By Elli Overton, Director of Sales & Marketing
This summer the Wild Orcas, SwimTopia CEO Mason Hale’s swim team, swam against the Avery Ranch Redfish and he was impressed: with their team spirit, energy, organization, team gear and mostly their enthusiasm and sense of fun! I reached out to Diana Tripp, the Redfish Volunteer Coordinator to try to a get sense of what makes their team so successful and fun.
Q How long have the Avery Ranch Redfish been around?
A We are a pretty new team, this was our third season. I think the fact that we’re new adds to the enthusiasm, it all about fun and enjoyment for us.
Q I hear the whole neighborhood is really excited about the swim team, how did you gain momentum so fast?
A The early leaders that started the Redfish, like Tracy Beeman and others, were very motivated and high energy. They also had extensive swim backgrounds so knew what they were doing and were able to quickly get the team organized and running smoothly. We are a Resident Only swim team and it adds a huge sense of community. From the beginning the swim team was promoted as a team of families, not just a team of kids. We are lucky to have five community pools in our neighborhood, so the non-swim-team families always have somewhere else to go!
Q Mason says you have an amazing array of spirit wear. How does your team manage spirit wear and do you think it has an impact on team “spirit”?
A I think our spirit wear really contributes to our team pride and team spirit. We create items that look good and fit well and that people want to wear. We have a committee that works on spirit wear starting in the fall and the Spirit Chair is on the Board in a voting position. It’s an important job! We often have to do multiple runs of items because things sell out. We use the SwimTopia store feature to help manage orders and take payment and we’ve found spirit wear to be a good form of fundraising for the team. It may sound silly but having cool stuff to wear and use does contribute to our sense of team pride.
Q Your volunteers are enthusiastic and seem to have fun, as Volunteer Coordinator, what’s your secret?
A If you join a summer swim team you have to volunteer, I think that’s pretty standard, and most of our families are new to swimming so it’s all they know. It’s a close community, you see the same people at school and around the neighborhood so everyone wants to be seen as pulling their weight. People don’t slack. We do honor Avery Ranch Redfish parents that work really hard at our end of season banquet, this year we honored our computer guy and our team photographer. I actually think our team photographer is one of the secrets to our success. He’s not a professional and does it strictly on a voluntary basis but he takes tons of pictures at every meet and captures some beautiful moments. He uploads them to Facebook each week; it makes the kids feel special and saves the great memories.
Q Every team I talk to does things a little differently. How do you run your volunteer job signs ups?
A During the registration process parents pick a “Role” preference e.g. timer, tent parent, etc and then each week we open up the jobs for the meets and parents can only fill jobs if they are in that Role. Usually we fill most of the positions but one of the Roles is “Floater” and that’s how I fill spots where we are short. We are considering making some changes to the system next year; there is always room to improve!
A Our Spirit Chair is also in charge of booking our DJ for each home meet; that’s another team spirit secret. The DJ works directly with our starters and announcers and makes the whole meet feel like a party. We love to throw parent and coach relays into the meet line up. We take our parent and coach relay very seriously! The relays give the kids a chance to see their parents and coaches giving it their best and the parents and coaches get to cool off, it’s a win/win.
Q Do you host other events outside of swim meets that help to boost moral?
A Every year we host a Lap-a-Thon early in the season, that seems to bring people together and helps new people get to know everyone. The kids get recognized in lots of ways, with awards like “most laps swum” and “longest in the pool”, they get certificates if they go over certain lap levels for each age group. We make them feel special with a Red Carpet area and our photographer captures the moments. It’s great for moral and the biggest fundraiser for the team. Also, this January we did a Polar Bear Splash. We invite the whole community, not just the swim team. The participants’ jump in for a quick lap and then everyone enjoys our volunteer hosted breakfast. We roll out our team sweatshirts and t-shirts for sale (but the Redfish on the shirts is blue, because he’s cold). It’s a fun event that brings people together during the long off-season and gets them looking forward to the summer.
Q Thanks so much for sharing your team’s story with us Diana, do you have any other last tips, suggestions or secrets to the success of the Avery Ranch Redfish?
A Our team is new and young and for us it’s all about fun and enjoyment, not winning. We place a huge emphasis on personal bests and improvement. We give Personal Best Ribbons after each meet (and we try to make them even nicer than the League’s place ribbons), and at the end of season awards we give awards for most improved for every age and gender. It’s all about improvement and everyone comes away from the season with a sense of accomplishment.