Guest Column - September 2009
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Creating Recession-Resistant Aquatic Facilities

By Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D.


Most facilities offer learn-to-swim programs for children. There are many proven programs to choose from. The U.S. Swim School Association ( helps support successful learn-to-swim programs. Their 2009 Annual Conference will be held in San Diego, Oct. 13 to 17.

Many facilities have had limited success reaching a very large, unexploited market segment—people who fear water. A Gallup survey has shown that 46 percent of American adults are afraid in water over their heads when in a pool. A surprising number even fear putting their head under water (39 percent). These students need a different approach to attract them to a class and to help them overcome fear before trying to teach them how to swim.

Fortunately, programs are available now to help target and succeed with the large market of people who fear water. Instructors from the Miracle Swimming Institute ( offer courses to attract those who are afraid and teach them how to overcome that fear. The Institute also holds regular instructor training courses and has an Instructor Conference in Sarasota, Fla., Oct. 7 to 9.

Managing Risk

The presence of water is a hazard that results in drowning, illness and injury risk. The liability following an accident at a facility is expensive and may even threaten the facility's financial viability. As a result, implementing aquatic operational and risk management practices is important. Trained and certified operators and managers raise awareness and increase ways to minimize risk and reduce liability. The newly published Aquatic Risk Management booklet from NSPF, and several online training courses available at, are good resources to help facilities understand and manage risk.

Building Swimming Proficiency

Swim classes and teams are a natural extension of learn-to-swim programs. USA Swimming ( and the American Swim Coaches Association ( are excellent resources to help create exceptional programs. Proficiency can extend to competitive swim programs. U.S. Masters Swimming helps facilities implement programs for adults who are interested in fun, fitness and even competition (

Vertical Fitness Programming (Exercise)

The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) helps aquatic facilities deliver dynamic aquatic exercise programs ( AEA hosts the International Aquatic Fitness Conference in the spring and courses throughout the year to teach skill development; the conference also educates attendees on how to implement and promote exercise programs.

Being aware of new research can help promote aquatic exercise programs. Recent findings demonstrate that swimming provides unique heart, lung and nervous-system health benefits. Health benefit seminars presented at previous World Aquatic Health Conferences are available at