Chris Davis is a legend in the local swimming community. The 1969 graduate of Druid Hills High has been co-owner and operator of SwimAtlanta since he opened the first facility in 1977. He has coached many of the top swimmers in the county since that time.
In this latest installment, Davis talks with staff writer Corey Clark on a variety of topics, ranging from how SwimAtlanta got started to Amanda Weir to his best vacation.
CC: When did you come up with the idea for SwimAtlanta?
CD: Well, it was my partner Jim Frazier and I. The interesting thing about that is, Jim Frazier lived in Florida (growing up) at the same time I did. And then we moved to Atlanta within two weeks of one another. We never knew each other in Florida and even though we went to the same high school, we didn't meet each other there either. We met at the YMCA in Decatur. And later on, after we knew each other we went way back, and his family lived in Ft. Lauderdale, too, and it turned out we went to the same kindergarten together. So it's like it was almost fate. We had always talked about starting our own swim team, even when we were 14 or 15 years old. So I called him up, he was in the Virgin Islands at the time, and I called him up and asked if he was really serious about doing that. He said, 'Come down here, and we'll talk about it.' So I went down there, and we decided to do it. And we came up here cold turkey and started SwimAtlanta in 1977.
CC: How did it go that first year?
CD: Initially we couldn't get a loan to build an indoor pool because it was such an atypical facility. So we had an outdoor pool and we just put a heater in it. So we trained that entire first year outdoors with no bubble, no (building) structure of any kind. And it just happened to be one of the coldest winters in history. The pool was heated, but Jim and myself froze every morning.
CC: Things have changed a bit since then, huh?
CD: Yeah, we started with 32 kids and we now have five locations and about 1,400 swimmers. It's actually far exceeded our expectations. Our goal at the time (we started) was to have 160 kids on the team and have some good kids that could go fast and maybe we could make $20,000 a year. We thought if that could happen, we could die and go to heaven. The Lord has definitely smiled on us. We've been very lucky.
CC: When did you first see (Olympian) Amanda Weir?
CD: Oh, Amanda, she was probably 10 years old when she first swam for SwimAtlanta. She was out at Lilburn.
CC: And she pretty much owes her entire career to you, right? Without you, she'd still be wearing a life jacket?
CD: (laughs) Oh Lord, no. Absolutely not. Amanda Weir makes anyone that coaches her look good. My dog could coach Amanda Weir and she'd go fast. She made me look a whole lot better.
CC: In guys swimming, do the shorts have to be so short? We could do without that couldn't we?
CD: (laughs) Well, now they have those full-body suits. They were getting shorter and shorter and shorter and now it's really personal preference. There's the light suit, from the waist all the way to the ankles, waist to the knees, and some still wear briefs. They're still old school.
CC: You were old school in your day?
CD: Oh yeah, I'll tell you about old school. I didn't even have goggles when I raced. I hear these kids today complaining about one of their goggles leaking, I'm like, 'Shut up.' In Fort Lauderdale I used to swim in the old Casino Pool without goggles and the water was a mixture of salt water and chlorine.
CC: What are your thoughts on synchronized swimming?
CD: I think it's phenomenal the way they can hold their breath and it's just incredible the things that they can do.
CC: Are synchronized swimmers just girls who couldn't swim fast enough to be real swimmers?
CD: No, I don't think so. I think it's somebody whose brain could not take the daily up-and-down swimming in a pool, where they only look at a black line. It's like a baseball player that just loves to make the great catch. They love the water, it's just torture for them to go up and down in a pool.
CC: Best vacation you've ever been on?
CD: Umm, I would say surfing in Costa Rica. For the last five years I've been doing that; those are pretty fun vacations.
CC: Do you and your wife have a song?
CD: No, I don't think we do. Well, don't tell her that, we probably do, but I don't know it.
CC: Do you remember what you danced to at your wedding?
CD: (laughs) Now you're going to get me in a heap of trouble. I don't remember; I hardly remember the wedding at all. I was so into SwimAtlanta and trying to make that business successful.
CC: Other than those fat checks you cash, what's the best part about your job?
CD: Being with the kids. Absolutely, being with the kids. They have so much life, so much energy and so much enthusiasm. If I'm at a party with adults and kids, if the adults are in one area and the kids are in another, I usually go hang out with the kids. I guess my maturity level is about where they are.
CC: Your sons Chris and Scot coach with you at SwimAtlanta. Any chance they'll be taking over for the old man anytime soon?
CD: They already feel like I should be out to pasture. Daily, they tell me it's time they run the show and I should go get in the EZ-Chair. But I feel like I still have a little life left in me.