New aquatics director on a St. Ed’s adventure

By virtue of his Aug. 2 appointment as the incoming director of aquatics at St. Edward’s, Gavin Ross believes he has successfully embarked on two momentous missions.

The most immediate will be his desire to “make a difference and be an influence in the local community.” Within short order after that, he wants nothing less than to make the American Dream come true for himself and his family.

The routine act of signing on the dotted line was light years beyond a simple career change for Ross. Just turned 45, he pulled-up stakes in his native South Africa in order to relocate halfway around the globe.

A whirlwind series of events brought Ross to the Treasure Coast from Pretoria, his birthplace and hometown. Simply put, he has a deep yearning for a better life away from what he describes as the economic and political turmoil of South Africa.

The plan is to reunite before too long with his wife and three young children who stayed behind while Ross solidifies his foothold in the New World.

The first step will be to make his mark in the aquatics programs at St. Ed’s.

Based on a resume that includes more than 25 years of experience as a coach, teacher and builder/manager of swim programs, that should be a relative breeze. Ross was hired to oversee the aquatics programs, the swimming teams and the operation and management of the Becker Pool Aquatics Complex.

“It’s been quite an adventure,” Ross said. “The first part of the equation was meeting with the leaders here at St. Ed’s. What impressed me the most was their passion for education.”

After becoming acquainted with some of the faculty, parents, students and other members of the campus community, that first impression was reinforced.

“They don’t take for granted what they have here at St. Ed’s,” Ross added. “This is definitely the type of environment that I’ll be able to grow in quite comfortably for years to come.”

Entering a visa lottery program in 2007 with “no expectations at all,” Ross hit the jackpot, eventually obtaining a green card to go along with other documentation allowing permanent residence and work status in the U.S. He then began exploring job opportunities.

“I didn’t expect to land a position so quickly,” Ross admitted. Now comes the “tough love” part with the wife and kids.

Ideally, he would prefer to have everyone reunited within six months, but “I’m determined to bring the family across, even if it takes a year or two,” he continued.

Ross knows all too well that many factors will be involved in uprooting the family. His wife Lauren, a trademark attorney, may find it difficult to continue her legal career here at the same level, however he foresees a “major opportunity for my three kids to come to a super school like St. Ed’s.”

Ross succeeds David Underill, who in his one year tenure at St. Ed’s sent 11 varsity swimmers to the regionals in 15 different events, with two then going on to states.

“I can see where he did a great job,” said Ross. “The kids really enjoyed working with him last year.”

Pam Meredith will continue mentoring the younger kids poolside, her presence easing the transition for the new aquatics director.

“Pam is a fantastic asset to the club environment,” Ross acknowledged. “She has done a tremendous job in the development of younger swimmers.”

With the first meet for the 2010 varsity swim team scheduled for Sept.14, Ross is looking for “an enhanced commitment from his swimmers” right off the bat.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” he says. “I’ll have to refine my program to do the best we can in a short period of time.”

Starting a new life in a foreign land can never be run-of-the-mill. He has yet to explore much of the area to, say, select a favorite eating establishment.

Resources are limited and bicycling is his mode of transportation for the time-being.

Nevertheless, he has learned enough about the area to conclude that “Vero Beach is a beautiful place to live. It’s this whole feeling that you’re ‘on holiday’ all the time.”

Ross encourages anyone interested in swimming to stop by and meet him in person, or drop him a note at gross@steds.org.

His message to swimmers of all ages: “What I hope to bring to the community is a different type of culture and a different approach, all education based.”

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