Otter Dan keeps Old Orchard Swim Club going strong as pool manager

Daniel Brofft has played a huge role in keeping the club running on a daily basis since 2001. He is planning to retire at the end of the 2017 season.

Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Old Orchard Swim Club opens its doors to its members. The pool is crystal clear, chairs and tables are sparkling clean and ready for use, and the lifeguards are at their post, ready to keep members safe.

Members can thank Old Orchard pool manager Daniel Brofft for keeping the swim club in tip-top shape. Affectionately known by many Old Orchard members as Otter Dan, Brofft has been a long-time fixture of the swim club. He began swimming at Old Orchard in 1975 at the age of 6 and has retained a connection to the club as its pool manager since 2001. Brofft is now in the final weeks as Old Orchard’s pool manager as he plans to retire at the conclusion of 2017 season.

Brofft’s love of Old Orchard began as a kid. He recalls learning how to swim in 1975, later joining the Otters’ swim team, and spending summer after summer at the club with his friends in the late 1970s and 1980s.

“This kind of became my place,” Brofft said. “I had a lot of friends that I grew up with here. We would go to swim practice, then go to somebody’s house and eat breakfast, then come back for the rest of the day. This was the focal point of the neighborhood during the summer.”

Brofft swam for Old Orchard’s swim team at a time when the Otters were a dominant force in youth swimming. Old Orchard never lost a Cherry Bowl when Brofft was on the swim team, as the Otters won 12 consecutive Cherry Bowls from 1978 to 1989.

“I wasn’t the best swimmer,” Brofft admitted, “but my coaches always referred to me as a reliable person who would do whatever was asked of me.”

As a teenager in the 1980s, Brofft also worked as a maintenance person for the swim club and began to learn what it takes to keep the facility up and running during the summer. This experience and Brofft’s long-time connection with the club helped him land the job as pool manager in May 2001.

Brofft wears many hats at his job. He makes sure the pool is clean and in working condition each day of the summer. He maintains the swim club grounds both during the summer and in the offseason. Brofft also supervises the lifeguards and other employees at the club.

“These kids, I remember when they were born,” Brofft said, motioning to a small group of lifeguards sitting near the club entrance. “Now they work for me and follow me around.”

Brofft takes particular pride in making sure his lifeguards are some of the best in the area.

“We have training,” he said. “If they can save me, I can pretty much say to the members that anyone is safe in this pools. We run live drills to show our members that we’re here to guard your lives.”

“My counterparts that I had, it’s always been a decent, good working relationship,” Brofft added. “I’ve always had good lifeguards.”

Brofft’s job at Old Orchard doesn’t end when the pool closes. Brofft is at the facility year-round making sure the grounds are in good shape when the pool is closed from autumn through spring.

“People think the pool is Memorial Day to Labor Day,” Brofft said. “It’s almost a year-round thing for me. Whether it’d be continuing education over the winter, coming up here in February and March to see if there’s any damage from storms over the winter, pumping the pools out, cleaning the leaves out, working with volunteers to get everything ready, painting the pool.”

Brofft’s proudest moment came in 2005, when Old Orchard Swim Club volunteered to host the Tri-County Swimming Pool Association Championships with just four weeks notice after Gloucester County Institute of Technology was unable to host at the last minute.

Brofft took the lead in getting the club ready for the meet, working 14- to 16-hour days in the four weeks leading up to the event.

“Usually, you have a year to get everything ready,” Brofft said. “Everybody just stepped up. People just stepped in. Being able to transform this place in a four-week time period, that was one of my most special moments here.”

On top of his pool manager duties, Brofft also has a full-time job as a Cherry Hill firefighter. During the summer, Brofft averages around 30 to 35 hours per week at Old Orchard on top of a full schedule at the firehouse. Brofft has been a firefighter since 1998.

“I think everybody knows that hours put in here are sometimes unbelievable,” Brofft added. “My wife, Liz, I’m very thankful she allows me to spend so much time up here.”

After 17 years, Brofft feels the end of the summer is the perfect time to step down. At 48 years old, he is looking forward to enjoying what life has in store over the coming years.

“Seventeen years is almost one-third of my life,” he said. “I’m getting to the twilight of my career with the fire department and it’s time to enjoy life a little bit.”

Though he may be retiring, members will still be able to see Otter Dan spending time at the club for many summers to come. Brofft said he will continue his membership and visit the club for many summers to come.

“I’m still going to be here,” he said. “The kids are still going to be able to call me Otter Dan, and the memories I have I’ll carry with me for a lifetime.”