Since Gary Anderson was 12, the SouthLake Christian swimming coach has felt a calling to work with young people.
"Even in my junior high and high school years, there was always this desire to help other kids and to do whatever I could for them," the 50-year-old said. "Coaching was a natural fit with that."
Anderson, who works full-time as the SwimMAC program director at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics, has been a natural fit at SouthLake, starting the swim program from nothing three years ago.
The program has taken off, with the team maintaining 40-43 kids each of the past three seasons at a school that only has about 300 students.
During the team's first year it went to the state finals. Anderson said the boys finished 12th while the girls finished 10th.
After adding a couple more club swimmers last year, the Eagles were able to win the MAC Conference crown in their first year in the league. SouthLake's girls went on to finish fourth in the state, while the boys finished fifth.
Coming into this past season, the team felt momentum growing, but then, Anderson said, the team was "kind of slapped in the face."
"We knew we would lose our seniors, but we had the economy go bad, and we lost some swimmers who had to go back to public school," Anderson said.
In all, the Eagles lost 16 swimmers and had to rely on a young team this season - including 17 seventh-graders. The team was able to bounce back by winning the conference title for the second year in a row.
At state finals, both the boys and girls finished fifth.
"We felt like this all was a huge accomplishment," Anderson said.
Anderson and his wife, Paula, are happy to coach the team because they know they can affect their swimmers' lives while hopefully helping them succeed.
"We're able to get into young men and women's lives and to take whatever they have inside of them and pull it out," he said.
Anderson said he puts everything into coaching - so much so that he admits he can be a "crazy man" on the pool deck.
Anderson, who discovered coaching many years ago while working at a summer camp, said he had drifted away from swimming until about 11 years ago, when he rediscovered the sport because of his daughters - Mattie and Moriah, now a senior and a freshman at SouthLake, respectively.
Gary and Paula Anderson decided to start coaching them to spend more time as a family; Gary Anderson said he's enjoyed that extra time.
"One of the greatest joys we have is that we get to be with our own daughters and be their high school coach," Anderson said. "That was huge."