We chat to Ross Gage, CEO of Swim Australia and CEO of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association about his life’s work in the swimming industry.
Ross, who has worked as a swim teacher and coach, industry consultant, co-editor of swim journals, as well as a centre manager and swim school owner, has always known he wanted to forge a career in the swimming industry.
“Laurie Lawrence taught me how to swim back in Townsville in 1964, when I was a young four-year-old boy. Ever since then, I have been involved with swimming; from grass roots, to executive management, and nearly everything in between,” explains Ross, who names Laurie’s coaching and learn-to-swim prowess as an inspiration to his own career.
Being right in with the action was where Ross was during the early stages of his career; he started working as a coach and swim teacher while studying Human Movement at the University of Queensland in the 70’s. He has some very fond memories of the experience.
“Seeing a child genuinely realize their progress or success, is priceless,” says Ross.” The expression of joy on a child’s face as they ‘make a break-through’, was certainly my favourite and most rewarding part of swim teaching.
“Swimming teachers, coaches and swim schools do great things; knowing you are helping them do it even better, is very rewarding.”
Once Ross’ own family started to grow, he put his ‘coaching ego’ away to concentrate on building a swim school. This move meant that from the moment his kids were born, they had no choice but to be water babies; Ross had leased a swimming centre from the Brisbane City Council and lived onsite.
“Water play and general aquatic enjoyment is not only a rite of passage for all Australians, but is a major part of our outdoor culture and activity,” says Ross. “My two children, Emma and Josh, share my interest in the swimming world, and are now part-time swim teachers.”
Once joining the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association, Ross was a key player in the formation of Swim Australia in 1997. Now the primary provider of products, services and professional development programs for Australian swim schools, Swim Australia has changed the industry in more ways than one.
“I’m so humbled when swim school operators personally share how grateful they are to me for establishing Swim Australia,” explains Ross. “They often confirm it’s the vehicle that’s successfully enabled them to meet other swim schoolers, nationwide and overseas, and help form mutually beneficial life-long friendships.”
So, what’s in store for the future?
“I can’t think of a better job in the world; so hopefully I’m here for a good while yet! My goal is to develop and grow Swim Australia into an international best practice industry body,” says Ross.
“Our unique and successful drowning prevention program is known as SwimSAFER. While a child can never be 100% ‘SAFE’ in and around water, by applying crucial Layers of Protection (supervision, barriers, swimming and water safety skills, as well as having an emergency action plan in place), they can be ‘SAFER’ – adding the letter ‘R’, represents the RISK that exists.”
To date, the SwimSAFER message is primarily disseminated via the 600+ Swim Australia registered swim schools, using a range of high quality collateral.
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