Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. SwimAtlanta founder and coach Chris Davis, second from left, with his sons Chris, left, and Scot, right, who also are coaches there along with his daughter Whitney Davis who also works at the facility will be able to follow their father into the family business of coaching swimming.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- A ring of multi-photo frames, 30-plus years worth, snake around the walls of Chris Davis' office.
They house hundreds of photos of the SwimAtlanta founder and owner's professional journey, starting in 1977 when the club was at an outdoor pool in Decatur, proceeding to years at a tiny pool in Lilburn and now to his current spacious facility off Sugarloaf Parkway. The frames, gifts from his family on his birthday every year, also document the lives of his three children as they grow up gradually from photo to photo.
The 60-year-old loves to study those images, recounting the stories behind them. They also remind him how fortunate he is, that his interaction with his adult children isn't limited to photographs.
All it takes is a glance across the hall.
That's where Davis' two sons -- Chris (SwimAtlantans call him Junior) and Scot -- share an office. Like their dad, they coach with the club.
Most days, it's easy to find Davis' daughter Whitney, too. She's downstairs in the swim shop, the home base for her job handling all of SwimAtlanta outside sales to high school and neighborhood teams.
While many dads hope to spend a few hours with their children today for Father's Day, Davis gets that blessing every day. For 8 to 10 hours or more daily, the longtime Berkeley Lake resident works alongside his family -- 32-year-old Chris and 30-year-old Scot, both Duluth grad, and 24-year-old Whitney, who graduated from Peachtree Ridge.
"I'm very lucky," Davis said. "I think most dads would really like to have that opportunity to spend that much time with your kids. A lot of times when your kids grow up, they're gone. That's the end of it. This has probably kept our family closer together. We're always around each other."
Davis never imagined this would happen.
His oldest son, after swimming in college for UNC-Wilmington, worked for two years with SwimAtlanta's pool management division. When his dad's club needed a coach, Chris filled in and went from part-time coach to full-timer.
Scot swam at Georgia and earned a sports business degree. At the time he graduated, SwimAtlanta had a coaching job opening up in a few months. He took it and never looked back.
The most recent addition was Whitney, who worked in the corporate world immediately after college but was lured into the family business. She started March 1.
"I was hesitant (to work at SwimAtlanta) at first I think because I just wanted to be different, I don't know why," Whitney said. "Then I saw the opportunity and it was golden to get to work with them all day long. I definitely made the right choice."
The job is part of her current happiness. But so is working alongside her father, a constant source of entertainment around SwimAtlanta.
"He's joking all the time," Whitney said. "He's very easy going. He's a best friend. That sounds really cheesy, but he is."
While Whitney is new to the family business, her brothers have coached at SwimAtlanta for nearly seven years. They handle the same coaching duties, and fondness of swimming, as their father.
They have serious conversations about the sport and business, mixed within hours of teasing each other.
"We joke a lot. There's a lot of clowning around with us, with our family," Scot said. "Everybody kind of gets a stab at one another. There's a lot of that going on, even on deck coaching. It's a lot of fun. We harass him quite a bit but so does everybody. That's just kind of his nature."
His older brother agreed.
"It's more like he's one of your friends," Chris said of his father. "You come in, talk about the sport, talk about how the day's going to go, crack a few jokes. ... Scot and I and him up there (in the office), it's kind of like a little fraternity. We kind of bounce ideas off each other and are there to support each other. You automatically have two peers you can go to at any time."
The three children's lives are woven around SwimAtlanta practices, meets and trips.
As infants, the two boys took naps in their crib alongside the SwimAtlanta pool while their father coached and their mother Susan taught lessons. Their little sister was born a few years later, often hanging around the swimming club like her brothers. When the siblings weren't at the home pool, they were on team trips for training or competition.
A huge portion of their lives involved SwimAtlanta, and that hasn't changed, even as adults. They are deeply tied to their father's business, well aware of how much effort it took to get to this point.
The outdoor pool was abandoned quickly for a cramped, 7,500-square-foot site in Lilburn. Back in 2001, SwimAtlanta's main facility moved to the 28,500-square-foot location in Lawrenceville. It's one of seven locations that serves 2,300 year-round swimmers and cycles through 20,000 sets of swimming lessons each year.
"It's great that you can learn from someone who's done that and grown it from 25 (swimmers) to over 2,000," said Scot, whose wife works at the Cumming location. "Every day you get to learn something new about how everything was started or how things run or how he does stuff. Since it's your dad, you've seen it grow, so you want to help it continue to grow even more. It's something we take pride in. He's grown something from the ground up and we can be a part of making it more successful. Our whole lives have been watching this business grow and to be able to help it now is awesome.
"Hard work pays off, that's the biggest lesson he taught us. He still puts in 12-, 14-hour days. He gets here at 6. He doesn't leave until the last thing's finished. You can see that hard work will pay off. It will pay off in the pool and it will pay off in the business as well."
Davis is happy to impart those lessons on his children, partly because it gives him comfort that SwimAtlanta will be run in the future by another generation of his family. With nearly 35 years of work put into the club, he wants to see it continue to prosper.
But his children don't expect the boss to go anywhere in the near future.
"I don't think he's going to retire any time soon," Scot said. "He can't stay away. He'll be 90, 95 years old and still barking orders at us, making sure we're checking chemicals and turning lights off."
"I can't see him not here," Whitney said. "He's going to be here forever. I couldn't imagine anyone else having their hands on it. I think this place has his personal touch."