Meet Tracy Laman, Aquatics Director At Houston Swim Club
Daughter of the owners and award-winning Aquatics Director responsible for the success Houston Swim Club has had for more than three decades, but known in the pool as simply ‘Ms. Tracy,’ we’re honored to feature this mama today who has blessed our lives more than she’ll ever know.
Tracy Laman literally grew up in the pool. Phil Hansen opened the first swim school in Sharpstown in 1973 and Tracy and her sisters grew up working there. We felt how special this place was when we took our tour last February. There’s something truly amazing about a swim school with Houston homegrown roots and a place where the bosses (Jennifer Hawes the Site Director included) still get in the pool with the kiddos.
The first time we took a tour of HSC, we saw Tracy in the water. We got to see her demonstrate floating skills with her class of three babies and we both got tears in our eyes watching her with them, seeing how calm they were in her hands. This woman has a gift and she continues to share it with the staff of all five HSC locations and the thousands of kids they work with each day.
To this day when we talk to Tracy about what HSC has given us as moms, we can’t not tear up. it’s been the greatest gift and it was all started by Tracy and her family.
Tracy may prefer to fly below the radar, just another coach in the pool, but it’s apparent others recognize all she’s done for the water safety community. She’s fresh off of receiving the United States Swim School Association’s 2019 Guiding Light award! No one more deserving.
Tracy has been teaching infants, toddlers and children lifesaving swim skills at HSC for over 30 years. Her passion for water safety, drowning prevention and her continued presence at the school shines through in all she does. She has also served on the USSSA’s Membership Connections and Infant Toddler committees, both of which have allowed her to spread her knowledge and expertise to national and international swim school members.
It’s because of Tracy that HSC continues to be the best in Houston,providing a loving, safe place for children to learn life saving skills. We got to sit down with this inspirational woman to talk all things motherhood, her passion for what she does, and the HSC difference- something we get to see first hand every week with our kids in lessons!
And to learn more about why we chose HSC and what our experience has been, click here for the Tried & True blog!
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the Katy/Houston area?
I am a native Houstonian! I was born and raised in the Sharpstown area. I went to Westbury Christian High School. I graduated from Houston Baptist University with a degree in Math. (Teaching swimming lessons was the job that got me through High School and College. After I graduated from college, it was time to “get a real job”! Little did I know I would be back in the pool in 5 years!) I taught High School Math in Fort Bend for 5 years. We lived in Sugar Land when our girls were little. We moved to Needville when Ashley was a senior. She had been driving herself to school there since her junior year. Then we realized after she graduated, there would be no one to drive TaylorAnn to school, so we moved! We still live in Needville in our empty nest! I am blessed that all of my family still lives here! I have one sister that lives in Sugar Land. The other one lives inside the loop. My parents still live in the house we moved into when I was 2. It’s a block away from the original HSC location.
How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have two amazing girls! Ashley is 24 and is a NICU nurse in Cypress. (Loving babies is in our blood!) Ashley lives with her Meme (the best mother-in-law ever!) in Katy. TaylorAnn is 20 and a Sophomore at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. She is studying to be a nurse as well.
Least favorite mom job? (i.e. packing lunches, dishes, bath time, etc.)
My least favorite mom job is putting up laundry! I can wash it, dry it, and fold it!! Putting it up is the worst! I didn’t love packing lunches either. I was thrilled when my girls could pick out their “sides” and all I had to do in the morning was make a sandwich! I did make fun of crustables when they first came out. I was like, “how hard is it to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!?” Well, my girls’ favorites were the strawberry ones! lol
Bath time was always my favorite! We had to have a splash guard on our tub! Big arms and floating were practiced in the tub daily!
Best mom hack that makes life easier?
Ready for this one?! TWO DISHWASHERS! No, not my two girls! I mean actually two dishwashers. It is the best thing we put in our house in Needville! I never have dirty dishes in my sink. My girls are my ‘unloaders’!
In all seriousness, the thing that made my life easier when the girls were little was sitting out their clothes for the next day. I still do it for myself. It just makes the morning so much calmer if that decision is already made. Yes, my girls would occasionally “change their minds” in the morning. That was fine, but the consequence was a loss of screen time in the afternoon. I’m all about choices!!
What really helped me with “my jobs” during those days with more work than hours was the following system of “chores”. The set up takes a bit, but it really helped me manage everything I had to do!
What are your favorite local things to do in Katy? (with kiddos or just for mom!)
My favorite thing to do in Katy is teach swimming lessons at Houston Swim Club! My second favorite place to go is my MIL’s house to eat lunch or just visit. My current fave eats are Chicken Salad Chicks and Orleans! LaCenterra is fun too! I love having great restaurants and shopping all in one place! Trader Joe’s is a favorite stop!
We’re big on self-care for moms, as hard as it is to find the time, what’s something you do just or yourself?
My happy place is in my kitchen! I love to cook! My kitchen is about 1/3 of my house! If I’m stressed or anxious, someone I love is getting a home cooked meal or a batch of cookies! You can’t beat a good movie with buttered popcorn and Dr. Pepper either!
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I am braver than I look. I love scuba diving, especially with sharks. I even went scuba diving in Iceland! I went skydiving for my 50th birthday (with my oldest daughter)! There’s not much I won’t try. I love roller coasters and amusement park rides! (Those are getting trickier as I get older! Lol)
Let’s talk about the amazing Houston Swim Club!! HSC is a family owned business! What is your position and could you share your history with HSC?
I am currently the Aquatics Director. That’s my title, but my job is quality control. I am responsible for making sure my teachers are teaching their classes the HSC way! I started swimming at Phill Hansel’s Houston Swim Club in the 70s. It was our neighborhood pool. We spent all summer there and did swim team every summer. I started working there in 1986. My mom started answering the phones about a year later. I taught in the summers while I was in college and teaching school. My mom bought Houston Swim Club in September 1994. (We just celebrated 25 years!). I didn’t come back to work full-time until 2001 when we opened our second location in Sugar Land. I opened up our Katy location in 2006 and was the director there until 2016 when I took on the role of Aquatics Director. It was a position we needed because as we grew to 5 locations, we needed to make sure the consistency we had built our reputation on was upheld across all 5 pools. Everyone’s Family is one of our Core Values. The immediate Howe family has had lots of family members on the payroll over the years. Bonnie and Eddie (my parents) are still involved, all 3 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, and 6 of the grandchildren!
You still get in the pool and teach kids to swim each week, why is that important to you instead of just doing administrative/training work?
The pool is my happy place! I love getting to see the kids and their progress. It also helps me stay in touch with my teachers. I can’t make changes to curriculum and expect them to follow it if I’m not in the water testing everything out to make sure the adjustments are best for my teachers and the kiddos! It is very rewarding. When we hear stories of children that fall in the water and flip over to float without panicking it is the best feeling in the world. I love making a difference. It’s also fun to see how your students progress in their love of the water. We get to hear about swim team successes, careers in the Navy, and even one Olympian (so far!). I had the privilege of being Simone Manuel’s first swimming teacher. I am on my second generation now. I am teaching the children of adults that I taught when they were kids.
What is the HSC difference? What sets HSC apart from all the other swim schools in the area?
The HSC difference in one word is PASSION. We have passion for children and a passion for drowning prevention. There are a lot of swim schools to choose from. Do your research. Is it just part of a franchise? Someone thought they wanted to open a business and chose swimming instead of cupcakes or hamburgers or candles. You want to make sure you’ve done your homework. HSC used Whole Child Development in their curriculum. My sisters and I have done extensive research on how to get the best results in skills while making sure the child is taught at a developmentally appropriate level. Swimming lessons should not be just play. Safety skills and respect for the water must be taught. Skills should not be forced at the detriment of the child’s ability to develop a love of the water. Survival schools that force back-floating are not the answer. Fear-based learning is not o.k. The ends do not justify the means.
The HSC difference can be summed up in our Mission and Vision:
We love your children! We teach life-saving skills and so much more! Creating memories for your family is our family business!
Congrats on your recent National award! What was the award and what did that mean to you?
I won the 2019 Guiding Light Award for the US Swim School Association. It is such an honor and such a surprise! When I look at the other swim school owners I know, I consider them my mentors. It was an honor to be recognized as a mentor myself. I love teaching the Infant/Toddler Class at each conference to other swim school teachers. I also present at National Conferences on different topics currently important to our industry. The opportunity to travel to other swim schools to conduct trainings for their teachers says a lot about what we do at HSC and how we do it. This year I went to swim school in Toronto and Atlanta.
“The Guiding Light is an annual award given by the USSSA Board of Directors to someone who made a particularly outstanding contribution to the organization. It seeks to honor individuals who have provided exceptional service to the U.S. Swim School Association and other members of the U.S. Swim School Association. The Guiding Light recipient demonstrates a generous commitment to teaching, helping, sharing and otherwise serving the Association and its members.”-description from the Association.
What an honor to be recognized as a leader in our industry!
What is your stance on puddle jumpers? When we started our kids in lessons, it was hard to make that change to take them off (we finally have!), but we get asked a lot about the safety of them as they are so popular.
Above is a great article I read last month about just this topic. Puddle jumpers do not give kids logical consequences of jumping in the water. If you are wearing a puddle jumper and you jump in the water, you pop right back up. That’s not reality. Reality is when you jump in the water, you have to know how to get back to the top of the water and what to do when you get there. Children often do not understand the difference between when they have the puddle jumper on and when they don’t.
This is another story about a little boy that drowned after taking his puddle jumper off to have a snack and got back into the pool without it.
IF you MUST use a lifejacket or puddle jumper, my advice is to put it on inside the house and the rule is that you can’t take it off until you are back inside the house. Once it goes on, it stays on. You can’t use puddle jumpers or floaties part-time. It’s too confusing.
Life jackets MUST be used any time you are in or near open water. Puddle Jumpers are Coast Guard approved for this purpose. Your children should never be at the beach without a life jacket on! The depth changes and currents are just too dangerous to risk it. I have parents tell me “they only go in the water with me and I hold their hand the whole time!”. My question back to them is, “What if the current knocks you off your feel or you step into a deep hole? Then what?!”. Don’t take the chance! Put a life jacket on your children! Every parent that has a child that drowns says, “We are vigilant parents and never thought it would happen to us!”
Do you experience the dreaded mom guilt! If so, how have you handled it?
Absolutely! I see all these moms with the perfect lunches, the perfect bed time routine, the perfect scrapbooks, etc. I wish I had all those family traditions and fabulous memories. The truth is, I don’t. However, I DO have two adult children that are productive contributing members of society. That’s a win!
Unfortunately for my waist-line, my go to was food! I don’t drink wine, but there were definitely some days when I wish I did! A strong support group was essential! We would spend mornings at Chuck E Cheese (they open at 10 and there’s no one there!) just giving each other encouragement and support! We didn’t have Facebook, which may have been a blessing! We didn’t have the pressure to be perfect that’s on the internet today!
When parenting gets hard, what’s something you tell yourself that gets you through?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your child will not take their pacifier to Kindergarten. It’s not the end of the world if they still have it at 3. Education is important, but so are once-in-a-lifetime trips to Australia. Cut yourself some slack. Do the best you can. #yougotthis Chocolate and Blue Bell ice cream helps too!
What are the future plans and goals for Houston Swim Club?
Our plans and goals are simply to move the needle on the drowning rate for children. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 4. Drowning is preventable. Parents don’t know what they don’t know. They think all swimming lessons are created equal. Or they think they don’t have a pool in their backyard, so they don’t have to worry about drowning and they will take swimming lessons “later, after soccer season is over”.
One of the scariest statistics that puts it in perspective for parents is, the number of children that drown every year would fill 12 school buses! If you want more information on drowning prevention, there are a couple of great non-profits that we support.
For more information on Houston Swim Club, be sure to head to their website! They’ve also got a deal on our Deals & Steals Page – if you mention KMN at sign up, you get a discount!