Uniting People in Fun and Fitness
When I talk to people from all backgrounds-whether that's parks and recreation, college recreational sports, high school athletics, YMCA directors or health club owners-I like to ask what they see as the major trends in our industry. So imagine my delight when we decided this year to poll our readers to ask about the trends in their facilities. We received nearly 2,000 responses from a diverse array of readers, and we've compiled the results of that survey here.
In parks and recreation facilities, the great worry is budgets, but that's not stopping parks and recreation departments from building new facilities, adding new programs or trying to reach new members of their community with ever-more-diverse options for fun and fitness. Many of these facilities are finding new ways to offer more, often by partnering with others in the community, from local schools to local business, to reach a more diverse audience with more diverse programming.
On college campuses across the country, we're seeing what one expert calls an "arms race" in terms of campus recreation, with schools across the country building some truly outstanding facilities. But beyond their facilities, many colleges are adopting new approaches to campus wellness that can provide a lesson for everyone in the industry.
In school districts across the nation, there has been a sharp falloff in the number of children with access to free play and recess time, as well as physical education. And in the words of one expert, "…it's not like we've seen drastic improvements in terms of academics." The good news is that the pushback has begun, with legislators around the country beginning to ask for a return of recess and physical education to the school day.
YMCAs and health clubs are at the forefront of creating new and innovative programs that reach out to special groups-from active older adults, a necessity with the coming "age boom," to teens and youth, important for dealing with upward trends in childhood obesity. Look to these facilities to help lead the way in establishing better health habits in people of diverse backgrounds, ages, income brackets and experience levels.
Aquatics, which are included in nearly 60 percent of our survey respondents' facilities, from outdoor park pools to indoor competition pools at colleges to splash play areas that are being added to YMCAs at a fast clip, is at the forefront of family involvement, with a trend away from competitive swimming facilities toward family aquatic centers that offer recreational water fun, as well as aquatic exercise options, for everyone in the community.
Learning about all of these trends from all of these different sectors of our industry gets me excited. Because when you combine their different viewpoints into one larger picture, it really seems that the recreation industry has the ability to unite us where we have been divided, to motivate us where we have been less than enthusiastic, and to inspire us where inspiration has been hard to find.
So my hat's off to all of you in the industry for the way you serve your missions to reach your communities. Life without you would be a lot less fit, and a lot less fun.
Emily Tipping, Editor
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