Club Excellence Spotlight: SwimMac Carolina


By Emily Sampl//Correspondent

SwimMAC Carolina first opened its doors in 1977, under its previous name of Mecklenberg Aquatic Club. The 2013 Club Excellence Gold (small)program has grown steadily since then, acquiring its own 50-meter facility, the MAC Swim Center at Charlotte Latin, in 1990. By 2001, the club had expanded north to Huntersville, N.C., and established a two-site satellite program.

Current CEO and Director of Coaching David Marsh took over the program in 2007, and that year USA Swimming and the United States Olympic Committee recognized the restructured SwimMAC Carolina as the first Center of Excellence for swimming in the United States. SwimMAC Carolina earned the Club Excellence Title as the top club in the country in 2011, and has been recognized again the past two years as the top Gold Medal club in USA Swimming’s Club Excellence Program.

Around 800 competitive swimmers call SwimMAC home, and the club has produced a number of U.S. Olympians in its rich history, including 2012 Olympians Cullen Jones, Micah Lawrence, Kara Lynn Joyce, Davis Tarwater and Nick Thoman.

Pam Swander, North Region Manager and Head Coach at SwimMAC, offers five keys to SwimMAC’s continued success. 

  1. Leadership: “We couldn’t do it without strong, consistent leadership and staff. They’re the ones that make it happen on a day-to-day basis. It takes a collaboration of coaches working together. It’s not ‘me;’ it’s ‘us.’ Our coaches must follow the club’s mission and vision, and really emphasize our values of teamwork, commitment, leadership, development, integrity and excellence.” 
  2. A winning culture: “A few years ago, Jerry McDonough helped us examine our current culture and learn what a constructive culture looks like based on the most successful companies. The most sustainable cultures are the most successful. Successful cultures are also flexible. We’ve set the club up to change with the demands of our sport.” 
  3. A pathway to success: “Through our curriculum, we emphasize that it’s about the journey and experience of the families that walk through our doors. Swimming isn’t just an activity; it’s a lifelong skill. We want to make sure that everyone has a quality experience that’s appropriate for them. We see being with the kids through their elementary school years all the way through college, and even once they’ve finished college. It’s very intentional; it doesn’t just happen. The coaches spend a lot of time working with the kids and their families to help them reach their full potential.”
  4. Intentional inspirational moments: “We really think about how we can make the most of our kids’ time and give back. We’re constantly seeing the value of this and the value of providing inspirational moments for them.” 
  5. Moving into the future: “There are two pieces to this. The first is structuring partnerships that are long-lasting and mutually beneficial (for example, SwimMAC has partnered with a dryland facility and is making the most of their expertise). The second is communication and social media, and how that impacts our program. The key communication person is the lead coach, and they really take advantage of Twitter, Facebook and TeamUnify in communicating with our families.”