Feature Article - November 2016
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Begin With the Basics & Build

Aquatic Programming 101

By Dave Ramont

Old(er) Dogs, New Tricks

In fact, while there are more than 18 million swimming pools and hot tubs in the United States, 37 percent of American adults cannot swim the length of a pool, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research also shows that children of adults who can't swim are at a greater risk of not learning to swim. To address this problem, U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) and the Swimming Saves Lives (SSL) foundation launched the inaugural April is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month campaign in 2013, which encourages their 1,500-plus clubs and workout groups to offer swim lessons for adults. In 2015, they launched their Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Certification Program, which trains adults to teach adults to swim and be safer in and around water. The SSL foundation provides grants to programs offering adult swim lessons, distributing close to $100,000 in 2016.

USMS promotes health, wellness, fitness and competition for adults through swimming. More than 65,000 men and women ages 18 to 100 are members nationwide.

Bill Brenner, education director at USMS, explained that their members have varying skill levels and goals. "Some are highly competitive, while others swim for fun or fitness."

Brenner said that many members do swim in local, regional, national and world swimming events—both in the pool and open water—with more than 1,500 adult swim clubs nationwide participating in USMS-sanctioned events. Individuals swim by gender and age, generally organized in five-year increments. Relay opportunities are also offered at most events.

As far as having a successful masters swimming program or adult learn-to-swim program, Brenner believes the key is having definitive leadership. "Having a masters coach lead workouts and practices provides the secret sauce to why a masters program grows, by attracting new members and retaining existing ones," he said. He added that an engaged coach can help meet the needs and goals of the swimmer while still keeping it fun. "Not every swimmer can get faster, but they can get better with proper stroke technique and a commitment to the sport."

Beyond Swimming

USA Water Polo (USAWP) is the national governing body for water polo in America, overseeing the Olympic Water Polo program and boasting 45,000 members and nearly 500 club programs nationwide. Christy Medigovich, director of membership development at USAWP, said they're focused on providing affordable entry to the sport to engage new members. "Combined with the low-cost membership, we work with local and regional clubs and members to offer more play opportunities in their zones. In addition, we offer National Championship events, which consist of upwards of 600-plus teams. Our thriving Olympic Development Program offers a variety of training opportunities to USAWP athletes as well."

Splashball, offered at many clubs and multipurpose organizations, is designed to introduce water polo to kids aged 5 to 9, providing basic skills and understanding of the sport. It combines fun, water safety and teamwork, and motivates kids to swim and stay fit. And Masters Water Polo is for those 20 to 70 and up, offering a variety of play opportunities at varying skill levels. Among many other events, there's the USA Water Polo Masters Nationals Championship. Medigovich points out that some masters are first-time learners, while others are former national team members.