Faces of Goldfish: Matt Jones On Making Strides for Inclusion in Swimming
With more than 100 schools across North America, Goldfish Swim School can be found coast to coast. From Aliso Viejo, CA to Yorktown Heights, NY, thousands of families call Goldfish home. As our Goldfish Family continues to grow, we want to introduce you to some of the incredible parents, swimmers, team members and partners who are part of our amazing communityeach of whom bring a unique perspective to the conversation of swimming and water safety.
As we continue to celebrate the diversity we are proud to have within our community, this month, in honor of Black History Month, wed like for you to meet Matt Jones, an assistant general manager at Goldfish Swim School – Birmingham who has been part of our Goldfish Family since 2011.
Continue reading to learn more about the countless ways Matt has contributed to our mission of helping kids learn how to be safer in and around the water, and how his personal experiences with swimming have shaped the way he views his ability to make a positive impact on the lives of children today.
THE CALL THAT STARTED IT ALL
Throughout this career, Matt has always enjoyed working with kids. Prior to coming aboard as a swim instructor at Goldfish Swim School – Farmington Hills, he worked part-time as a substitute teacher and taught chess to elementary students. When his sister, who was an instructor at Goldfish, called to tell him about an opportunity to teach babies how to swim, he knew he had to check it out.
Matt dove right in and immediately made a splash, earning the nickname The Baby Whisperer because of his unique ability to help little fish see Extraordinary Results!
Its become a passion of mine, Matt shared. Theres something truly incredible about watching babies learn how to swim before they even learn how to walk. The way they soak up information and interact with their surroundings is inspiring, and I take a lot of pride in being part of their development.
Things were going swimmingly for Matt, who quickly earned the respect of his peers and emerged as a leader on the team. Around the same time, the chess company he worked for offered him a full-time position as a program director. He decided to take a leap of faith to pursue what seemed like an incredible growth opportunity at that stage in his career.
It was a great experience, and I learned a lot, said Matt. But at the end of the day, I found myself longing for an opportunity that was more closely aligned with my personal values. So, I called up my old boss at Goldfish – Farmington Hills and asked if I could come back.
JUMPING BACK IN
When Matt jumped back in, he brought with him a new skillone that would have an impact on not just the school he worked for, but every Goldfish Swim School across North America.
In addition to being a chess wizard and baby whisperer, Matt was also a great videographer; and, he used those skills to help create the companys first video curriculum!
It was through that project I discovered more about the franchising side of the business and began developing relationships with team members across the system, said Matt. It opened the door to other opportunities and led to me joining the franchise support team as an operations consultant.
In his role at the franchise office, Matt helped open Goldfish Swim Schools in new markets and traveled across the country, using his expertise as The Baby Whisperer and training other teams how to host successful Mini classes.
It was such an amazing feeling to be able to share my knowledge and passion on a bigger scale, and to be appreciated for my unique abilities and contributions to the companys mission, said Matt. It wasnt uncommon for me to be the only Black guy in the room – but I knew that by being visible, sharing my experiences, and traveling to cities with more diverse communities, I was making a difference!
Everything came full circle for Matt when he had children of his own. Looking back on his childhood, Matt is thankful his parents made sure he and his sister knew how to swim at an early age, and always knew he wanted his kids to have the same opportunity.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time fishing with my dad and grandfather, Matt shared. With us being around the water so much, my dad wanted to make sure we learned how to swim. So, my parents enrolled us in lessons at the local Y. By the age of 6 or 7, I was able to dive for rings in the deep end of the pool.
His sister, who was two years younger than him, also found herself in the deep end of the Ys 9 ft. pool one day.
It was such a scary moment, Matt recalled. When she fell into the pool, I remember my dad leaping up right away, and the instructor motioning to him to wait and see what she could do before jumping in after her. It was truly a sink-or-swim moment and, thankfully, she made her way up and swam to the edge of the poolreinforcing the value of learning how to swim at an early age.
As a father, with two babies of his own now, Matt understands firsthand the peace of mind that comes with knowing his kids are acquiring important water safety skills that could one day save their life.
I started both of my daughters in the Mini 1 class at Goldfish when they were a few months old, he mentioned. My oldest, Marina, recently turned three and is currently in Junior 1, and Melody, whos almost 19 months, will be in Mini 2 fairly soon. Both of them have taken to the water very well, and I look forward to watching their love of, and comfort with, the water continue to grow.
MAKING STRIDES FOR INCLUSION IN SWIMMING
Over the years, Matt has taught hundreds of kids how to swim, but theres one student who holds a special place in his heart that hell never forget.
This particular student of mine had a condition that prevented her from being able to use one side of her body, Matt told us. Her parents wanted her to be able to enjoy the water safely, and I was determined to do everything I could to help.
No one expected what happened next.
I had been teaching her for a couple of months, then one day she impressed us all by swimming halfway across the pool by herself, Matt recalled. Ill never forget that moment, and the pride beaming from her parents facesit still brings tears to my eyes.
During his time at Goldfish, Matt has witnessed children of all ages, abilities and ethnicities learn how to swim, and he is passionate about furthering the message of water safety for all. Its these experiences that have shaped the way he views his responsibility to make a positive impact on the lives of children in underserved communities today!
The Black communitys history with swimming is a complicated one, he shared. We werent always accepted at community pools, and lack of access made it hard for swimming to be something we did. As a result, theres a fear around water that prevents many of my people from swimming. As a society, we have to stop the stereotype that says Black people don’t swim and have the courage to dive into experiences that propel real progress. Thats why I come to work every day – to lead by example, be the face of Goldfish in my community and inspire others to jump in.
It gives Matt hope to see more minority representation in swimming today. Thats the future Matt wants for his kids, and theirs after them: a future where they have the confidence to make big waves in the pool, and beyonda future we can all celebrate!
If youre interested in learning more swim lessons or becoming an instructor, we encourage you to reach out to your local Goldfish Swim School to learn more about our approach to water safety education and ways you can get involved.