Feature Article - July 2019
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A Wealth of Water Fun

Recreation, Therapeutic Activities Enhance Aquatic Programs

By Deborah L. Vence

Popular Programs

Among the more well-liked aquatic programs today, "Swim lessons remain popular," Barr said, "although it's an area where the industry has been relatively static.

"The biggest change seems to come from the introduction of swim schools," he said. "Keeping all of this in mind, most pool operations have greater demand for private and semi-private lessons than they can accommodate."

What's more, "Group exercise continues to gain in popularity," Barr added. "It seems that any group exercise program that can be done out of water is moving into the water, as long as your facility can accommodate it. A challenge with moving the group exercise programs into the water is finding instructors. In many cases, those that teach 'dry' programs aren't as willing to teach the 'wet' programs. A common solution we've seen is taking good swim lesson instructors and making them group exercise instructors."

In addition, he said, "Personal training continues to be baffling. The water seems like a natural fit if you are in a full-service facility that provides personal training. However, it seems like there is hesitancy of some personal trainers to incorporate water.

"Many times, and it is dependent on the facility, drop-in recreational use of the facility is very popular. Often aquatic operations are so focused on minimizing or eliminating subsidy that they forget drop-in use of the facility is a program in itself," he added.

Other popular programs include those like Ai Chi, which Sova said is "growing rapidly" in popularity "because of the mix of medically clinical progressions with energy flow. Vertical aquatic exercise programs are growing because of the research of the benefits of the water along with the reluctance of full immersion."

Similarly, Abdo noted that popular aquatic programs include aquatic therapy. "The need is huge and brings strong revenues," he said, adding that aquatic exercise with equipment, such as aqua bikes, boards, steps, etc., also are popular, along with deep-water aquatic programs (while wearing belts, easy on the body) and a full body workout, themed community events, cross-training for multi-sport athletes, preschool, and mermaid classes and events.

Program Challenges

Sometimes challenges can arise in establishing aquatic programs, including three that Barr noted.

"The first is staffing," he said. "Finding the right instructors for the right programs is a challenge, and staffing of an aquatic center in general, is challenging. Lifeguards aren't necessarily good swim lesson instructors and vice versa.

"The second is not having a focused approach," he said. "Many clients try and do everything, and in taking that approach don't do any of it well. The third is not recognizing the limitations of your own facility. For instance, if you have three 25-yard lap lanes incorporated into your leisure pool and your pool is already busy, there's a strong possibility you can't support a swim team."

In addition, "Crowding the pool during already busy times" can be another challenge. "That can be offset by offering programs for older people who no longer have to work regular schedules," Sova said.

Abdo noted a few more challenges: "Lack of creativity and/or budget; unwillingness for staff to find a business partner or sponsor; lack of support from department administration; not willing to take a risk; staff not held to revenue standards so offer the same old, worn out programs … no need for creativity; lack of other aquatic competition in the area," he said.