Duluth grad Chris Davis is one of the coaches at Gwinnett-based SwimAtlanta, the nation's largest USS Swimming Club.
Chris Davis, 30, works as a year-round swimming coach at SwimAtlanta, the nation's largest USS Swimming Club, where he works for his father Chris, who founded the well-known club, and his younger brother Scot, also a SwimAtlanta coach.
Davis, a 1998 Duluth grad, swam for UNC-Wilmington and began working for SwimAtlanta Pool Management before joining the coaching staff. He helped Duluth to a Class AAAAA runner-up finish his senior season of high school.
In this latest installment of "Getting to Know...," Davis talks with sports editor Will Hammock about the joy of being a swim coach and dating Olympian Amanda Weir.
WH: How did you get involved here at SwimAtlanta? Did you ever consider doing anything else?
CD: I started actually with the pool management division. When I got out of college, my field was rec management and I had to do an internship so I went into pool management. I did that for a year and a half. I decided I really didn't want to do that. After that, we had an opening here so I started with one group and it just kind of grew from that.
WH: What's life like? Coaching swimming can't be the worst job around.
CD: It's nice. You get the mornings off, but I get home at like 9 at night. You get to see instant rewards. If you fix something with someone's stroke or somebody has a good workout or you go to a meet and they get their best time, it's great. Especially the little kids, they get really excited. But like pool management, it wasn't the same reward. Nobody ever seems really excited that their pool was super clean. Nobody ever said, 'Oh, the pool's so sparkly.'
WH: Your family's pretty tied into this place. Your dad started it. What does this place mean to you and your family?
CD: We grew up with it. When my dad started it, he was here 16-hour days. So any time we wanted to spend time with him, we were here. My mom would drop us off. We'd go around and do whatever, watch his practices, mess with the older kids. People like Doug Gjertsen. If you talked to him, he'd be like, those kids are the biggest jerks ever. Because we were like 7 or 8 and we wanted to pick on him. Jeff Hike, who we have (on staff) now, got irate at Scot and I because we were in his lane. We did other sports, soccer, baseball, tennis. But we just naturally went into swimming.
WH: Are you Chris Jr.? Is your dad Chris Sr.?
CD: They call me Chris Jr. but we have different middle names. It's just easier. It went from Little Chris, when I was 15 and didn't want to be called Little Chris anymore, to all the kids calling me Junior.
WH: For the kids out here now, they probably don't realize what the old SwimAtlanta pool in Lilburn used to be like, the little pool. Do you ever talk about that?
CD: Anybody who ever swam there and comes back, we always talk about it. (2008 Olympian) Eric (Shanteau) says that's his favorite place to train. I only swam one real practice (in the new place), because it opened my senior year of college.
WH: These kids here are kind of spoiled.
CD: They are spoiled.
WH: How would you describe the old place? It had character.
CD: I describe it like an old boxing gym. You walked in there and you were there to do work. You had that mentality. There were no frills. The names were on the walls of the people who were great before you. You looked at that and went to work. A small weight room. Hot. Literally you were just there to do work. Here, the advantage is you can do a lot more to vary your workouts. You can break them down to two or three in a lane. You can do some more different technical-type stuff. But in terms of that pure edge to your training, that was a pure training facility. Carpets on the wall. You used to get down to work right away. You didn't really want to be in there unless you were training.
WH: How much do you take pride when someone from SwimAtlanta like Eric or Amanda (Weir) make the Olympics?
CD: That's huge. It's a small quantity of kids from anywhere who make the Olympic team. To have two from the same area. I swam with Amanda kind of but I was in college and she was younger, but Eric I really swam with. To see someone go from that level to an elite level is great. He's one of my favorite people to watch because he back halves, he runs people down. You know when he hits that wall and he gobbles people up early it's going to be over.
WH: What did you think about his story of beating cancer?
CD: It was awesome. He's such a genuinely good person. You watch him at meets, he's got time for anybody. A great person, a great teammate. I think he's stronger than he was (before the cancer). He looks bigger and stronger and he's swimming better.
WH: Are you still dating Amanda? How long has that been?
CD: It's been three years.
WH: Is that popular swimming gossip?
CD: It's kind of died down now. Some of the younger kids still kind of think it's funny because they get to see her every day. She's been in Splash magazine and some of the parents will come up and say, 'Did you see her in Splash magazine?'
WH: Do you see yourself doing this coaching thing for a long time?
CD: I do now. When I first started, you come off something where you never really deal with kids and it's a little bit of an adjustment. But now I couldn't see doing anything else. Every one of them is interesting in their own little ways. They have their own personalities. It's just figuring out how to interact with them. I love it.