Owners: Anna and George Heidinger
Employees: 6 full-time coaches, 9 part-time swim instructors
Anna Heidinger cannot recall the exact moment she fell in love with swimming, but it has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember.
She took her first swim lesson when she was 4, set records at Cheyenne Mountain High School and then swam Division 1 in college. She met her future husband, George Heidinger on a pool deck where they were coaching.
Swimming has been their lives, their passion. And now it’s their business.
In summer 2011, they opened Pikes Peak Athletics to teach and coach swimmers from beginners to adult competitive swimmers. One moment they’re teaching a 67-year-old woman who is afraid of water to float. Another moment they will coach their masters swimmers to state champion victory.
“It takes a lot of energy, but that is what is fun about it,” Anna said.
This summer they expect to triple swim lesson enrollment to 900 — growing their program almost entirely by word-of-mouth. When they started in June 2011, they rented time in one pool and had three swimmers. Now they have three pool sites — Country Club of Colorado, the Olympic Training Center and the Club at Flying Horse — with more time slots available and a 15-member staff to teach lessons and coach 50 youth competitive swimmers and 60 adult competitive swimmers.
“It’s a big range — some people swim for fitness, some swim because they are competing in triathlons and some are in the masters,” Anna said.
Swim clubs and colleges around the country wanted the swim-coaching duo. Anna and George have been offered many coaching jobs. But there hasn’t been one good enough to woo them from Colorado Springs. And instead of working for someone else, they became their own bosses.
“We love it,” Anna said. “I’m very happy that we picked something we love.”
Anna grew up in the Springs and was a four-time Colorado State High School swimmer of the year and qualified for the Olympic trials in 2000, 2004 and 2008. She also was the assistant men’s and women’s swimming coach at the University of Denver. George had the swim coach bug since age 15 and went on to serve as camp coordinator in stroke technique camps at Carnegie Mellon University. He has been a coach for the Allegheny Mountain Zones All-Star team three times and worked with athletes who went on to excel in college swimming programs.
There really is no other profession they can imagine as they spend six days a week in and around the pool.
“Our rewards come when we see technical development based on fundamentals that set up long-term training and competition success,” George said.
Anna thinks her mother was nervous around water so she sent all four of her children to swim lessons. Turns out all four children loved swimming and swam their way through college in Division 1. Anna’s oldest brother still holds a Cheyenne Mountain High School record. Some of Anna’s state swimming records were broken by Missy Franklin, a four-time Olympic gold medalist.
“If your record has to be broken it might as well be by an Olympian,” she said.
Not every kid wants to swim competitively, Anna said. But most of them want to learn to swim. The Heidingers’ special coaching qualities are knowing when kids are in it for fun and when they want to take it to the next level.
George has a way of connecting with swimmers, explaining the hows and whys of certain techniques. Anna has a soft voice but can be stern, pushing swimmers to their goals.
“One of our core values is we have a passion for the whole person,” Anna said. “To be a good coach, you have to understand there are other things going on in their lives.”
Part of their philosophy is to keep a low coach-to-swimmer ratio and spend time on stroke instruction, calisthenics, strength and conditioning, and cardiovascular training. They pay more for their instructors and want them to be at least college-aged. But they want to keep lessons affordable: $58 for four swimming lessons, $35 for private lessons, $65 a month for USA Swim Club and $40 a month for masters.
“I love working with families and giving kids something to strive for — to be better,” Anna said.
This month, the Pikes Peak Athletics masters swim team brought home dozens of ribbons and broke five state records. Among those on the team, Anna’s big brother R.D. Trinidad, who said he doesn’t mind being coached by his little sister.
“Anna is the most accomplished swimmer of all of us,” he said. “She’s been an incredible coach and teacher since high school.”
Beyond the technique and the motivational talks, the Heidingers say they are teaching a sport for life. Swimming has played an important role in their lives, Anna said. It teaches values, time management and how to be social. It helps build relationships and keeps a body fit.
“Swimming is a lifelong sport — you can do it forever,” she said.