Where Are They Now: 5 Former Competitive Swimmers Go for GOLDFish

Who knew that one person’s passion could start a ripple that changes so many lives?!

From competitive swimming to building a thriving franchise with a lifesaving mission, Goldfish Swim School Co-founder Jenny McCuiston's love of the water propelled her to achieve extraordinary things beyond her wildest hopes and dreams, and created a catalyst that has allowed others to follow in her footsteps.

Read on to hear the stories of five competitive swimmers who have taken their love of the sport, and made a splash in the lives of children across North America, and in their careers!

THE WOMAN WHO STARTED IT ALL, GOLDFISH CO-FOUNDER JENNY MCCUISTON

Jenny’s love of the water and passion for the sport of swimming started at an early age and continued throughout college. By the time she graduated from the University of Arizona, she was a 17-time Collegiate All-American and two-time Olympic Trials qualifier!

After college, Jenny switched strokes and moved back home to Michigan, where she became a preschool teacher and taught swim lessons on the weekend to keep her passion for swimming alive. After quickly building up a waitlist for swim lessons, Jenny realized she had a Golden opportunity to use her degree in early childhood development and passion for swimming to go into business for herself.

She discussed the idea of opening a swim school with her husband Chris, the co-founder of Goldfish Swim School, and embarked on a journey to make their vision of building an award-winning swim school a reality. After two years of drawing up blueprints and business plans in their basement, the Goldfish Experience Chris and Jenny had spent so much time dreaming up finally became a reality when they opened the first Goldfish Swim School in 2006.

Never did they imagine what started as a small business in Birmingham, MI teaching 500 kids a year to swim would become a premiere swim school franchise. What started as a mission to help children be safer in and around water, and an idea to transform the way swim lessons are taught, has turned into something beyond their wildest hopes and dreams.

Their dedication to making a difference in the lives of children and their community started a ripple that has become the next wave in swim lessons! Today, Goldfish Swim School can be found in more than 120 communities across North America, and Jenny continues to pour her passion into helping children develop the confidence to make BIG waves in life!

Jenny says the life lessons she learned from her competitive swimming days - hard work, responsibility and determination - prepared her for what it would take to build a business from the ground up.

As a swimmer, she worked hard towards a goal of making it to the world’s largest sporting event one day, and when that dream didn’t come true, she was crushed. Looking back now, she realizes all of the lessons she learned from swimming would be stepping stones to using her talent for a greater purpose: saving lives.

Jenny’s story has inspired other former competitive swimmers to follow in her footsteps and explore opportunities to use their passion to help introduce the next generation to the sport of swimming.

MEET ALEX TYLER, OWNER OF GOLDFISH SWIM SCHOOL GLEN ELLYN & ST CHARLES

As the son of a competitive swimmer, Alex Tyler grew up near the water and has been swimming since before he could walk.

Following in his father’s footsteps, he began swimming competitively at the age of three and later went on to join Northwestern University’s swim team in college, during which he competed in two Olympic Trials. Alex and his peers received a standing ovation and made national news during the 2009 Summer US OPEN for wearing their practice swimsuits during competition as a way to pay tribute, following FINA’s ban on bodysuits.

It was in college that Alex realized the opportunity to turn his love of the water and passion for swimming into a profitable career path that would enable him to make a positive impact in the lives of many.

While he had originally considered going out on his own, he ultimately made the decision to sign a franchise agreement with Goldfish Swim School, and went on to open two locations in Illinois: Goldfish Swim School - Glen Ellyn and Goldfish Swim School - St. Charles.

Competitive swimming was obviously a big part of your life! How would you describe that period of time when a competitive athlete's career comes to a close and they begin to evaluate where they see themselves next? What was that experience like for you?

While many of my teammates were sad to move on from the sport, I was excited about the next phase in life. All the time and energy I gave to the sport over the years could now be directed towards something new. There are days that I miss being with my teammates and pushing myself to the limits, but I have found new outlets to challenge myself. Being a Goldfish franchisee has given me a deep sense of purpose as I provide kids in my community the tools they need to have the same experience I had with swimming!

What does it mean to you to be able to combine your passion for swimming with your career?

It’s a dream come true. I’ve always been a competitive swimmer, but my favorite memories growing up were meeting friends at a local pool and playing sharks and minnows, pom pom, water basketball, and countless other pool games. Now, I get to teach our Swim Force students my favorite pool games! It’s incredible to see their faces light up like mine did when I was younger.

What's one life lesson competitive swimming taught you? How do you continue to apply that personally and professionally today?

There is no doubt that my time as a competitive swimmer has shaped who I am today. The amount of discipline, dedication and sacrifice are incredible when you look back on it. Competitive swimmers have a unique ability to focus on a long-term goal and use it to motivate them day-in and day-out. The destination might be six months, it might be four years in the future; and each day that approaches is crucial. I have been able to apply this skill to many aspects outside of the sport and have seen the same result.

What’s one big dream you had when you were younger and what’s one big dream you have now?

Like most young swimmers, my BIG dream was to make it to the world’s biggest sporting event. While I didn’t reach this, I competed on some of the biggest stages swimming has to offer! My next BIG dream is to complete an Ironman.

MEET DANA SCHUCHARDT, OWNER OF GOLDFISH SWIM SCHOOL PARK RIDGE & GILBERT

Dana’s journey with Goldfish began in 2006, when she came aboard as a swim instructor at Goldfish Swim School’s flagship location in Birmingham, MI, before heading off to swim competitively at the University of Arizona.

After graduating college, Dana used her marketing degree to pursue a career in California’s wine industry. While she excelled in her role, she didn’t feel the same sense of passion as she did when she was in the pool and wanted to find a way to get back to her roots.

Everything came full circle when she decided to leave the vineyard and get back in the water—this time as the owner of her very own Goldfish Swim School in Park Ridge, IL.

As someone who had been swimming all her life, it was a natural fit that allowed Dana to share her love of the water and provide children with lifesaving swim skills. Three years after opening her first Goldfish Swim School, Dana went on to open a second location in Gilbert, AZ.

What does it mean to you to be able to combine your passion for swimming with your career?

I feel so lucky that my passion for swimming aligns with my career. Because of this, work does not feel like "work". Every day is so rewarding and I am constantly inspired by our staff and swimmers! I LOVE MY JOB!

Competitive swimming was a big part of your life! How would you describe that period of time when a competitive athlete's career comes to a close and they begin to evaluate what they see themselves doing next? What was that experience like for you?

I was prepared for this to be a really tough transition, but with a positive attitude and focusing on everything the sport of swimming taught me that I could begin to apply to real life helped me so much. When I finished my collegiate career, I had so much time and energy to focus on my future, and find other passions in my life such as fitness, business marketing and water safety.

What would you say are some of the most memorable moments from your competitive swimming days?

The highlight of my competitive swimming career is honestly all of the inspirational coaches I had from middle school all the way through college, who positively impacted my life, in and out of the water, and the life-long friends I made during my collegiate swimming days. I was also one of two 14 year olds competing at the 2004 Trials! We were the youngest participants that year!

What’s one big dream you had when you were younger and what’s one big dream you have now?

Like a lot of young competitive swimmers, I had a dream of making it to the games one day. Although that dream was never fully realized, I did participate in the Olympic Trials in 2004 and 2008. I was very proud of myself when my swimming career was said and done, knowing that I never gave up on my goals, and I always gave 110% effort in and out of the water. My dream now is to make an impact in the lives of younger generations. I want to inspire and help our Goldfish Swim School staff and swimmers to DREAM BIG, believe in themselves and never give up! Who knows, maybe one day they will realize their dreams!

MEET MARK SHEPPELL, OWNER OF GOLDFISH SWIM SCHOOL JOHNS CREEK, SANDY SPRINGS & ROSWELL VILLAGE

From swim instructor to franchise owner, Mark’s career at Goldfish Swim School started nearly 10 years ago – and is still going strong!

Having grown up in Birmingham, MI, Mark was familiar with Goldfish Swim School and joined the crew as a swim instructor shortly after the school opened. As a former competitive swimmer at St. Bonaventure University, he was passionate about introducing kids to the sport he enjoyed growing up and teaching them how to be safe in and around the water. As a fan of Goldfish’s mission, vision and values, Mark soon made the ultimate decision to open multiple Goldfish Swim Schools in Georgia, including GSS Johns Creek, GSS Sandy Springs and GSS Roswell Village.

Many of the people Mark started working with at Goldfish Swim School all those years ago are still involved with the company, including Alex Tyler and Dana Schuchardt - both of whom he also grew up swimming with.

Did you know you wanted to choose a career that would enable you to leverage your swimming experience and expertise?

After finishing my competitive swimming career, I did have a short time period where I was unsure what next steps to take. The uncertainty at the time was a little unsettling, but luckily I found Goldfish soon after. When I joined Goldfish initially, I didn’t know that it would turn into a long-term career. However, I’m so thankful to still be in the Goldfish Family and still get to be involved in the sport of swimming. The rest is history!

What does it mean to you to be able to combine your passion for swimming with your career?

I’ve been passionate about swimming since a young age, so to have the opportunity to share that passion with our swimmers now is quite rewarding! The sport of swimming has given me many life lessons, friends and great moments. I hope that continues for younger generations as well.

What would you say is one notable highlight and/or memorable moment from your competitive swimming days?

The one achievement that is most notable to me is winning the state championship in the 400 Freestyle Relay. My relay team finished first by only one hundredth of a second, the smallest of swim margins! Swimming is sometimes thought of as an individual sport, but it takes a team to succeed, especially in relays!

What's one life lesson competitive swimming taught you? How do you continue to apply that personally and professionally today?

Competitive swimming taught me the importance of goal setting and working as a team to achieve set goals. Small steps taken everyday help us at Goldfish achieve the goals we’ve established to help teach as many students as possible!

What’s one big dream you had when you were younger and what’s one big dream you have now?

As a child, I had always dreamt of becoming a professional basketball player! While that dream didn’t come true, I am thankful to still work and be part of a team in my professional career. My dream now is to create many more memories with friends and family for years to come!

MEET DAN ISRAEL, GOLDFISH SWIM SCHOOL’S VP OF FRANCHISING

While there are many reasons why Goldfish Swim School is the champion choice in the learn-to-swim industry, our leadership team plays a strong role in our brand’s success.

Our Vice President of Franchising, Dan Israel, is a former competitive swimmer turned Goldfish Dad who made the leap from practicing law to helping entrepreneurial-minded individuals pursue their dream of owning a purpose-driven business that changes lives.

As a collegiate swimmer at Brown University, Dan was a two-time captain, team Most-Valuable Swimmer, multi-time All-Ivy League performer, and winner of Brown’s most prestigious swimming award, based both on athletic performance and overall contribution to the swimming and diving program. Internationally, Dan swam on the United States team two times in the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

His passion for sharing his love of swimming and water safety is what propelled him to switch lanes later in his career and help others realize the opportunity to achieve Extraordinary Results with an award-winning brand that has a life-saving mission.

How would you describe that period of time when a competitive athlete's career comes to a close and they begin to evaluate where they see themselves next? What was that experience like for you?

I have to admit it wasn’t easy. After doing something competitively for so long and it becoming a part of who you are, it is hard to give that up. You also achieve a level of excellence, and you know in your next endeavor you will kind of start again from the beginning. It was not easy to figure out what was next. The key for me was to take the dedication, discipline, drive and importance of teamwork on to what I did next. My love for swimming also brought me back to masters competitive swimming later in life.

What does it mean to you to be able to combine your passion for swimming with your career? 

It is a true blessing to be able to be involved in a career that revolves around swimming and teaching kids to be safe in the water, as swimming is such a part of who I am. It gives a sense that I’m giving back to what was, and still is, such a big part of my life.

What's one life lesson competitive swimming taught you? How do you continue to apply that personally and professionally today?

I would say hard work. In swimming, you will not succeed unless you work really hard. I have tried to carry that over to my professional career as there is no substitute for hard work. Personally, I would say teamwork. Personal relationships with family and friends are about being part of a team and caring for each other.

What’s one big dream you had when you were younger and what’s one big dream you have now?

I think most young swimmers dream of swimming in the big games, as that is the pinnacle of the sport. While the Olympic dream did not come true for me, I also dreamed of swimming collegiately at a prestigious academic university, and that dream did come true. Professionally, I wanted to pursue a career that I was passionate about and be the best that I could be. Personally, I always dreamed of marrying the love of my life and being blessed with a family. I have achieved that with my wife Molly and my four kids. My dream is for each of my kids to live a happy and fulfilled life. In particular, our youngest daughter Kate has both cognitive and physical delays. My dream is for her, and all children with mental and physical disabilities, is to be treated fairly and to realize their fullest potential in all areas of life.

ARE YOU READY TO GO FOR GOLDFISH & JUMP INTO THE POOL OF POSSIBILITIES?

From swim instructors and franchise owners to our entire curriculum team, each member of our Goldfish Family brings their passion for the sport of swimming to the pool, inspiring the next generation of aspiring young swimmers to dream big, make waves and go after their goals.

Whether you’re thinking about signing your little fish up for swim lessons, exploring a career change, or opening your own Goldfish Swim School franchise, we invite you to dive in and explore the pool of possibilities that await!

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