Feature Article - January 2008
Find a printable version here


Aquatic Programming Gets Back to Basics

By Emily Tipping

Find a Balance, and Make it Fun

Wheeler presents a session for U.S. Masters Swimming called "Getting What You Deserve or Deserving What You Get," which focuses on understanding the politics within your municipality and how that relates to your pool. "The biggest trick for an aquatics program director is to find that balance of trying to please everybody," he said. "We have swim teams that would love to have more space, but when you start to talk about what the water's worth, it becomes hard to justify using that space in that way." He added that Oakland balances various users' needs by offering different types of programming at different times for the various pools, adding that having more than one facility makes it easier to spread the joy. The priority list for most facilities, he said, usually starts with youth swimming, followed by lap swimming and masters teams. "Sometimes you have lap swimmers who wonder why the kids are in the pool and youth advocates who wonder why the lap swimmers are in the pool," he said. "There's a lot of give and take and push and pull with limited resources and really high expenses."

"We have to remember that an aquatic facility can be very expensive to operate. They can't all lose a lot of money. Can aquatic facilities make money? Yes, they positively can, and this is one of my major projects—trying to help people understand how they can do that," Spannuth said. "Under that, we have to realize that we need to develop our priorities based on our organization. I say you need to evaluate programs based on the number of people they get into your facilities and the dollars those programs produce. Also, I say you need to make programs fun. Because people remember if they have a good time."