Courtney Flood Climbs the Swimming Ladder from Prep-Teamer to Head Manager Role at Cresskill Municipal Pool

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Photo Courtesy: Cresskill Municipal Pool

By Lucas Alvarez, Swimming World College Intern.

It’s the classic story of dedication and perseverance: someone who started at the bottom and slowly but surely made her way to the top. Courtney Flood, the head manager at the Cresskill Municipal Pool in N.J., began her relationship with the pool as a young prep-teamer. Now, she essentially runs the place.

But making that leap wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Flood spent six years working at the pool in various roles and finished a college degree prior to arriving to where she is today.

Getting Her Feet Wet

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Photo Courtesy: Aurora Blackwell

Flood’s first connection with the Cresskill Municipal Pool began when she was just four years old. She started competitively swimming for them despite not meeting the minimum age requirement. “The coaches at the time knew me from swim lessons and unofficially let me join the team at age four. You have to be five to join the team, but I had been swimming with my grandpa at the YMCA for years. At that point, I already was an able swimmer,” she said.

Flood would go on to participate on multiple swim teams and clubs. It comes as no surprise that her time in the pool piqued her interest in becoming a lifeguard when she got older. “I knew I wanted to be a lifeguard from when I was like five,” she said. “I always loved going to the pool and looked up to the lifeguards. I thought they were the coolest people ever, so I was super excited to be one someday.”

Climbing the Ladder, One Rung at a Time

By the time Flood was 15, she wanted to get a summer job but wasn’t old enough to work as a lifeguard at the Cresskill pool. So she spent that first summer working in the pool office, which was coincidentally her first job ever.

Over the next five summers, Flood continued to earn more responsibility and got certified as a lifeguard. Eventually, she worked her way to become a swim instructor and swim team coach.

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Photo Courtesy: Courtney Flood

Although Flood stopped working at the pool after she started college in 2013, she chose to apply for the position of manager this past spring. “I knew that they were looking for someone to fill the manager position, and I had been missing working around pools. I saw this as a really great opportunity to fulfill my dream of continuing to work up to management, so I jumped at the opportunity to do so,” she explains.

Flood believes that she was ultimately chosen for the manager position because of her roots in the community.

“I think it’s the fact that I was there for so many years prior to this and wore so many different hats in my time there. Even just being the swim team coach, for example, isn’t just standing on the deck and coaching a team. It’s all of the administrative work, paperwork, and dealing with parents and the coaches from other teams and facilities. All the legal things that come with coaching a team. All of that encompasses itself into almost like a management style position. It’s almost like you’re the manager of the team – you’re not just the coach. So, I think all of those sorts of things prepped me. It was a natural progression to walk into this position.” -Courtney Flood

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Photo Courtesy: Courtney Flood

As the head manager, Flood’s responsibilities cover all facets of the pool. She examines the pool’s chemicals and cleanliness, schedules lifeguards and their rotations, and deals with pool membership. Flood’s role puts her front and center in the eyes of the pool’s patrons. “You really become the face of the pool,” she said.

When Flood was hired in the spring, she immediately started preparing the pool for the summer. With a Memorial Day Weekend start date, she had no time to waste. Flood explained the importance of pre-season prep work. “A manager’s job is not just when they’re on the clock. Specifically at the pool, it’s all the things that go on behind the scenes. It’s a lot of outside work that goes unnoticed. In order for the place to run as a well-oiled machine, there has to be a lot of extensional prep that goes on while the pool isn’t even open.”

The Nitty-Gritty

Some of these tasks include cleaning and repainting the pool, replacing drain covers, and cleaning the chairs and garbage cans.

After the pool opened for the summer, Flood’s daily responsibilities shifted with a focus on staffing and water safety. She schedules swim lessons, shifts and in-services for a staff of roughly 35 lifeguards while maintaining proper water cleanliness. The water’s pH and chlorine levels are tested every two hours and are adjusted as needed. She also backwashes the pool at least once a day in order to clean out the filter baskets. These tasks must be completed to ensure that pool-goers are getting a top-notch facility in which to swim. “The biggest responsibility of the manager is to make sure that the patrons are enjoying themselves and are doing so in the most clean and safe facility possible,” Flood said.

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Photo Courtesy: Cresskill Municipal Pool

Although the pool won’t close until Labor Day, Flood was well-versed in the end-of-season protocol from prior experience. After the last patron leaves on closing day, the pool staff will spring into action. The diving blocks, pool lanes and lifeguard stands are removed and put into storage, while the chairs are stacked and stored in the bathroom. When all of that is done, the pool gets drained over a couple of days, washing away the last of summer’s great memories at the facility.

It Takes a Village

Flood still has great relationships with her prior managers, and they were quick to show their support upon learning she got the pool manager position.

“When they all heard that I was a manager, I got so many congratulatory texts and offers of help. They were so encouraging, which has been so nice. Even after all these years, you grow really great relationships with people in the swim community. And working so closely with them on really everything regarding the pool was so helpful for this role.” -Courtney Flood

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Photo Courtesy: Cresskill Municipal Pool

While Flood’s past relationships remain strong, she’s also focused on maintaining and strengthening her relationships with current staff members. “That’s been the most exciting part about getting this position,” she said. “A lot of the lifeguards who work for me now were kids that I had in my swim lessons and on my swim team when I was coaching there all those years ago. We get to work together again on a completely new level.”

Turning Friends into Family

Flood hopes to return as manager next year, not only because she likes the role but also because it allows her to stay grounded in her swimming community. The most rewarding part of the job is interacting with the people she has known for so long and watching the kids grow up.”

“I think it’s the excitement on the familiar faces of people that have been members of the pool for a very long time. Cresskill is a very tight-knit community, and I can’t say enough good things about it as a town in general. And being able to see old faces that remember me from my swim team days and my life-guarding days. Seeing me back there in a new role has been super exciting.” -Courtney Flood

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Photo Courtesy: Courtney Flood

In terms of personal development, this job has given Flood an immense amount of self-confidence going into the future.

“I feel far more prepared for a job in really any facet, because knowing that you are the face of an entire facility and staff – especially one in a style facility where safety and cleanliness are the two priorities – that’s a huge responsibility to take on. So I feel at this point if I can handle this, these skills that I’m going to gain are only going to help me in any other facet of my life.” -Courtney Flood

For the remainder of the swim season, Flood is looking forward to having a really fun, safe summer while continuing to work alongside her management team and lifeguards.

Her story of growing up within a summer-league community resembles that of many others’ life-long relationship with and love for the water. Her focus, determination and work ethic enabled her to rise through the ranks to eventually be the one calling the shots and being responsible for building up the next generations of hopeful swimmers.

Who can you help build up to pursue leadership within your swimming community?

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.