SwimAmerica has smooth sailing with Alpha Five SwimAmerica
“Our Alpha Five database is a complete management tool. We would not be able to survive without it.”
Rob Polley, Program Director,,
When Robert Polley became Program Director for SwimAmerica, he was given a three-ring binder overflowing with forms necessary to run the program and track more than 3,000 children enrolled in swim lessons annually. This information included swim lesson options, contact information, T-shirt sizes, lesson dates, and much more. All of the documentation was on paper. And there was no efficient way to manage the constant influx of paper forms. Polley attempted to computerize the information using a PC and a variety of software programs, but that only made the problem worse. He was still buried in paper, and now, redundant data entry. He knew he needed a true database that would let him enter information once, from wherever he was working. The database needed to be easy to use, and allow him to quickly create, update, and report on the data he collected. He also wanted the database to support an online registration system, based on e-mail, that could eliminate the back-and-forth of his existing snail-mail-based registration process. And whatever solution he found had to fit the organization’s small budget. One problem: Polley wasn’t a programmer or a database expert. He had never written computer code, and didn’t know HTML, CSS, XML, or other technical subjects.
Polley tried to learn PHP and MySQL to create a database system, but soon realized he’d have to become a real programmer to make his application idea a reality. After researching the database tools market and playing with trial versions, Polley discovered Alpha Software’s Alpha Five made it easy to create a customizable database that worked with any popular database (such as MySQL). Better still, it worked with the DBF files he had already created in his earlier efforts. He found he could import those DBF files to save time designing his database scheme, and then create data entry forms that worked on the desktop or the Web, with little effort. As he worked, Polley realized that he wouldn’t have to hire a programmer to create the system—something he had started considering when his earlier efforts didn’t pan out. In the end, Polley built the entire system himself, automating the management of all student records and other information integral to the SwimAmerica program. Alpha’s Action Scripting tools and Genies made it easy for Polley to design the customized features he needed. For example, he was able to build a service that lets the organization e-mail registration options to parents, collect their choices, and add the results directly into the database. Whenever Polley was stumped, he hit Alpha Software’s online community forum, where other Alpha users help each other by troubleshooting questions, sharing code snippets, and providing peer support. And thanks to Alpha Five’s built-in Web security framework, Polley knows his students’ sensitive information is safe from prying eyes.
Polley created a customized database system that works on the desktop or the Web, and completely manages all of SwimAmerica’s data requirements. The Web-based e-mail registration system now manages thousands of student records annually. Information collection and data entry that used to take hours now takes minutes. A child can be fully registered, with classes selected and T-shirt size entered in just a few mouse clicks. Paper forms, binders, and file cabinets have been completely eliminated, as well as lost records. Thanks to instant online registration, children can sign-up for classes up until the day before lessons begin. And with information stored online and easily searchable, Polley is maximizing program profitability by filling existing classes before creating new classes. He is also now expanding his use of Alpha Five databases. For example, he built a database to automate payroll, and another to automatically generate e-mail reminders of swim lessons for parents. More databases are under development. By diving into programming with Alpha Five, Alpha Software has become the lynchpin of SwimAmerica’s success.
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