10 questions with Andrew Barranco, the regional operations & aquatics manager for Merritt Clubs.
1. What drew you to the health and fitness industry? Opportunity. I was looking at all my options for my senior college internship. When I found Merritt Clubs I saw a huge opportunity to develop a program. I think our industry sees aquatics as an amenity rather than a fitness service.
2. Throughout your time at Merritt Clubs, what is one of the biggest changes or evolutions you’ve seen? The shift in year-round usage. Our summers are very strong with high usage and member participation since we have built six outdoors pools over the past eight years.
3. What is one accomplishment you’re most proud of? When I think of accomplishments that I am proud of, the one that comes to mind is coaching an athlete who won the AAU Sullivan Award. The award is given out to the top amateur athlete in the country each year. I coached Jessica Long for 10 years and at the time she was only 14. It’s a pretty amazing list of athletes who have won that award.
4. What gets you most excited to come to work every day? Our team. I have the opportunity to do a lot of our new team member onboarding training and welcome desk development workshops. To help give team members the tools to service our members is exciting.
5. What is one lesson you’ve learned that other health club professionals can learn from? Always being open to feedback that challenges you, your club and teams. Sometimes the best ideas come from our more vocal critics and often being open and hearing feedback allows for us to move those critics into our biggest supporters. It’s easy to say no, but the path to greatness is never easy.
6. What is one key thing you think Merritt Clubs does great that other clubs could learn from? I think we have done a good job of being clear with all of our new team members as we onboard them to the team. Starting with our group interviews, we make sure applicants are not in silos interviewing in just their own departments. We emphasize our culture’s one-team philosophy from the start of the group interview and continue in our new hire orientations. We want to make sure they understand the impact they have on our members and team members.
7. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? I think a challenge that comes up is catering to the different demographics of our members. Sometimes activities seem to conflict with different viewpoints of what a club should be used for. For example, is a basketball court just for basketball or multipurpose use? To the basketball player, just for basketball, right? So using it for tribe training or small group training is a conflict. We have pool bars that service a social and fun function of our club and that sometimes conflicts with the viewpoint of an avid lap swimmer, as another example.
8. How do you overcome that challenge? We are clear and upfront with the different goals of each program and service. Keep schedules and events consistent so members have clear expectations of what to expect.
9. If you weren’t at your current job, what occupation would you have? I was looking at being a helicopter pilot. At about the third time the training pilot took control of the helicopter, I realized this may not work out so well and maybe I should do something else.
10. Tell us one fun fact about yourself that others may not know. I was on the US Paralympic Games Swimming Coaching staff in Beijing (08), London Co-Head coach (12), and Rio (16). It was a great experience.