Thinking Outside The Box

Updated: Mar 4

Written By: Kristina Bond

There are 10+ USA Swimming club teams in the greater Charlotte area. There’s something special and unique about each one of them – from their size, to their culture, to their coaches’ background and style.  

In short, there’s a team suitable for nearly any swimmer. 

In my Director of Operations role here at TEAM Charlotte (“TEAM”), I wear many “hats,” which include overseeing and coordinating: swimmer and family communications, meet scheduling and preparation, practice scheduling, social media, marketing, corporate partnerships and sponsorships, swimmer inquiries and tryouts, new member onboarding, registration, apparel, meet entries, updating our team website, and more. 

Coaches do not pursue coaching as a career because they love the administrative work. They want to focus on coaching and on improving their swimmers. Having a full-time director of operations dedicated to ensuring that our team runs smoothly each day significantly lessens the burden on our coaching staff, allowing them more time to do what they love: coaching. This, we believe, permits us to provide a higher quality service to our swimmers and their families.

We realized the necessity for a director of operations position about a year after I joined the team.

When I first started with TEAM as a coach in the fall of 2015, we faced a daunting challenge. Our primary lane space, the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center (“MCAC”) in Uptown Charlotte, was closed for an entire year for renovations.  Many of our families had transferred to other area swim teams.  The 33 swimmers who remained were increasingly anxious and likely still considering their options.

TEAM had averaged 70-85 swimmers each season before that.  Yet, at that time we had 33 swimmers and faced questions about our ability to survive financially.  

I was a part of a brand new coaching staff back then, on a team with no indoor lane space (with cooler weather fast approaching), not enough swimmers to fund the team for the long term, and a serious member retention issue. 

A crisis focuses the mind, they say.  

Secure water. We worked swiftly to find available water and in doing so built solid relationships with multiple area pool owners that allowed us to rent space for that year and beyond.

Retain and recruit swimmers. We met with existing families and created a plan of action. We started regular “bring a friend” days to practice.  

Slowly but surely our numbers started to grow. 50 swimmers. 60 swimmers. By the following summer we had 75 swimmers.

While we had survived the worst, we also knew that there were two fundamental components to retaining our new swimmers: keep them happy and keep their parents happy.  

Our swimmers were dedicated, bright-eyed, and ready to learn and grow, but new to year-round swimming.  And so our coaches remained encouraging, while working hard to make practices and learning fun and engaging.  

Our swimmers quickly bought into our new team culture. They were ready to work hard to achieve their goals.

Our parents, on the other hand - with many brand new to year-round competitive swimming - had lots of questions and concerns.  And, as we know, parents pay the bills.

The world of year-round swimming is very different from summer league and non-competitive swim teams.  There’s confusion and questions as parents navigate the transition from summer league. We knew these new parents, and even our existing ones, needed to be educated, informed, and constantly kept up to date with all things TEAM. 

As I’m sure many coaches can relate to, even when you feel you’ve provided the required information, you’ll still get the inbound email -  “What time again do meet warm-ups start on Saturday morning?” - and requests for additional information. It’s not unexpected. Parents are incredibly busy in 2020, including transporting kids in multiple sports, ensuring a good education, and managing their own careers.

So while our team was growing fast and we had survived the storm, we knew that to keep it that way, and to separate ourselves from other area clubs, we needed to think outside the box. 

To adequately ensure that the club focused on two fundamental goals - keep our swimmers and families happy - our Board of Directors created a director of operations role at TEAM Charlotte. 

This new role would serve as a full time resource for parents so that questions could get answered quickly and accurately (thus keeping our parents happy), and allow our coaching staff to focus on coaching and developing our swimmers (and thereby keeping our swimmers happy). 

Our team has grown and changed in more ways than I could have ever imagined in the last few years. MCAC reopened in 2016, we expanded to multiple sites in the Charlotte area, welcomed hundreds of new swimmers to our program, and now have a staff of 10 coaches. Our record registration numbers totaled nearly 300 swimmers in 2020.

It’s been a lot of hard work, by our swimmers, coaches, parents, and our board.  But we came together and decided that ensuring Team Charlotte’s future was for the best.  I’m proud, as Team’s first (and still current) Director of Operations, to have been a part of it.

Kristina has been with TEAM Charlotte since 2015, first serving as Head Age Group Coach (2015-2017) and then transitioning to the Director of Operations/Associate Head Coach role in 2017. Kristina swam collegiately and graduated from Queens University of Charlotte (2012) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, and completed a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management at UNC-Greensboro (2018). Kristina is also the Program Director & Varsity Head Swim Coach at Providence Day School, and the Head Coach for Carmel Country Club in Charlotte. At the LSC and national level, Kristina has been a part of the NC IMX Camp Coaching Staff for five of the past six years (2016-2019 and 2021), served as an assistant coach for the NC/SC Open Water Select Camp (2019), and was selected by USA Swimming to serve on staff for USA Swimming's National Open Water Select Camp (2019) and USA Swimming’s Southern Zone Select Camp (2020).

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