Written by on November 25, 2022

July 2022

Tide Swimming is located in South Hampton Roads, Virginia and has programs ranging from swim lessons up to Masters. Tide Swimming engaged with Renata Porter, LLC in August of 2019 when Tide Swimming had approximately 530 swimmers and had just achieved their highest finish ever at Junior Nationals. Tide Swimming also qualified 7 swimmers to compete in the 2020 Olympic Trials in Omaha, the most ever in the history of the team and the geographic area.

Tide has a strong and dedicated Board led by Katy Arris-Wilson and a strong group of approximately 10 full-time and 20-plus part-time coaches led by Richard Hunter and Jack Roach.  Jack Roach operated as both an on-deck coach with the National group, a mentor for the entire coaching staff, and an advisor for the Board. 

The Vision

Even though Tide was experiencing great success, then Board President Katy Arris-Wilson, wanted to take Tide Swimming to the next level. The “next level” to Katy meant to be purposeful in their approach towards growth ensuring staff were well supported, communications were strong, and that they deepened their investment in their coaches. Additionally, Tide had the foresight to understand that growth meant there was potential for cracks and missteps to take place without proper planning. 

The Strategy

We kicked off the process by conducting an anonymous staff survey to gain a better understanding of staff members’ points of view on how the organization functioned. The responses were valuable to Tide leadership in that they supported some of their suspicions on where attention was needed while giving them valuable insight regarding the staff’s perspective on the future. 

In order to navigate their growth, they had to take control of their direction. The first piece of work established Tide’s Vision, Values, and Behaviors. Tide’s Vision was charted which ensures they know the direction to unparalleled success. Core values were established to ensure Tide Swimming was operating day in and day out to a consistent standard.  Lastly, behavior expectations were established, which provides clarity into how Tide Swimming will put their values into action. The values and behaviors were to be a point of focus for everyone involved with Tide – the staff, swimmers, parents, and volunteers. These would be modeled, celebrated, and corrected as needed in order to create a strong and positive work culture. 

Next, we analyzed Tide’s organizational structure. With regards to the coaches, it was understood that the Head Coach could not effectively lead the direction of the organization if he was responsible for the day-to-day management of over 30 coaches. We worked to design a structure with spans of control no larger than 4 people to ensure every coach has touchpoints and consistent opportunities to give and receive feedback. Additionally, we worked through various communication and team meeting structures for the staff. This allows proactive learning opportunities at an efficient cadence, keeping all staff on the path of knowledge and in the know.  

Lastly, we created a two-pronged development program for all coaches. The first approach requires each individual coach to establish their own goals in areas where they wish to grow and develop the most. Their manager creates the second part by providing their thoughts on where and how each coach should focus on development. These two prongs of the development program lay the foundations of success for not only each individual coach but also the entire coaching staff and membership. These goals would be monitored monthly between the coach and their manager to ensure progress was being made. 

After all of the work was developed, Tide Swimming Leadership then presented the work to all of the staff members. The intent was to let them know that Tide Leadership heard, understood, and valued their feedback from the survey. They set the stage with the Vision, Values, and Behaviors to purposefully define the culture and generate excitement about the future.  They emphasized the importance of embedding the values and behaviors so they become actions toward the vision. Lastly, they introduced a new organizational structure that would support better communication and they also explained the new development program. Both the defined organizational structure and the coach development program were key to ensuring the staff knew they were valued and that Tide Leadership was committed to investing in them. 

The Results

As a result of the new direction, everyone at Tide Swimming understood their positions within the structure and how specifically the culture was defined to reach their Vision. Coaches and swimmers started modeling and celebrating those behavior statements which evolved into natural conversations within meetings and or on deck, heightening their effectiveness to deliver a positive culture. 

The changes in the organizational structure and meetings revealed the need to elevate Richard Hunter to the Head Coach position and define Jack’s role as Director of Coach and Athlete Development.  The new structure gave Richard Hunter the ability to focus on the long-term planning and development of his staff. The reporting into a second layer of management and having a dedicated focus on development allowed coaches to feel valued and understood as well as giving them opportunities to grow professionally  This created a positive culture and engaged staff loyalty with a desire to see Tide reach its full potential. 

As of today, Tide has over 650 swimmers and is ranked 22nd in the nation in the USA Swimming Club Recognition program. This is a feat that they believe is directly tied to their purposeful approach to how they operate as an organization. Additionally, they had two swimmers qualify to compete for the US at the 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships, Kayla Wilson and Bobby DiNunzio. 

Doing the reflective and hard work to purposefully dictate your direction even when things are going well, has paid off for Tide Swimming. They are rapidly working towards achieving their Vision and have definitely taken the club to the “next level”.

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