Congratulations, you’re being inducted this month into the Los Angeles CIF Hall of Fame! How does that feel?
Well, it’s awesome considering the list of athletes that are getting inducted. It’s pretty impressive to be on that list, and I’m certainly appreciative for being acknowledged for that.
The caliber of the athletes and coaches that have all come out of Los Angeles is truly amazing. So, you've won four Olympic Medals—and then opened up a swim academy here in West Los Angeles. How do you like being a businessman?
I enjoy it a lot. It’s certainly much different than being a professional athlete. I have applied a lot of the personal skills I picked up from swimming to my business. Perseverance, dedication, committing to and setting goals—those are things I was so used to being a part of me for years as an athlete, and now I’m using them to become a businessman.
Did you run into any hurdles when you started this business?
You always run into hurdles. Being able to maintain my staff while building this academy [was difficult]. I had people who left and opened swim schools that basically copied what I did. We want more people coming into the program, and that’s always a challenge. But again, I’ve been fortunate to understand that if you have the right foundation and the right business model and you focus on your strengths and you don’t necessarily dilute yourself and react to every good or bad thing that happens, you’ll be ok. It’s been a model I’ve used for the past eight years and it’s been very successful for me. We started with just two locations in L.A., and now we have eight across the country.
Why does your academy focus on training toddlers in particular?
Our goal is obviously water safety. When you’re talking about parents with young kids, their goal is to get their kids water-safe first and foremost. We’ve also been fortunate enough to develop a program that doesn’t just teach water safety—we offer [classes] teaching all four swimming strokes and certainly provide a very strong foundation for the kids looking to move on and do swim team.
How often do you interact with the students?
I’m there in my office or on the pool deck so I can interact anytime. I always talk to kids and parents. I’m easily available because their feedback is extremely important to perfecting ourselves and making the program better. There’s nothing more important to me than getting feedback from the people we’re trying to please.
Where’s your favorite place to swim in Los Angeles?
I would have to say USC. I’ve spent many, many years in the McDonald’s Swim Stadium there, and I absolutely love it.
Where does an Olympic swimmer go to cool off during the summer?
Honestly I don’t go to the beach because I’ve had enough of the water! The beach just doesn’t appeal to me. I do go with my kids, but I actually much prefer to exercise in that sort of setting.