RCC Aquatics and Swimming

RCC's Aquatics Director

A few minutes with RCC's Aquatics Director


Matt McCallAquatics Director Matt McCall joined Reston CommunityCenter in late 2017 after various aquatics management positions, including 10 years with the Walt Disney Co., where he was immersed in Disney’s high-quality customer service training as he worked his way from resort lifeguard to waterpark manager.

Here is what he learned - and how he applies that here at RCC.

Q: What was the main takeaway from your Disney experience?

A: That your job is to make each and every person’s experience that of experiencing the Disney magic. Yes, it was a business and there is pressure to make money. As a lifeguard or a cashier or whatever your job, if you could single out each person and make them feel they were touched by that magic, you would end up achieving the goal and the money would come later. I have tried to take that lesson everywhere I have worked.

Here is an example. Once you become a manager, you are expected to greet each and every person who comes in. So if you made the mistake of walking with the crowd when the gates first opened, you are going to end up saying “Hi” and “Welcome” to every single person. By the time you were getting to where you were going, you might be mentally exhausted, but it was neat to see the patrons going the same direction saying “that was kind of amazing what you just did. You took the time to do that.”

The other big lesson is to be “grand opening ready” every single day. It doesn’t matter if the facility is 20 years old or two days old or it is opening day. As you come into a facility like we have here at RCC, it should feel “grand opening ready” every single day.

Q: How are you trying to instill that “grand-opening ready” approach with the RCC staff?

A: By constantly reinforcing their sense of pride. I don’t want this job to just be a paycheck to them; I want this to be a place where people come to work and enjoy working here. I can’t tell you it was always fun working at Disney, but you have that sense of pride. As we move toward RCC’s renovation, it is about always showing the patrons that we care; we do that by cleaning, changing things up programmatically and interacting. I think it is important to have the staff seek out patrons and to ask them about their day. That reinforces how welcome people feel here.

I remember my very first shift working as a manager at the waterpark at Disney. I had a great mentor who had been working there 20 years, and she was going to follow me to be sure everything was just right. My shift was supposed to start at 4 a.m. I got there at 2 a.m. to make an impression and to show I knew what I was doing. I checked everything. I was feeling good. So I get the park opened on time. Everything is good. We are talking 12,000 people coming in, so you have a big responsibility if you are the manager coming in that day. After a while she showed me the men’s locker room, to see what she had observed. She said “Close the door. See what is on the back of the door?” The back of the door was all dirty. She said “you see what you think you see. But you are not seeing what the patrons see.” She said every day when you are at work, pretend to be a patron before you open. From that very first shift, I realized it’s not just about what we see, but it is about what the patrons see. That’s my perspective when I am on the pool deck. A lot of our programming is 50 percent what is done and 50 percent what patrons think we have done. In Aquatics, you have to care about the whole family involved in swimming lessons. The parents won’t come back if they don’t think their kid is learning anything or enjoying their experience. Disney is huge on that, on perception.

Q: Was it all aquatics for you at Disney?

A: I worked for Disney 10 years. I started as a lifeguard at the Coronado Springs Resort. I moved up to the waterpark Typhoon Lagoon for one year, then moved around. It is very rare that someone at Disney stays in one position for 10 years. You are learning so many things. I was manager of the lifeguards, manager of attractions, custodial staff, front desk, then helped open up Crush ‘n’ Gusher (a water coaster at Disney). We had 250 lifeguards on staff; it was great experience. It was a lot of work and a lot of pressure.  

Q: We are about to embark on the renovation here, close and then reopen with two new pools. What do you take from Disney as we start over with a blank slate?

A: Grand opening every day. This is an opportunity to start over from scratch. We are going to hire a bunch of new staff when we reopen; we may have returning staff – but they will all be in a totally new environment. I plan to lead by example. One of the things we have done with the new renovation is to make sure we have paid attention to all the different patron experiences: the seniors wanting warm water, the swim teams wanting the cooler water, play features and the zero-depth part that will bring families with kids in; we are going to change a lot of our programming. I think one thing people need to understand, if you look at a company like Disney, they just don’t continue at the same level. They are always trying to improve, and we can’t get in that trap “we have always done it this way.” As we move forward we will encourage new ideas, and have a staff that thinks outside the box regularly about how to make patrons get the most out of their experiences with us.

Another thing I learned at Disney, people should get the same experience whether they come in at 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. Restrooms, pool deck, water – it doesn’t matter what the element, they should be continuously monitored. You don’t go into a Disney property at 3 p.m., and it looks trashed. Little, tiny things adding up make a big difference.