Supplement Feature - February 2012
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Dive in for Healthier Bodies & Minds

Wellness Programming for Aquatic Facilities

By Julie Knudson

Krieger even finds it's not uncommon for people with water phobias to get their own kids into swim lessons. But as these individuals age, the issue sometimes returns to the forefront. "I'm finding more seniors, the 55 and over population, who have come to some sort of crossroads in their life," he said. "Whether they're changing careers, they're sick and tired of carrying that baggage around with them, or they're entering retirement and want to be able to enjoy vacations and aquatic activities, I'm seeing a lot more seniors looking for a program like mine."

One challenge to marketing fearful swimmer programs, Krieger has discovered, is that individuals with water phobias may have already tried traditional learn-to-swim programs without success. "It's so important…to first learn to overcome that fear, and then learn to swim," he said. "Most learn-to-swim programs don't deal with the emotional component, and as a result they aren't prepared to deal with consequences of either a child or adult who can't learn to swim because they're terrified." Krieger uses his background as a mental health professional to first tackle the fear before teaching swim strokes.

Aquatic centers interested in promoting programs for those with water phobias should first ensure they have the right resources and instructors on hand to successfully address swimmers' fears, Krieger said. "Pool space is always at a premium, and usually the odd man out is the phobic or the person who needs additional resources to be successful."

He stressed the need for instructors who recognize and can address the emotional component present in water phobia, and said that mental health professionals, people with a background in education, and those who have worked with emotionally or physically challenged populations are usually "the kind of passionate and compassionate people that are more successful in this type of process."