It takes more than just a love for sports to go from elementary swim team to aquatics mogul. Nitro Swimming owner Mike Koleber did just that, utilizing his impressive competitive swimming history as the foundation for building Austin’s two largest swim centers and a dynasty of successful athletes. Read on to learn Mike’s steps to success.
AF: When did you begin swimming?
MK: I learned to swim at the age of three. My Dad was my first teacher, and I remember how scared I was of the deep end. I was terrified!
AF: Do you feel it was an ideal age to start?
MK: Absolutely. Studies are showing the earlier kids get acclimated and comfortable in the water, the better.
AF: Tell us about your competitive swimming background.
MK: I began competitive swimming on a summer league team in Flushing, Michigan when I was five. Great memories. By the time I graduated from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, I was an 11-time All-American. I took about a 10-year break from the swimming world and missed it too much to stay away any longer. I was in a corporate role when I was transferred to Austin back in 1999, and my wife Tracy and I were newly married. We knew that if we were ever going to make a go of a swim center, we had to get really busy and move some mountains. It was seven years later that Nitro was established and a year after that we opened the doors to our Cedar Park location. It’s been an adventure the entire way!
AF: How did those experiences shape your current team swimming programs?
MK: I remember so much of what it was like learning to swim at three and then competing at five and six-years-old that I believe it has given me a unique perspective in the design and how we execute our day-to-day programs. We are a very positive- energy environment. We work hard to be a place where kids are attracted to come back day after day, week after week. We strive for excellence, but do so in an enjoyable way. We are strict on standards and have found that the kids actually prefer a structure that is based on excellence.
AF: What are the challenges in owning and operating swim centers of this magnitude?
MK: There are lots of “moving parts” as you can imagine. We work hard to deliver a great product/service every day, every lesson, every swim practice. This involves the front desk staff being friendly/helpful, to the teachers being ready to deliver the passion every 30-minute lesson and every coach doing what he or she can to make every kiddo better that day.
AF: What are the biggest rewards?
MK: No doubt the biggest rewards are the smiles on the kiddos’ faces and the proud parents we see daily. We get emails and visits from former swimmers of ours who are so thankful for what we’ve taught them beyond the sport. The discipline, the perseverance, the learning how to delay gratification, the fitness aspects, etc. This is so much bigger than just swimming. When a former swimmer goes into the “real world,” they have already been trained to handle setbacks, manage their time and not quit when things get tough. We’re creating leaders – every one of them. Great stuff!
AF: What advice would you share with parents considering swimming for their kids?
MK: There’s not a better sport or activity on the planet than swimming. Regardless of the sport, my advice to all parents would be to love and encourage your child unconditionally. Your children want one thing more than anything else when it comes to their athletics: they want to know that you are PROUD of them – regardless of their actual performance in the pool, on the court or on the field somewhere. Take a step back, remember that it is about them and not you.
AF: What are your future plans for Nitro Swimming?
MK: We are looking at expanding our swim schools around the metro Austin area, and eventually you may be seeing a big Nitro #3 somewhere down the line if we can handle it. Right now we’re working on making our current offerings better. Not a day goes by that we aren’t trying to improve.
AF: Tell us about your family.
MK: My wife Tracy runs the “dry” side of Nitro, while I watch what’s happening on the “wet” side of things in the actual pools. We’ll be celebrating 15 years of marriage this May, and hard to believe someone could hang around me this long without going crazy! We have two kiddos, a 13-yearold son and a nine-year-old daughter. Neither one swims competitively, but we support them in whatever they love.
AF: What are your favorite things to do in Austin?
MK: One of our favorite things we’ve ever done here in Austin was take a Segway tour! Very easy to learn and we had a blast! I also like attending Texas Stars hockey games. I can barely skate, but I love watching hockey.
AF: If you had a completely free day, what would you do with your time?
MK: I’d probably head to the gym for a workout, either swim or hop on a bike ride, then get back home, wake up the family (assuming they would still be sleeping – they’re going to kill me for saying that) and head out to lunch with them. I’d play a game of basketball in our driveway with our kids, then accompany Tracy wherever she would want to go. If any spare time is left, I’d finally update my playlist on my iPod. I’ve had the same songs on it for years.
AF: Is there anything you’d like to share with Austin Family readers?
MK: It’s never too late or too early to learn to swim. It is a life-saving skill that EVERY person needs. Look for Nitro to be adding free water time for parents and their young kiddos (under 6 months of age) to get them acclimated to the water environment. Studies are now showing that neurological development occurs faster in young swimmers than non-swimmers, and we’re on the leading edge of that. Hope to see you soon!!