Feature Article - June 2020
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2020 Report on the State of the Managed Recreation Industry

A Look at What's Happening in Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facilities

By Emily Tipping


Certifications continue to be a powerful tool that organizations and their employees (and potential employees) alike rely on to encourage and measure ongoing professional development in the field. Some certifications help prove a certain level of skill and knowledge to maintain safety requirements (think lifeguard or food-service certification), while others simply test and qualify other types of professional expertise. A majority of respondents (82.1%) said they require certifications for at least some of their staff members, down slightly from 83.2% in 2019.

Respondents from Ys, colleges and schools were the most likely to require certification for some of their employees. Some 97.7% of Y respondents said they currently require certification. They were followed by colleges, with 90.3% requiring certification, and schools, at 88.3%. Respondents from camps were the least likely to require certification for their staff, though 76% said they do have such a requirement, up from 72.6% in 2019. (See Figure 23.)

Of those respondents that require certification, the most common types of certification required included CPR/AED/First Aid (required by 90.2% of those who said they require some staff members to be certified), background checks (83.9%), and lifeguard certification (56.7%). (See Figure 24.) More than one-quarter of respondents also require an aquatic management/pool operations certification (36.4%), food service certification (28.1%), or personal training/fitness certification (27.8%). More than one-fifth expect a pesticide application certification (23.4%) or a coaching certification (23.1%).

Respondents from facilities that include aquatic elements are obviously much more likely to require lifeguard and aquatic management or pool operations certifications for some of their staff members. While 56.7% of all respondents who require certification said they ask some staff members to achieve lifeguard certification, for those with aquatic facilities, that number jumps to 87%. And while 36.4% of all respondents require aquatic management and pool operations certifications, 58.5% of those with aquatic facilities do so.

Given the varying nature of their operations and programming, it comes as no surprise that some industry segments were more likely to require certain types of certification than others. Respondents from parks were the most likely to report that they require playground safety certification (37%), pesticide application certification (23.4%), Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) certification (21.3%), turf and grounds management certification (11.9%), and security or law enforcement certification (9.1%). Ys were the most likely to require background checks (98.8%), CPR/First Aid (97.6%), lifeguard certification (86.9%), personal training or fitness certification (72.6%), aquatic management or pool operations certification (66.7%), and childcare and early childhood education certification (56%). Camp respondents were the most likely to require food service certification (61.4%) and climbing certification (31.6%). Those from schools were the most likely to require coaching (74.4%) or teaching (57%) certifications. And finally, respondents from colleges and universities were the most likely to require athletic trainer certification (31.3%).