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GRF welcomes its new Fitness/Aquatics manager

By Mike Wood

Staff writer


News photo by Dan Rosenstrauch
Jackie Carlisle is the new Fitness and Aquatics manager.

Wednesday, May 22 (10:30 a.m.): With a job title new to Rossmoor, Jackie Carlisle is excited to be on the job. The newly designated GRF Fitness and Aquatics manager began here May 8.

Bringing a variety of experiences to Rossmoor, it was what she first witnessed with a senior center in San Bruno that erased any preconceived notions about older communities.

“You would go in there thinking, oh, it’s going to be a very calm place and quiet and people might move a little slower … but they liked to party!” Carlisle said. “They are the biggest partiers I know. They always wanted fun things to do, like Zumba and dance classes and music all the time, and live music especially. They’d be the first ones out there cutting the rug.”

Therefore, coming to this active adult community made sense.

“You can be as young as you want to be,” Carlisle said. “It’s all a mindset.”

With 23 years working with the city of San Bruno, most recently as recreation coordinator, she was in awe when she got the “grand tour” of Rossmoor when interviewing for this job.

“I’m very much ready for a new challenge and new experience,” Carlisle said. “When I saw this place, it was like, OK, yeah, this is the time to go and venture on. It made it very easy to transition over.”

Her responsibilities comprise Aquatics and the Fitness Center, the latter of which is now fully under GRF. Carlisle’s hiring is the culmination of changes following GRF’s ending its contract with Active Wellness for management of the Fitness Center in February, along with the resignation of the center’s manager, Kristine Drinovsky.

“Moving the management fully within GRF means that the management values align completely with those of GRF,” Community Services Director Ann Mottola said. “We intentionally recruited for someone with experience in community-based vs. profit/corporate-based operations.”

Carlisle’s responsibilities align with Rossmoor’s Aquatics and Fitness Advisory Committee, which was merged last year from separate advisory committees.

“Having this as an in-house position allowed us to hire in competencies that benefit both program areas,” Mottola said.

Carlisle brings considerable community experience, particularly in aquatics and working with sports and recreational programs.

Born and raised in San Bruno, she was terrified of the water when she was young, but instructors eventually honed her love of aquatics, and she went on to swim on the Capuchino High School swim team.

“The water is so important,” Carlisle said. “It has such healing powers. The people who come to the pool, they’re always bright and cheery. You could be having the worst day, and when you get to the pool, it just brightens up immediately.”

She came back to coach her school’s swim team and restarted its girls water polo program.

“What’s really exciting is two of the swimmers who I used to coach, they’re now the coaches of that team,” Carlisle said. “My heart’s still with them. I go and visit frequently, and I’m always welcome on deck.”

When Mottola held a similar role in San Bruno, she came to know Carlisle’s knack for making activities and programs fun.

“She is by far the most creative programmer I have worked with and has a way of making ordinary experiences extraordinary,” said Mottola, adding that she anticipates “some innovative pop-up programs or events to excite and engage existing and prospective new resident users of our fitness and aquatics facilities.”

Carlisle also worked at the Pomeroy Recreation and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, where she was a swim instructor and water aerobics instructor, and served youths with special needs.

As head lifeguard at Menlo Swim and Sport in Menlo Park, she saw the dedication of swimmers with its master’s swim program but also many former and current Stanford swimmers who worked out there.

In San Bruno, Carlisle also worked with Kelsey Clyma, who became Rossmoor’s manager of resident services in February.

“She really has a passion for growing and teaching staff to ensure they are not only skilled but also confident in their positions,” Clyma said. “Her heart is her staff; she has a retention rate that I have never seen with another manager.”

To that end, Carlisle said she plans to speak with each of her staff to get their ideas of what has been going well, what can be improved, and their own career aspirations. She’s eager to improve lifeguard staffing.

“I’m hoping to push out more postings for lifeguarding and finding more avenues to get that information to people,” she said.

In San Bruno, her sphere included aquatics, youth sports, adult sports and seniors. She’s proud of how her team revamped a senior lunch program during the COVID-19 pandemic in which staff delivered food to homebound seniors.

“Jackie is also really fantastic with the big picture; she’s able to see all of the puzzle pieces that need to be put together in order to solve a problem, and she does it with such ease,” Clyma added.

Carlisle, who lives in Fremont, didn’t know much about Rossmoor until applying for the job. When she saw the community for the first time, she was in awe.

“I was walking around with stars in my eyes and I’m thinking, it’s so pretty,” she said. “It was just so quiet and peaceful, and it had that uplifting feeling.”

She witnessed that uplifting feeling on her second day here, sitting in on the Parkinson’s exercise class at the Fitness Center.

“When you’re a coach, when you’re a trainer or an instructor, it’s so fulfilling to see your students progress and get better and are just enjoying themselves,” Carlisle said. “And you see them light up because how happy they are.”