Supplement Feature - February 2021
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Just Keep Swimming

The 2021 Aquatic Trends Report

By Emily Tipping


Only two types of programs saw an increase in 2020: collegiate swim teams (up 2.6 percentage points), and water polo (up 0.5).

Ys generally lead the way in terms of programming, whether facilities are aquatic or not, and this year offers no exception to that rule. Respondents from Ys were the most likely to offer: learn-to-swim programs, youth swim teams, aquatic programs for those with physical and developmental disabilities, aquatic aerobics, aqua-yoga, water walking, lap swimming, aquatic therapy, water safety programs, lifeguard training and birthday parties.

Respondents from colleges were the most likely to provide adult and collegiate swim teams, leisure swim and water polo programs.

School respondents were the most likely to provide school swim teams, swim meets and competitions, and diving programs and teams.

Park respondents were the most likely to offer doggie dips and dive-in movies.

More than one-quarter (25.5%) of respondents said they have plans to add more programs at their facilities over the next three years, up from 24.3% in 2019. Respondents from parks and Ys were the most likely to report that they have such plans. Some 29.1% of park respondents said they would be adding programs at their facilities, up from 27% in 2019. And 28.8% of Y respondents plan to add programs, up from 23%. Rec center respondents were the least likely to be planning program additions, though 15.4% said they have such plans, up from 14.7% in 2019. (See Figure 20.)

The top 10 most commonly planned program additions include:

  • Programs for those with physical disabilities (planned by 30% of those who will be adding programs, up from 28.3% in 2019)
  • Dive-in movies (29.1%, down from 38.7%)
  • Programs for those with developmental disabilities (26.1%, virtually unchanged from 26%)
  • Aqua-yoga and other balance programs (24.2%, down from 28.3%)
  • Aquatic aerobics (18.8%, down from 21.4%)
  • Learn-to-swim programs (16.4%, up from 12.1%)
  • Water safety training (12.7%, up from 11%)
  • Adult swim teams (10.9%, down from 16.2%)
  • Lifeguard training (10.9%, up from 9.2%)
  • Youth swim teams (10.3%)

We asked the 79.1% of respondents who offer learn-to-swim programs some further questions about the audience they reach with their programs. While children are obviously the most common audience for such programs, there are learn-to-swim programs designed to meet just about everyone's needs.

A substantial majority (96%) of respondents who provide learn-to-swim programs are reaching children ages 17 and younger. Another 72.4% provide programs for parents and babies or toddlers (such as mommy—or daddy—and me classes). Almost two-thirds (65.2%) provide learn-to-swim programs for adults 18 and up, and 37.6% provide learn-to-swim programs for seniors. (See Figure 21.)