Jim Wood, M.A. '12
Jim Wood, M.A. ’12 took his own advice and embraced the opportunities that he was presented. He went for his “biggest, most insane goal.”
Jim Wood and his brother Jeff grew up as competitive swimmers. They were high school All-Americans who both earned NCAA Division I scholarships for swimming – Jim at St. Bonaventure University and Jeff at the University of Notre Dame. They both graduated and took different paths in corporate America.
Jim Wood earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and spent some time working in sales and advertising in Chicago, Illinois until he realized his passion was not in that field. He decided to continue his education and pursue a graduate degree.
“I loved my psychology classes and re-examined the courses that I took while working on my undergraduate degree,” said Jim Wood. “I reviewed different graduate schools and selected Radford University because of its reputation. I was lucky enough to get accepted.”
“Radford’s industrial and organizational psychology program is really good at putting students in applied projects. Through the program, I interned with a company in Chicago during the first summer and became its lead statistician [the company offered him a full-time position after he completed his degree]. As a graduate teaching fellow, I taught statistics courses and was the professor of record for an Introduction to Psychology course, which enrolled 140 students each semester in my second year. Hands down, this course helped me conquer my fear of public speaking and positioned me to be successful as a leader to others in my current position.”
He credits professors Nora Reilly and Jay Caughron for the positive experiences and education he received in Radford’s industrial and organizational psychology program. While Jim Wood knew he had a great education and could go into a field that truly interested him, he also had another passion that had grown out of many years of perfecting his craft in the water.
“I realized that I was still young enough to take a chance on something. If I failed, I still had a fantastic degree to fall back on,” explained Jim Wood. “The I/O [psychology] degree is my safety net.”
The day after he graduated from Radford with a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology, Jim Wood packed up his vehicle and headed to Atlanta, Georgia where Jeff resided. They immediately began planning the next phase of their professional lives.
The Wood brothers launched a new business that would leverage their knowledge as skilled swimmers. Starting small, they began teaching children in Atlanta to swim and love the water. They brought a different slant to swim instruction.
“Our approach is unique in that we offer a ‘learn to swim’ experience that is completely curated to each kid. We've taken the time to study child learning and development, psychology, physiology and also how children move and swim in play environments. We've curated a learn-to-swim experience designed around how children learn best, and we do it in a fun way with a mission to create amazing memories,” states Jim Wood.
Starting their business, the brothers traveled around Atlanta, teaching swimming lessons at community and home pools, but they encountered a few snags when pools closed for the winter. After that first winter, they were forced to get creative to keep their business dream alive and ended up partnering with local hotels so that they could have indoor pool space to teach their lessons.
“We took second jobs to support ourselves while pools were closed. And once we were in the hotels, we worked eight- to 10-hour days, seven days a week for three years to save enough money to get our own facility,” said Jim Wood.
Their hard work and determination paid off.
Over those three years in the hotel pools, they grew their business and was teaching about 450 children on a weekly basis. They needed a facility that could accommodate their business. They scoured Atlanta searching for a facility that could be their permanent home. What they found was the 30-year-old club pool in the Smyrna Vinings community of Atlanta. After an extensive renovation, the Vinings Club pool became the new home to their business, Swim Revolution.
Swim Revolution then hired a team of instructors with a swimming background and the ability to teach children. That’s where Jim Wood says he really relied on his I/O psychology background.
“Everyone else in my graduate program had an interest in going into human resources, but my focus was on leadership development,” said Jim Wood. “I used what I learned to select a team that could fit within the culture of our company.”
The award-winning Swim Revolution – Best Swim Lesson in Atlanta, 2016 Red Tricycle Awards and Best Kids Activity in Smyrna, 2016 Vining’s Lifestyle Magazine – currently has 25 employees and teaches about 1,000 children weekly through programs structured to focus on two kids per instructor using an instructional method where “everything is done with a purpose.” And, the pool is always warm, maintaining a 90-degree temperature year-round!
“One of the most exciting things is all of the kids that we’re helping. There are so many positive life skills we get to help children develop in addition to learning how to swim, like confidence and self-esteem. It’s amazing to watch those light bulb moments when kids push themselves past a fear and succeed. We get to see their confidence blossom right in front of us! We are committed to revolutionizing the swim lesson experience,” says Jim Wood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.” Jim Wood has spent a lifetime perfecting the pursuit that has become his calling. His work is a good fortune to the children who are learning to love the water.
To learn more about Swim Revolution, visit www.theswimrevolution.com.
May 14, 2019
Stephanie D. Overton