A Swimming Success Story
Chris Davis has built SwimAtlanta from its humble beginnings into a national swimming powerhouse.
When Chris Davis and his business partner Jim Fraser came up with the notion to create a year-round swimming program, they weren’t exactly shooting for the moon.
“We were hoping to have 160-170 kids one day, hopefully have some kids go fast, and if everything worked out, we might be able to make $25,000 each,” Davis recalled.
Things have progressed beyond his wildest dreams. SwimAtlanta now has 2,100 swimmers training at one of its seven pools scattered around the metro Atlanta area. Five Olympians have been through the program, and SwimAtlanta has grown to be the largest club in United States Swimming.
Hard to believe that it all started in 1977 at a subdivision pool in DeKalb County that didn’t even have lane ropes. A photograph in the SwimAtlanta office shows Davis and Fraser standing on the deck of the pool in heavy coats, a coating of snow decorating the outside the fence, with kids splashing in the pool.
Davis, who has lived in Berkeley Lake with his wife Susan for 17 years, still shudders when he recalls the cold temperatures they endured during those early days. That’s no longer a problem; Davis has an office that overlooks the spacious indoor facility he opened off Sugarloaf Parkway in 2001.
“They say you rarely exceed your expectations,” Davis said. “But I can honestly say we have overexceeded my expectations.”
In addition to the main location in Lawrenceville, SwimAtlanta now has programs at Hamilton Mill, Roswell, Cumming, Marietta, Johns Creek and Georgia Tech. In addition to the competitive programs, SwimAtlanta also offers lessons, a masters program, water polo, scuba and pool management services.
There’s no question that SwimAtlanta has enjoyed glorious days. Doug Gjertsen (now a coach for the program), Amanda Weir, Hans Dersch, Eric Shanteau and Kathleen Hersey were members of the U.S. Olympic team. The club’s 18-and-under team won the U.S. Swimming Senior Nationals two years ago. The club has won a dozen Junior National championships.
“I’ve been fortunate. We’ve had some talented kids and I haven’t messed them up,” Davis said.
Davis is simply being modest. He continues to be one of the hardest-working coaches in the country and is often recognized for his accomplishments by being asked to serve on a national coaching staff. He recently traveled with a team to Abu Dhabi. He may be the youngest 60-year-old on the planet and still loves working with the elite swimmers in the program.
“My favorite part of the day is being with the kids,” Davis said. “They have such energy. They don’t care if you’ve already been here for eight hours and that you’re tired. They want your undivided attention and energy and you have to be able to give it to them.”
Davis admires his swimmers because of their willingness to work hard to achieve their success. Swimming is a sport that is regulated by the cold, impersonal clock. There are no style points and no chance for a judge to get in the way. It comes down to whoever touches the wall at the end of the race.
“And greatness isn’t something they sell at Publix on Aisle 9,” Davis said. “The difference is the commitment and doing things right and not cutting corners.”
Davis has three children, each of whom competed in the program at some level. Chris, 31, and Scot, 30, are currently on staff. Whitney, 24, works for Cox Enterprises. Chris recently announced his engagement to Amada Weir, who won two medals at the 2008 Olympic Games.