A Gold Coast native, Australian Matt Eddy spent time in the Air Force and worked in real estate before turning his passion for sport into his profession, moving to Shanghai to coach. Ten years on and he is the owner of SportsWorld and newly-launched SwimLand. We caught up with him to talk about life-saving skills and surviving coronavirus.
How did SwimLand come about?
I came to Shanghai in 2011 working as sports teacher with predominately expat kids. After learning to speak Chinese, I wanted to take the experience I had gained and offer our programs to local students as well. So, we developed a team of both foreign and local teachers that are passionate about imparting their knowledge to kids.
There is also something uniquely rewarding about teaching a skill to kids that not only unlocks the world of aquatic activities – beyond just swimming – but is also a skill that could potentially save their life. So we launched SwimLand, our dedicated swim brand, at the beginning of this year, which didn’t turn out to be great timing.
Indeed. How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business?
This year has certainly been my biggest professional challenge and the most difficult time our business has faced. We also know it’s not yet over, even with the slow easing of restrictions. That said, the whole team has been really encouraged by the support that we have received from our families, most of whom have been able to stick with us for programs that were already paid for until we are able to deliver them. As a small business, this patience has had an immensely positive impact on our ability to survive.
How do you think it will change the way you do things moving forward?
In our industry, there will always be a high level of face-to-face and physical interaction required, so in that sense it’s difficult to see the fundamentals changing as a result of this pandemic. However, some of the changes forced upon us will likely end up being adopted long term, like using technology and video in interacting with families and answering questions for those first interested in our programs. We have also been doing risk assessments on how we can reduce physical contact in programs, particularly in the younger ages for swimming, where this has traditionally been a necessary part of teaching.
A SwimLand coach in action
What classes give coaches the most satisfaction?
For SwimLand, our entry-level classes, which we call our ‘Courage’ program, are always really popular. This is where we take non-swimmers and build the foundations for confidence and independence in the water; fundamental for future technique development. Our approach in the early stages is really focused on building a love of the water, which is why we often have young swimmers who may have had negative experiences in the water find our program. We also have summer programs when the children are on holidays which are a lot of fun.
What would you say to parents about the importance of sports for kids?
There are so many studies that show the benefits of physical activities for students, whether it is physical and mental well being, improved academic performance or the numerous pathways that sport can offer young adults as they enter university and working life. One of the biggest benefits of starting children in sports activities at a younger age is we know that children who enjoy physical activity, through gaining competence and confidence, are more likely to continue being active into their adult life.
To find out more about SportsWorld and SwimLand, follow their official WeChat and send a message to them with your details so they can get in touch.