Episode 8: Craig Yaniglos
As the Chief Financial Officer for the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Public School District in Northeast Ohio, Craig Yaniglos knows as thing or two about balancing a budget.
He is also the former Aquatic Director for the Hubbard Community Pool, and told us he understands that most aquatic facilities often get the short end of the stick when it comes to financial assistance.
But under his watch, Yaniglos says the Hubbard Pool was run like a business, and for the first time in it's 40-years of existence, they were able to profit from the use of their pool! How?
By investing in specialized programming and equipment.
As you'll hear in the below episode, Craig has a long history in aquatics, both as a student, instructor, director and CFO. We cover some creative tips for aquatic fitness facilities struggling with their budgets to help raise money and awareness for their communities. We also discuss how investing in specialized programming and equipment can draw new participants and memberships to a facility.
Name Drops: Adrienne Poullas, AEA, Ashley Bishop, Aqualogix, Aquastrength, Aquapole, Aqua Stand Up, Fitmotivation, Hubbard Community Pool, Hydrorider, IAFC, Ian Levia, Joao Santos, Lori Sherlock, Mark Grevelding, Pedro Santos
Full Episode Transcript:
Jenni Lynn: Joining us today is Craig Yaniglos. Craig is the Chief Financial Officer for a public school district in Northeast Ohio, as well as an Aquatic Training Specialist for the AEA. He holds many other certifications such as Aqua Stand Up, HydroRevolution, aqua cycling and ACE group exercise. He is also a CEC provider for the AEA and a Master Trainer for Aquapole. Craig, welcome to Alcoholics Bootcamp!
Craig: Thanks. I'm super excited to be here.
AJ: Hi Craig! How you doing?
Craig: Hi, AJ, I'm doing good.
Jenni Lynn: I get so excited. Just because more I mean, not just that I'm interviewing you. But also when I finished the introduction, and I've like gotten it on one take. It's just like this is gonna be the best episode ever.
Craig: This is gonna be the best episode ever. Move over Mark Grevelding!
AJ: Ohhh! It's a throw down. It's gonna be the Choreography King versus the Choreography Prince?
Craig: That's right!
Jenni Lynn: I feel like we need like Game of Thrones music going on right now or something?
Craig: I think we should. We can edit that in, right?
AJ: Yeah...I don't know if we can afford it. We'll get like the, I don't know, the "B-rated" version.
Jenni Lynn: Yeah, exactly.
AJ: So Craig, where are you calling in from right now?
Craig: Well, like Jenni Lynn introduced, Northeast Ohio. So specifically Macedonia, not the country, of course. But you know, Ohio. So I recently moved during COVID. So that was really exciting. But that's where I'm calling from.
AJ: Overall, how have things been where you are during this pandemic?
Craig: Well, it's definitely been kind of interesting. So just huge life changes were happening. And you know, couldn't predict that. I didn't realize I would be signing on to a new job in a district four times the size of what I was coming from, and have a pandemic hit a month later. And basically build a house and move into that house exactly as the state of Ohio was completely shutting down was a little bit overwhelming, to say the least.
Jenni Lynn: Wow.
Craig: It was it was pretty intense. And it was just a really long process. It's a complicated district in terms of its finances and things like that. So getting acclimated to that was hard enough, and then you throw on top of it, you know, the pandemic piece where people are working from home...It just makes it harder to get to know people and to be able to answer questions. So that was probably the hardest part about you know, the day to day job, I guess that was happening.
The worst part about this whole pandemic has actually been though that you know, all of the aqua fitness has stopped. And by moving I was leaving my home pool which Jenni Lynn was just at in December, right prior to this all happening, you know, so leaving that was a big part of me and that was pretty tough. So I got pretty emotional towards the end of it realizing that, you know, I had been a part of the Hubbard pool since I was eight years old, and so that was like crazy that this is the first time I've actually not been there.
AJ: Wow. I can't imagine one of those many life changing moments happening during all of this, let alone all of them. New job, new home, new house, you know how to work being shifted and having to pivot to all of this digital and remote stuff and then not being able to be in your own home pool. It's a lot.
Craig: Yeah, and I've struggled here because...I'm getting to that point where a lot of the pools in Ohio have opened they have not been opening up near like a full capacity schedule. So I'm trying to figure out where, you know, maybe locally, I can kind of get back involved on a local pool level. So we'll kind of see what I can bring to the table.
Jenni Lynn: Yeah. And you know, on that note, tell us about your background. How did you find yourself becoming involved in aquatic fitness? You said you were a part of the Hubbard pool since you were eight. I mean, that's a long time.
Craig: Yeah, so I've always loved the water. That's been my passion. I started off competitively swimming, and had worked at the Hubbard pool as an employee since I was 15. I was a lifeguard, I was a lifeguard instructor, I was a water safety instructor, I got into coaching. I graduated with my degree in business. And once I graduated, which was in 2004, I know that starts to date myself at this point. But when I graduated, I was looking for what I was going to do. And it actually just kind of happened that the school system and the pool that I had been basically raised in was going to be hiring an aquatic director. So that's kind of how I got my start.
My whole focus was on horizontal fitness, because that's what I knew swimming. And I knew nothing about aqua fitness at all. Nothing about vertical fitness. It was basically an afterthought, and I broke every rule in the AEA manual, and I'm very open about it. I was an "in the water" teacher, teaching in the circle. I'm doing moves I had no idea what I was doing. Not teaching with music, then sort of teaching with music. It was awful. I was atrocious. That was 2004. In 2009 is when I went to my first IAFC and I remember I got down there and I arrived in the afternoon, it had already started. And I walked in, I checked into my hotel room, which was in Orlando, and I could hear the music bumping and I walked out to the pool deck. And I think it was actually, I want to say it was Ian Levia that was teaching, and I was like looking at this class. And I was like, "Holy crap, this is amazing. What on earth am I doing?!" I went back to my room after that first night, and I just started writing stuff down. I think self reflection is so important in everything that we do. So I went back to my room and I started writing everything down. I was like, "God, I suck. I've got to fix this." And so I made it a mission. But I've always been interested in teaching. And so I think it ended up becoming a natural fit that I went back to Hubbard and I basically brought AEA, or the beginnings of AEA to Hubbard without even being AEA certified. So I went and got my AEA certification that year, and just started teaching my instructors the very basics, and then it kind of just evolved from there.
AJ: So Craig, you touched on this new position of yours that you're in as treasurer and CFO of the Brecksville Broadview Heights School District. Can you share a little bit about what your role has been there since you took over and the impact that this pandemic has had on on what you do on a daily basis?
Craig: Sure. So the one thing that's interesting is that, I guess I didn't really talk about how I ended up getting out of aquatics. I was still in aquatics, and kind of still attached to the Hubbard pool even after I became a treasurer. But I do love working in schools in the school system. And so, you know, I had a friend of mine who basically was the treasurer at Hubbard at the time who kind of encouraged me to get my treasurer's license, because I had the business background. And she's like, "You've done such an amazing job with balancing the budget at the pool, making the pool money, doing all this creative programming and fixing so much that's never been fixed in it's 40 year history, you really need to become a treasurer and really affect a school system, an entire system, a bigger entity because of your skill set." And so I went for it. I was really heavily involved in aquatics, really deeply involved in both the aquatic fitness and coaching for a while, and then I finally took the leap to kind of become a treasurer and still be connected to the pool side.
So I had an opportunity that basically happened in October where I got a phone call and said, "Hey, are you interested in this position?" And you know, I was kind of like honored I guess that people called me and were asking me because I was successful also at Brookfield where I was previously working. And so I was like, you know what, maybe this is the right moment. You know, it's an amazing opportunity. I always had been looking to get back to the bigger city, getting towards Cleveland, where I went to college, and just kind of went full steam ahead.
Jenni Lynn: So you obviously touched on the amazing work that you were able to do at the Hubbard pool, but how can facilities without a large budget, what can they do to maintain and improve their aquatic programs?
Craig: This is a great question. And I get asked this a lot. And sometimes I may, on occasion, go off on a little tangent while I'm traveling the country sometimes with AEA. And you know, people want to ask those questions. I think the big difference of why we were successful at Hubbard is because I was the director. I'm sure you see the same thing when you go around and travel, the aquatic director, or the group fitness manager isn't really AEA-certified. They're not involved in it very much. Or if they are, it's like the bare minimum. So they don't have the investment in it. And I also hear, if they're not invested, they're not going to invest in the programs.
And so I guess two things: One, I think you have to do a proof of concept. And what I mean by that is you need to get some type of authorization to find something, some program that is unique. And whether it's a small purchase, I always use Aquastrength or Aqualogix as my example because plastic is cheap in comparison to the bikes and the trampolines and the Aquapoles. So you can do an investment of $1,000, you can get 10 sets roughly, of you know Aquastrength or Aqualogix products, and do a specialty class and up charge for that. That's going to generate revenue. And if you can pay off that equipment, and then start making the facility money, I feel like that proof of concept needs to happen. And people need to see something tangible like that.
Now, for me, I did it backwards, because those products weren't available at the time. So my concept that I worked with my Treasurer at the school district with was actually the Hydrorider bikes. So I was like, "Look, I want to buy these seven bikes. I'm going to do classes of six. It's going to cost $8,000 because I got them at the After-IAFC special.
Jenni Lynn: Nice!
Craig: And I said, "It's going to cost like $8,000. And I have a plan of how I'm gonna pay that back and actually make money within 12 months." And she was like, "Go for it!" So that was my first premium class that we offered. And I was right. It was a new program, no one around had it and we were packed with classes, charged premium for it and people paid it. It started to generate money and revenue. And it's been a hit ever since. It's one of the top most popular classes that they still have. So that kind of led into all the other programs. So when people would come to the pool, everyone would be so jealous, because I mean, we did have it all. I mean you've seen it...We had the Aquapole, we had the boxing bag, we have the plastic...
Jenni Lynn: All the toys!
Craig: We've got the trampolines, we've got the bikes...I mean, we have everything and that's because we were making money on all of those. So I say start off small. And I also think that they need to reach out and really make that connection with the aquatic director or the group fitness manager or something. And I always tell them to use me as a resource. Call me, have them call me, whatever we can do because I think that's what's going to keep pools alive in this country.
Jenni Lynn: Oh, yeah.
AJ: Oh my god. Yes. You know this is exactly why we wanted to have you on this show to discuss these kinds of things. Because you know so much more from the business side of things. And we've talked about it on several episodes, the aquatic facilities and aquatic programming get the short end of the stick no matter what. In the world we're in right now, the pools which are some of the most expensive pieces of equipment in a facility are just not being used to make that facility money. And because of the misconceptions of aquatic fitness, because of the the lack of awareness of aquatic fitness and what is actually possible with new equipment and new programming, I think slowly we're going to get there. But having someone like you on staff has to be such an asset for that. Like you described, that proof of concept; that's brilliant. That's exactly how you can start to pull in the money and then invest in yourself and then have that pay off.
Craig: Sure, and I think that we could utilize and maximize the pools at a higher level if we just program them correctly. People will pay for quality products but they treat it like it's a, "Here's your membership to this facility. However, you can use the pool if you want, it's great that you come. But all those classes are free, who cares?" And it's such a powerful tool. It is the best place for our aging population, you know, Silver Sneakers land classes and whatnot, great programs. But water is the best place for really everybody, but specifically people over the age of 50. They're starting to get arthritis and pains and joint pains and all kinds of issues sometimes as they age. And it's just always put on the back burner. So that kills me inside a little bit. So I at least always offer my services that if I can help in any way for people to talk to, I'd be happy to do that. Because they always say, "Well yeah, but they won't want to charge extra money for it." I always say if you build it, they will come. If you charge, and it would have to be a good program, though, too...You can't just buy plastic or buy equipment, and just be like, "Oh, here it is." It's got to be good, you know?
Jenni Lynn: Absolutely. You got to have the education behind it to make sure that the participants are getting a quality service.
Craig: Right. And it's got to be different.
AJ: Yeah. So what are some other ways? Besides, you know, the facilities themselves working working to do that, are there ways that the community or followers of the aquatic fitness realm can work together with a facility to help raise money or raise awareness?
Craig: Sure. One of the things that we did was we developed a pool committee. And so we used to do fundraisers just to show the involvement of how we could reach out to the community. One of the first things I did before I was even involved in aqua fitness was I wanted to invite the community into our space. And so I didn't want it to just be for people who had been to the pool, I wanted to invite new people. So we did this mass promotion that was like "free swimming at the Hubbard community pool." It was one day in the middle of July. And we ended up turning it into a fundraiser, which we called the "Summer Sizzla!" But every year, we would get like 350 people. We ran it for five hours, and we would get 350 people. And these are people that sometimes never ever had been to the pool before. And so that got them in the door. They could see all of what we offer. So they could see that we offer swim lessons, they could see that we offered competitive swimming, they could see that we offered aqua fitness, we'd give them flyers.
And so we ended up developing a committee that worked, you know, in coordination with me as the director to put on some of those programs. And any money we raised, we pledged that all of that would go into the facility. So sometimes it was like suit dryers, sometimes it was new equipment like the Aquastrength products or the trampolines or whatever. And then the other thing that we use the money for was investing in instructors. Because as I went through the process, I was like, "You know, education is so important." So that committee also raised money to help send more instructors from the facility down to IAFC and get involved in AEA.
Jenni Lynn: Wow. That's awesome.
AJ: Yeah. And so important. We've talked about that on the show a lot. The education piece, and your choreography rival Mark Grevelding mentioned in his episode, that investing in your aquatic instructors and their education and their qualifications is how you improve and take aquatic fitness out of that, you know, short end of the stick world that it keeps getting.
Craig: Yeah, absolutely. There's no requirements. And I'm sure when you compare it to different countries, we see it at the international level. In different countries, I mean, people to teach aqua fitness need like a bachelor's degrees and exercise physiology. And I always say, "Yep, and in the United States, you can just have a pulse to teach a class." You grab on for someone as a director, like I always did. When I first started, I was just grasping for people, because I'm like, I don't want to teach all of these classes. So you're trying to find warm bodies, you know, that might want to do it.
Jenni Lynn: Oh my gosh, you just need a pulse. That is hysterical. So I mean, you're clearly very diverse within the aquatic fitness field. And you can really help educate on many different topics within our industry. So where do you see yourself taking your career, rr should I say careers plural? Because I feel like you could wear multiple hats.
Craig: Yeah, no, I mean, I love being able to kind of do both. It's kind of exciting. I could easily retire from Brecksville Broadview Heights. So you know, I'm only counting down 20 more years.
Jenni Lynn: There you go!
Craig: So that part of me and the longer you stay in that job fortunately and unfortunately, like, I don't want to say that I would get bored with it, but you kind of get to the point where you do get things where you want it. And so it kind of runs itself, which is exciting. But it would also open me up to be able to have more time to kind of still always stay involved in the aquatic side of things. So, I mean, I love getting out and traveling and getting to see different people and going to different parts of the country and just sharing that, you know, we're all different. And that's one thing I loved about how the training specialists that we have, you know, everyone's different. They have their different strengths and weaknesses and stuff. I don't think any facility should only host one...I mean, at Hubbard, we always hosted multiple people. We've had you and Ashley Bishop. We've had Joao and Pedro Santos. We had Lori Sherlock. So it's always good to have a different type of training. And so I think that, you know, nothing's going to replace the live trainings once COVID is over. As much as I'm glad that the virtual stuff is working out -- and I'm actually going to do one of the virtual workshops in November -- but I'm really, really excited about getting back, out on the road, at least a little bit, and being able to travel because it's just exciting to get out of the office and do something physical and really kind of focus on the passion piece of it. And I don't know where else you could go, other than being a Training Specialist. So I mean, you can't go up any higher.
Jenni Lynn: Right! But it's totally true. Having different types of specialists, you know, teaching at one time, I think is just so awesome. Because every single person has such a different style, flavor, attitude, concept, theory, and you just take away so much information, and especially for myself, who as we know, is very freestyle. When I take one of Craig's classes, I'm like, "I have work to do! I need to go listen to the beat, watch myself in the mirror, and practice, practice, practice."
Craig: I know how much you love to be on the beat, but you are improving. And that's great.
Jenni Lynn: Thank you. I appreciate that wholeheartedly. So I'm actually curious, I was just reading the next question that I have here and I'm actually very curious about this. But what does the future of aquatic fitness look like for you? Where are you taking it next? I know you have this amazing job and career going on but you're still an ATS and you know, doing a lot of work with the AEA. So I'm curious, what does your aquatic fitness future look like?
Craig: I am excited in general for the future of aquatic fitness as a whole. And I think that, you know, I have seen some major improvements. I mean, I think you have too. You're starting to see a change. And I think that's a good thing, because it's such a vital place for people to be and I think it's starting to get more notoriety. Because of social media and whatnot, I think it's starting to make more news and social media news, I guess. It's just more out there. And so I start to see positive changes. I'm starting to see younger people get involved. And that's what's exciting. I was, in the beginning of this, very challenged with finding people that were young that wanted to be involved, because everyone just goes like, "Oh, you know, water aerobics is for old ladies who have their little flower swim caps on and they stand in a circle and chat the whole time." And I'm like, "Okay, well come take one of my classes okay?!"
Jenni Lynn: Exactly!
Craig: I think it's good that some people are starting to do that. And one of those I think, you know, Adrienne Poullas, for instance, who started teaching at our facility, is now running the Hubbard pool. She was one of the ones that I had to basically beg to get in the water and just to try it, and then she was like, "Oh, my God, this is such a great workout." And then she did it through her pregnancy and whatnot. And, it inspired her to start becoming involved and wanting to be an instructor. So, you know, I do think the other piece is that getting some of this specialty equipment like Hydroriders and an Aqua Stand Up and Aquastrength or Aqualogix, getting that that type of equipment has helped drive younger people to the pool than the hand buoys or noodles, because I think they unfortunately carry a bad connotation that's what old people use, even though they can be very effective tools. That equipment change and seeing the different types of equipment hit the market and start to take off more in the country is leading the charge of making the aquatic fitness industry a little more prevalent. As we kind of move forward, so I'd like to see that continue, obviously.
Jenni Lynn: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I think those are good things to note because as much as we would love change to happen, you know, very drastic and quickly in a short period of time, it does take decades. And I think we've been following a lot of mentors and leaders in this industry who have literally and figuratively made a lot of waves, and had to kind of break things up for us to get in there and the new people to kind of say, yes, we're still going to continue this, we're going to update things, bring them to today's society with the newest type of equipment, and also put it on social media, get it out there for people to actually see.
Craig: Well, and the one thing too that I guess is really encouraging for the aquatic fitness industry is this: we're starting to see such a push for NordicTrack and Peloton and really taking this to this live streaming outlet. And I have concerns. I don't think it's going to happen overnight, but I have concerns that we're going to end up in a streaming world where gyms don't technically exist, or they might exist, but I think it's gonna be different. But the one piece about a pool is that I think there's room for growth in a pool, because most people don't just have pools in their backyard. And if they're in Ohio, they certainly are not using them in the winter. So I think that pools are more stable. Because I mean, I don't know, do you agree? Like you're starting to see so much streaming content that I'm like, "Are people gonna just start doing this at home?"
Jenni Lynn: Yeah, I mean, the thing is I totally agree with that. And I think gyms are definitely going to look different going forward from this standpoint. I also know a lot of land instructors that make 10 times the amount of money doing it elsewhere instead of the gym, and so there's that financial kickback of it. But with that, I think there's going to be a lot of injuries, I think people are going to need to come to the pool eventually. Or it's just going to be a factor that the pool is that one thing that is offered, you know, as an exclusive piece of equipment, and that maybe facilities start basing more things around the pool, which would be like the best situation ever, but you know...people can dream!
AJ: Well, you've given us so much. And you know, I know that we could probably spend an entire episode just talking about the financial side or the aquatic side. But I'm curious if you have a nugget of advice that you would offer to instructors who are out there just getting started, or students, or anyone who's maybe even interested in on the business side the financial side of of what it is that you do. What advice would you would you give them going forward?
Craig: Don't give up, number one, but number two, don't be afraid to network and make some of those connections. I do remember getting started off, you know, and Jenni Lynn probably thinks the same thing, you go to your first IAFC and you look at some of these people like they're icons, and you're like, "Oh my god, I can't say anything!" But all of us are just regular human beings. And so don't be afraid to approach and have that conversation. I think that I even say this in the treasurer world, sometimes when you go to a workshop, some of the best information that you get out of that workshop is just the networking with a fellow colleague, and the conversations that you have with that person versus anything that happened at the workshop, right? So don't be afraid to network and reach out and have conversations.
You know, imitation is perfectly fine, especially in this business. So find what you like, and don't be afraid to go after it and make a difference. I think that people that are doing water are probably almost even more passionate than people that do land. And so, you know, follow your passion and realize that you're helping a lot of people, because that's what kind of has kept me going in this industry. And why I don't mind working in my life, working with the senior population just as much as I do with young athletes, as well as you know, everyone else in between. So I guess that's the best advice I would probably offer.
Jenni Lynn: Which is very good advice.
AJ: That's great advice. This has been such a great episode. And I hope people do reach out to you with questions because not to put the pressure on you but if you can educate the community that's out there across the entire country, I think we could start to see these waves changing and improve what we all love, which is aqua.
Craig: Yes. I certainly hope so.
Jenni Lynn: Having facilities take it seriously and learning that the budget needs to be spread around the entire facility, not just land.
Craig: Yeah, absolutely. And seriously too. I have not listened to all of the Aquaholics Bootcamps, but Jenni Lynn, I seriously thank you for all you're doing because you're really doing this full time. And that's amazing because not a lot of people can do this full time in this country because of how the aquatic industry is kind of treated. You know, there's all kinds of gaps in terms of pay when it comes to land versus water. And it's kind of crazy, but you're doing it, you're living the dream, and so we appreciate that.
Jenni Lynn: Well, thank you. You're getting me all teary eyed. This is an emotional one!
Craig: Air Hug!
Jenni Lynn: I was just abuot to say, air hugs!
AJ: I can't wait for us all to be together at the next IAFC.
Jenni Lynn: Yes, next IAFC, for sure. But we definitely need to come back to the Cleveland area and host an event because that would be absolutely amazing.
AJ: Craig, thank you so much for stopping by. This has been so great. So thank you so much.
Jenni Lynn: Thank you. Thank you.
Craig: Well, thank you for having me on. This was a wonderful, wonderful experience. And you know, I hope that we'll see each other soon and definitely stay safe.