we offer swimming lessons to groups. I also got a grant from the National Pool and Spa Institute that allowed me to teach 100 children and they paid $50 for 5 lessons. Just our county chapter did this. We have a bad drowning problem in Florida but in south Florida it is worse. I opened the paper 2 weeks ago and read that 3 children had drowned in one neighborhood in one week. That’s not even front page news.
We take it for granted in south Florida unfortunately that we are going to lose a child or two every week to drowning. We wanted to effect some changes there, so we are known in our area for offering free swimming lessons. The National Pool and Spa Institute, Broward Chapter, are people who built and service pools and they want to change the reputation of pools. Pools look like death traps in south Florida so they want to help improve the reputation of pools. This was the first year they got involved in a grant. They wanted to see how we can get families out. We called all of the HRS certified day cares in the area and the day cares that were interested in swim lessons were thrown into a hat for a drawing.
We got the mayor of Davie to come to the pool and he selected 5 schools. Each school brought 20 kids from their day care. I have given free lessons before to parents and they don’t always come. I needed to have a good program that really ran well. The mayor pulled the names and we called each day care that was chosen and they brought their children to the pool for 5 lessons. The lessons were Monday through Friday, then the children came back on Friday evening and we had a pizza party, two mascots named Gus and Goldie came and we did a little demonstration for the parents. Then the children had a swimming lesson in front of their parents.
I was able to explain to parents how important it was to have your child in swimming lessons. These children were 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years old. It was great to have this grant and I learned a lot from it. By pulling names out of the hat we hit the lowest economic levels and the highest economic levels. What we found with the lowest economic levels is that they were working 2 jobs and couldn’t come in the evening for the free swim lesson. This was very unfortunate.
What we found at the highest level, were we really had a chances was that the parents had no more information than the parents at the lower level, about how important swimming lessons were. They wouldn’t know how to choose the right swimming lessons program. We did a lot of talking about how to choose the right swimming lessons program for your child. Many of those children signed up again, about 70 of those kids came back to lessons again. So that was good for us. In one 6 week period we generated $21,000 in lesson money. We run lessons in the morning and then our freebies come in. We then run afternoon and evening lessons. My lessons are $85.00 for 8 lessons. However every lesson brochure we send out has a $5.00 off coupon, so usually I get $80 back from the parent. We offer private lessons as well. All of my instructors are swim team members or water polo kids. Many of them were All-Americans that I had picked from here and there. It was very limited hours that we ran the program because the instructors were training. In another 6 week period we brought in $31,000. I pay my site supervisor $14.00 an hour. I had the private lessons salaries. We also had the Speedo swim suit deal, every child that come into our program gets a Speedo swim suit. I have included the cost of the swim suit in the lessons fee. We have an agreement with Speedo and they provide us with a very nice racerback suit, which says SwimAmerica across the top. So every child that come in gets that suit from ages 2 and up. Some of my little 2-3 year olds still have to wear diapers and I have a SwimAmerica diaper that they wear.
There is a lot more profit on the diaper than the swim suit, the diaper is only $5.00. The boys suit costs about $16.00 and the girls suits around $20.00. My parents see this $85 price of the swim lesson and they know that they can go to Authentic Fitness and buy this suit for $40.00. They discount the lessons by $40.00 in their mind and they see lessons are $40.00 plus a free suit. All the other lessons after that for one year you do not get another suit. The suit is only for the first lesson and the price stays the same. Once they see the quality of the lesson no one ever asks if they are getting another suit. Speedo helped me out with our Boys and Girls Club and Kids in Distress which are programs that John and I have been active with for a long time. We had pool rental of $712.00. We had numerous pizza parties for the free lessons. Which came to $389.00. We bought fins and a new banner which was another $800.00. We had state tax and the 941 payments that you have to count on. We had insurance and cost of mailings and printing. The total of all my expenses was $18,588.74 which made my profit $12,829.73 for my summer 6 week program. This is not difficult.
I have a full time job, I travel all over the country. I am probably gone 2 days a week. I know coaches are busy but you are usually in the same state as your swim team. I’m not, but I have a good person running this program, I do not run it myself. I hired someone and I trained her. I trust her to do a great job. I train all my own staff and the program runs very nicely. Of course I watch over it and check in on it every opportunity I can. I don’t have to be there every single night. I teach on Saturday by choice so I can do a good job when I go out and do training. But you don’t have to, you could just run a 6 week program or whatever you want. That’s the kind of profit you can make in 6 weeks probably running about 3 1/2 hours a day of lessons. Not counting all the freebies that John and I give away to Kids in Distress and things like that. We do pay staff for those freebie hours. If I asked the staff they probably would work for free but I don’t. The first thing I did when I started the program was try and find a pool. It took us over 1 year to find our first really good working pool. I found a pool after 1 month but it was 45 minutes from our office and I found after 2 days it was miserable. But we went in with that recreation department which was the Palm Beach County Rec Dept.
They said we have all these lessons we can not fill and we would love to have you come in. To me, all these lessons, sounds like thousands of lesson. However rec departments are difference. All these lessons were about 25 swimming lessons. So I was driving 45 minutes each way to teach 25 lessons with a small staff. We did this the first summer and we made some money but it was not great. So we kept looking for a pool. The first thing I learned about looking for a pool was keep calling and asking people. I kept calling everybody I knew in south Florida and finally one of our own ASCA coaches said he thought he knew where there was a pool. So I went out and knocked on the door and the man said you must be crazy the YMCA was just here and they never paid their rent. We will never have swimming lessons here again. We bugged him, my assistant and I kept on him. My assistant was Susan Gottlieb at that time, maybe some of you know her, she was a very good butterflier, a PanAmerican Games Gold Medalist, and very determined. She was going to find us a site. It was her job to find a site. She drove this man crazy.
Eventually he let us in and now we have a great relationship going with him. We were very persistent and patient, we wanted to find the best place. We had already decided that the 45 minute drive was not good. This is a city pool. It is run by a city that considers themselves the wild west. It is a very unusual place. You don’t think of south Florida as having horses and wearing cowboy boots. There are horse trails all around our pool. They could have cared less about swimming lessons so we had to go very slow and teach them about swim lessons. We learned to be patient. We learned to solve problems. We asked them what their problems were and they said their biggest problem was that the YMCA didn’t pay. We assured them that we would pay them and we showed them that we had paid Palm Beach County.
We kept following through, this is something I learned from John. Every time you go to a meeting you write a letter thanking them for meeting with you. I kept writing them and thanking them for their time. We wanted to form a partnership with them. This was an area at that time we couldn’t do. Now that we are successful they want to form a partnership with us. When we talk about forming a partnership we are talking about sharing in the profits. They didn’t initially want that because they had gotten burned by the YMCA. Now that we are successful they want to renegotiate their contract with us. They have been good to us and we have been very good to them. We have brought them a lot of publicity. We will probably have our swim team families join this pool as members. This looks real good to the city council getting all these new members. They want to get memberships. We have had problems, but we have worked real close with them. We had some lightening problems, there is a lot of lightening in Florida.
About June a new lightening policy appeared. It said that if there is lightening within 20 miles of the pool they will close the pool. From Fort Lauderdale 20 miles east is the Atlantic ocean and who cares if it’s lightening out there. They would close the pool. We had to work that out with them and we did it. I have learned that there were 2 things they wanted to know. One that we would be professional and that we would be humble. They had experience with swim coaches that would say I’m going to run a big program and I have all these swimmers. They don’t care, they want to know that you are going to pay your bill and make the citizens happy. Their citizens are not asking for someone to take their child to the Olympics. They want good swimming lessons. Fortunately for us we have been able to provide good swimming lessons. We have introduced a lot of new teaching methods at this pool that people have sent to us.
We have made videos on using new machinery. We publish these things in the SwimAmerica news. In our SwimAmerica program we have all these different stations. We heard from program directors that the parents like the stations but they can’t figure out who is in what station. So we developed signs that are clearly marked with the station sign. If your child is in station one the sign is clearly marked with a large 1. You know where to line up your child. When the parent walks down the pool deck, there are signs on the pool deck and that’s where the kids line up. We are helping people improve the appearance of their program. We have done SwimAmerica swim meets. We got together with other SwimAmerica programs in the area and in the summer they bring their children over in the evening and we have a swim meet. Everybody gets ribbons and eats pizza and we have a great time. Everybody get ribbons for participating even though the meet is timed. We have a great time with that. We have mile swims. This was another thing that came out of another SwimAmerica program.
During one of our World Clinic SwimAmerica Conferences someone brought up that they have all their kids do a mile swim and they all get a trophy. Some of these kids are 3 years old, so I asked how do you get a 3 year old to swim a mile? You allow the younger swimmers to use kickboards and fins. Let them do anything they want to achieve the mile. Every mom gets a piece of paper marked 1-66 and they check off each lap the child swims and when the child finishes he has swam a mile. The newspapers go crazy with this.
You have some 3 year olds swimming a mile and its exciting. We introduced the wet ball program with water polo. That has been a big success. We have all our swimmers play water polo in the month of August. They have a good time. We play with a junior size ball. Even our 5 year olds put fins on and they play. We separate them into younger and older kids and they learn the drills and play. We invite all the community in. We do have a swim team out of our swim lessons program. We have grown our swim team from our lesson program. The kids after lessons didn’t want to leave. It was not our intention to have a swim team initially we figured they would go somewhere and swim. But this is their Town of Davie and their pool, they want to be in this pool where they have already swam. So we started a swim team. That swim team plays water polo in August and it is also a great time to register new swimmers because we invite everyone in the community to come in and play water polo. They come in and play water polo and end up staying. We charge them twice the fee for water polo than our regular swim team fees.
John Leonard: If you notice 1/3 of the people we taught, we taught for free. Yet we paid our staff, we paid our pool time. If you take that $12,829.73 figure and add another 1/3 on it and you have $18,000.00+ for 6 weeks. That’s not too bad. $3,000.00 profit a week. Plus you paid your site supervisor a good salary. If you want to look at that as a part time job just project it over 52 weeks. It’s a good salary, not many swim coaches make that kind of money. You can do this. You can do this program in an indoor pool. You can do it for 8 sessions. You can do this and make a healthy income 185 and still coach a swim team. We don’t do this as the most financially successful program in the country because that’s not our idea. There are program directors who do a lot better than us financially. They run it as a better business. That is not our purpose.
We just wanted to show you what 2 people who are just muddling around, not really worrying about making a lot of money, still make good money. If anyone is wondering, 60% of this profit goes back to the ASCA to support the ASCA. The rest stays in the business to help grow the business. So we can do a bigger and better job and be able to offer more free lessons. We think this is a clear example how you don’t have to spend forever doing it. Everywhere I go people ask how much money can I make as a SwimAmerica Program Director? I know some people who put in a very little time and add $10,000 a year to their revenue. To some people that is significant and to some it’s lunch money. There are other people making $250,000.00 net as a SwimAmerica Program Director.
It really becomes a program that you can grow as big as you would like to. It can become your whole occupation in aquatics. It can compliment your coaching job. It will do a number of different things, it is incredibly flexible. I want to talk a little about what the requirements are to become a program director. First you must be a certified coach member of the ASCA with at least the level 2 school completion. Why? Technical proficiency. We have to know that you know strokes.
Second you must have a history of running learn to swim programs or teaching in them so you are familiar with the whole operation of how lessons run and what some of the lesson problems are. The third thing is you get a home study course. You take the home study course and attend a 10 hour 1 day training session. It is a very intense training session, people are brain dead by the end of the day. We have found that 1 day and 10 hours training are better than dragging the training session over 2 or 3 days. People would rather spend 10 hard hours than 2 days or so. You must pass the SwimAmerica program directors test which is a very difficult test. You must study on you own at home and you must be attentive in class. That is one way we get good rates for insurance. You get your insurance cheaper as a SwimAmerica director than any other way unless you own your own pool. We have a HAVE TO list that is pretty simple. We won’t go into those things now but if you are interested about them you can get those from Karen. No one has ever said the have to list is too hard. There are a few things you HAVE TO do as a program director. Everything else is ideas, suggestions, information for you to use.
The manual is very extensive but it is not a have to. When we say the program is flexible it is used in every setting in the United States from dual indoor 50 meter pools teaching 300 children at a time to a back yard pool with one person teaching one on one. We have examples of all the ranges in between. It is totally flexible. The investment to you is $1,000.00 which is a one time fee. You also purchase staff training materials from us which are $20.00 each. It’s about half the cost of any other program in the country and you get 2 to 3 times better quality training. It’s a good deal. One of the have to’s is you must use the SwimAmerica awards system. You purchase these awards from us at $.75 each. These are tear proof and water proof certificates. Nothing can happen to them. Karen talked about the lightening policy. This was an endless struggle this summer. But it’s a good story. We were trying to not upset the pool staff because they were on our side. They wanted to get a more reasonable policy. Meanwhile, some of us who were involved have short fuses, and everybody was at the end of their fuse on our end. I was out of town and Karen called and said we had another cancellation of lessons due to lightening, this was about our 75th one of the summer, this was lightening that you could not see, the sun was shining. Their lightning meter was reading under 20 miles so they closed the pool. No one heard thunder or saw lightening. They would clear the pool anyway. The swimmers are out of the pool and they are leaving the pool with their parents. As people are driving out of the parking lot, in the park next to the pool, which is all governed by the same municipality, were hundreds of kids playing soccer. One of the parents sees this and the next day she calls the rec department and explains the story and tells them that most of the kids in the pool were young ladies and the kids in the park were young men. We are out of the pool and they are not off the field. She says she has a daughter and I feels this is discrimination. I think it’s discrimination too. Why should our sport suffer? The listened to that. The parent tried to work her way up the chain of command but still, she got nowhere because they all knew what she was calling about. This parent works for a TV station in Miami. Finally the director of parks and recreation calls the parent back to respond to her complaint the receptionist answers the phone saying, “This is Channel 2.” So the parks and rec director panics and you can imagine how quick the new lightening policy came through the fax to the pool. Magically we had gone from 20 miles to 3 miles. The safety issues went away when the word discrimination and Channel 2 were spoken. That’s our funny story for the day. We feel we have something that gives swimming coaches a way to do well and do a lot of good. We try and do both from the model program.