You have questions, we have answers. We took some time this month to speak with Brandi Perkovich, the director of youth programs and aquatics for Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pa. Perkovich provided tips for making a splash with your aquatics facility.
CS: Why are aquatics centers so valuable for retaining members in the summer months?
BP: An outdoor aquatics center adds value to a club’s membership and keeps them coming in during the summer months when they’d typically take the time off to be outside. I’m an outdoors girl — I’d pick a trail run over a treadmill any day. So would many of our members. In opening our outdoor facility, our daily usage compared to previous summers doubled. [Last] summer, families came to our club, rather than joining a separate pool club or renting their typical shore house for the summer. They built new relationships with people that they wouldn’t have otherwise met inside the gym.
CS: How can clubs teach their members to be safe around the pool?
BP: We offer year-round, learn-to-swim programming for our members, as well as any non-members in the community that are interested in participating. Our learn-to-swim programming follows a very structured curriculum encouraging individuals to be safe in and around the water. We also provide personal flotation devices (PFDs) at our facility for any of our pool patrons to use, to make their experience more enjoyable. Additionally, for any group coming in to use our facility, we put together a team of aquatics staff members to be sure that the rules of the facility are properly communicated to the group. They also administer a swim test to determine which swimmers might need to be restricted to certain areas or required to wear PFDs and are available and supportive to the groups using the facility.
CS: How can clubs cut back on energy costs in the early portion of the season?
BP: Installing variable frequency drivers on existing systems will help decrease the amount of electricity used to run your pump house. Also, clubs could consider installing alternative or additional modes of sanitization of the pools. While the initial installation may cost money, the savings in the long run would offset the cost. Installing Ultra Violet systems in your pump house will decrease the amount of chlorine needed to keep your pools’ bacteria level down. The consideration of different methods of filtration, which might decrease the frequency of backwashing, could save money in water replacement and chemicals. Heating the pools is also a huge energy cost. Purchasing covers for the pools to help retain heat will assist in offsetting this cost as well.
CS: What are some key strategies in hiring lifeguards and other aquatics personnel for each season?
BP: We begin our recruitment process with determining whether or not an individual would be a good culture fit here at the NAC. For our inaugural season, we hosted a job fair to encourage any interested parties in the local community to come and apply for a job. Once we established which applicants best fit our culture, we then invited those individuals in to participate in a skills interview for their specific positions. Most importantly with the new staff, once hired, we hold extensive training and team building exercises.
Your summer season is a short one. There isn’t a lot of time for on-the-job training, because the season is likely to be over before you can get your team to the status you desire. A lot of that training needs to be held before the season starts so that, as a director, you’re able to maintain their quality of work with weekly in-service trainings.
Top Five Reasons A Club Should Have An Aquatics Center
1. Enhances every program currently offered.
2. Swimming is a total-body workout.
3. Swimming is something that can be done from the cradle to the grave!
4. Great social avenue for members.
5. Brings in outside business, parties, special events, guest traffic, generating leads for potential new members.