NORWALK, Conn. -- Omar Cruz found the ultimate double-edged sword. Already a successful coach of the Norwalk ZEUS swimming program, he found his burgeoning real estate business blossoming more swiftly than he envisioned.
Earlier this summer, Cruz decided to step down after 14 years as the head coach of ZEUS. One year after taking a job in real estate, his business has grown so fast that he could not manage both jobs adequately. Cruz is now the Managing Partner at Executive Real Estate Premier Properties.
“The season was ending, and I thought I should just focus my energy on the real estate business,’’ Cruz said. “I never thought my real estate business would be so successful so soon. It was never planned that I would leave ZEUS. It just took off.”
Cruz discussed the decision with his family in June. His daughter, Alessandra, a rising junior at Brien McMahon, swims for ZEUS. “It was a hard conversation,’’ Cruz said. “My family recognizes how much ZEUS has meant to me, and them. The swimmers and the parents have become friends of family over the year. It was a very emotional conversation, but I felt this would be the best way to go. My daughter will still be on the team. My role will just be different.”
Cruz faced obstacles at ZEUS that few other programs in Fairfield County endure. The swimming pool at Norwalk High School, where ZEUS trains, faced shutdown several times. The Norwalk YMCA closed. Some families in the program faced challenging financial issues. Cruz guided the team with a steady hand amid the turmoil.
“He could work with anybody,’’ said Karen Ham, a former ZEUS board member whose daughter, Mallory, swam for the program for 10 years. “His heart was always into the kids and what was going to be best for kids. He was tough on them, but he was good. I think kids look back on it now and they have a greater appreciation for him.”
Cruz developed some of the best swimmers to ever come out of Norwalk. Many of them have gone on to compete in college, and some of the area’s high school teams have thrived with the work of Cruz’s swimmers.
“What I enjoyed about coaching was seeing them thrive on so many different levels,’’ Cruz said. “Not only in the water, also in the classroom, at home and other activities. That was important to me.”
ZEUS started nearly 50 years ago under Betty Philcox. Since Cruz came aboard, the team’s membership grew 467 percent, according to its website. All of the club’s records have been set since Cruz came aboard. He has been helped by assistant coach Dennis Flores, who will take over as the team’s head coach.
“Our growth was a complete surprise,’’ Cruz said. “It took a lot of hard work from a lot of people. The swimmers get a lot of the credit, but the Board of Directors, the coaching staff and the parents all worked together. Norwalk has a great swimming community. I was fortunate to be a part of it.”
Earlier in August, Cruz said goodbye to swimmers past and present. Tears fell all around. Fortunately, Cruz will remain involved with the team, just from a different vantage point as he watches Alessandra compete. He’ll be the guy cheering loudest outside the pool deck.
“It was definitely hard to leave,’’ Cruz said. “I’ll still get to see them, but I won’t be as close. I think ZEUS is in good hands with Dennis.”
While leaving ZEUS behind, Cruz is looking forward to the next stage with real estate. “This is an exciting time,’’ he said. “I thought it would be a fascinating field and allow me do what I do well, and that’s help people. In this case, it’s helping people find the right place to live.”
Contact Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org 203-515-8055 for real estate information. More real estate information is also on his website.
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