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Gorman hired as new aquatics director at YMCA

WORTHINGTON — Stephanie Gorman has spent most of her life in or around the water.

So, when the aquatics director position opened at the Worthington Area YMCA, she was a natural fit.

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“I came from an aquatic family,” Gorman said. “My aunt was a lifeguard and taught some lessons, and my dad and his brothers lifeguarded as well. Ever since I was a baby, I was always in the water.

It’s just something I enjoy,” she continued. “I took my first swim lesson at six months old at a YMCA in Austin. My aunt would take me to swim lessons and when she was teaching, she would bring me with to her swim lessons.”

Gorman began her duties as the aquatics director Sept. 16.

“We’re just really excited to have her,” Worthington Area YMCA CEO Andy Johnson said. “She’s coming with some good experience managing the outdoor pool up in Marshall, which we were excited about, and also working at the YMCA at Marshall. She’s been real engaged with the swim lesson program and lifeguarding there.”

So far, Gorman said she has enjoyed her time.

“It’s challenging, but I know with the challenges come the rewards,” she said. “You may not see the benefits of your hard work right away, but I know ultimately in the end, it will pay off.”

Gorman attended Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and worked at both the Marshall Aquatic Center and the Marshall YMCA. She also spent a year and a half in Florida as part of the Walt Disney College Program, in which she was a lifeguard at different attractions.

After returning to Marshall, Gorman became an assistant manager — and later manager — of the Marshall Aquatic Center.

“It was great when I did reference checks on Stephanie,” Johnson said. “I had real high remarks in regard to her capabilities — and not only just to institute a good, strong and safe program, but to give quality when it comes to swim lessons, which we’re really excited about,” Johnson said. “At the same time, one of the highest remarks made on both areas she was coming from was her ability to build relationships.”

Gorman grew up in Austin and was a lifeguard at her hometown YMCA.

“I have always had a passion for aquatics,” she said. “I also worked at the Austin YMCA throughout high school. I grew up going to the Y. Water has always been one of my passions. I love lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons.”

The aquatics director in Marshall saw the Worthington opening and encouraged her to apply.

“I’ve always joked around with people when they ask, ‘What do you want to do in life?’ At this rate, I think I’m going to be a professional lifeguard,” she said. “I think that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. Lifeguarding doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, so the next step would be aquatics director.”

So, Gorman put a resume together and figured she had nothing to lose.

“It’s always something I’ve had in the back of my head. Timing wasn’t the most ideal, but things never go as planned,” she said. “My aquatics director in Marshall said, ‘Worthington was looking for an aquatics director and I think you’d be great at it.’ I put a resume together and threw it out there. If at best I get an interview, I get the experience that way. Kind of on a whim — it was last-minute and unexpected. But it turned into something great. So far, I’ve really enjoyed it.”

According to Johnson, it is a challenging time for the aquatics program with the high number of lifeguards who need to be replaced.

“Now, she’s getting started and having a tough time because we’re in a transition period where we had graduated staff that moved on to college this year,” he said. “We’re trying to fill gaps in the lifeguard area and her going forward, she’s going to be able to develop her own staff and get them trained and get the program going in the direction we want it to.”

Part of the aquatics program is the Stingrays, the youth swim team through the YMCA. In seventh grade, Gorman joined the swimming team in her hometown of Austin.

“My mom laughed. She said, ‘You can’t even swim the length of the pool,’” Gorman said. “I said, well, I want to join the swim team. Anything my mom thinks I can’t do, I have to do and I have to prove to her that I can do it.”

It was a rough start for Gorman the first few days on the swim team.

“I tried to cling to the wall because I could swim and I loved being the water, but I didn’t have the confidence in myself that I could do it,” she said. “My coach yelled at me a few times, ‘Get off that wall, don’t grab the lane line.’ Let’s just say I learned quickly that if I wanted to be on the swim team, that was not an option. It was sink or swim, and I definitely swam.”

Gorman now wants to instill the same confidence in others.

“I truly believe that all children should have the chance to learn how to swim,” she said. “I think that is a life skill, just like riding a bike. It’s something that everybody should give a shot, especially with having the lake in town. Teaching aquatic safety is very important.”

When Gorman isn’t spending time in the pool, she enjoys being with friends, family and her dog. She was involved in the youth hockey program in Marshall, and hopes to continue that as well in Worthington. When she has time, Gorman said she likes to travel and learn about other cultures.

“I feel like I’m still figuring myself out,” she said. “I know this is something I’m ultimately going to enjoy doing. I feel like I’m still young and discovering myself.”