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Hackney swim coaches reflect on business

By Melissa Crowe
June 28, 2012 at 1:28 a.m.
Updated June 29, 2012 at 1:29 a.m.

When Braden Adamek, 3, refuses to jump into a swimming pool, instructor Chayce Grevey, 12, hurls him off a diving board. When Braden arrived on a recent Tuesday morning, he was terrified of jumping into the water. By noon he had had plenty of practice and was happily begging his instructors for a chance to jump again.

Every morning, every summer, Gary and Clint Hackney dress for work in swim trunks and sunscreen, ready to greet hundreds of children all hoping to be swimmers by the end of a two-week course.

It's an annual routine Gary and Clint both grew up doing, for a sport that has become second-nature.

"The closest thing to flying is swimming," Gary, 59, of Victoria, said. "This is a lifetime sport, you can swim forever."

Gary got into the business much like his father, Bob, an 89-year-old retired swim coach and former school teacher.

Bob learned to swim as a boy at the YMCA in San Antonio and even had a stint in competitive swimming.

"I was pretty good at it and I enjoyed working with youngsters," he said. "It was obvious I could make a good living with a swimming pool program."

Bob started teaching swimming from a 16-by-32-foot pool in 1959.

His sons, Gary, and Greg, 61, of Lake Jackson, joined the business when they were teenagers. Gary opened his pool in 1988, and now, it's a third generation affair.

"Some families have automobile racing or play golf. We have a swimming pool," Bob said. "It's second nature."

Over the years, thousands of people have become swimmers, thanks to the Hackneys.

"We guarantee they'll learn to swim," Bob said. "If they don't swim, they don't pay."

Although Greg and Bob have been out of the swim lesson business for several years now, Gary and Clint are carrying on the family trade in Victoria.

"As long as kids are around, we'll always have a business," Gary said.

Gary coaches swim lessons for eight weeks out of the year in his backyard pool that Bob designed for classes. Clint, now a student in Colorado, comes home during the summers to help teach.

The seasonal business supplements Gary's salary as a school teacher, and gives Clint some spending money for the school year. A two-week course costs $75 per student, over the eight-week period, more than 400 students will graduate as swimmers.

"The key is to try to have fun," Gary said. "You have to be patient and work it out with them, give hugs and high fives."

Each generation has built on the previous' successes.

Gary added classes geared toward younger students, some as young as 18 months old. Clint aspires to build an indoor pool and take the business full-time when he takes over.

Although the sport is fun, it can be life-saving, Clint said. Parents get a sense of security on outings to the beach, the river or pool parties when their children know how to swim, he said.

"What if we could grab a kid and they can swim to the side of the pool and save their lives?" Bob said.

He said he feels a sense of accomplishment for the impact his family has made.

"When you think about many people we've taught to swim and probably saved their lives - it's just an important thing," Bob said.

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