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An Aquatic Vision


The vision for Sanford Health’s Wellness Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is “bringing people together to improve health.” According to Kathy Grady, the wellness center’s aquatic supervisor, the aquatic program is integral to that goal.

Sanford Health’s aquatic program consists of 31 classes per week catering to a wide range of demographics including special needs youth and adults, cancer survivors, elite athletes and more. As a result, the U.S. Water Fitness Association ranked Sanford Health’s aquatic program as No. 1 in the country.

“The aquatic program serves our mission by providing a wide diversity of population programming,” said Grady.

Aquatic classes worth noting include Sanford Health’s Adaptive Aquatics program designed for children and adults with special needs. Led by a certified Adaptive Aquatics teacher, it has grown from 172 sessions in 2008 to over 540 sessions to date. “The program provides sensory and physical conditioning,” explained Grady. “We are also proud to be the training site for the Special Olympics — we currently have 95 athletes we serve.”

The aquatic program also includes Bridging the Gap, a post physical therapy program catering to those who have undergone hip or knee replacements. “This is a referral program supported by a physician and physical therapist, with the ultimate goal of returning the member back to a healthier life,” said Grady.

Another medical-based class is the Embrace Warm Water class, led by a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, which is designed for female cancer survivors. “This class is a time for them to connect with other cancer survivors and offer group support,” explained Grady.

According to Grady, the aquatic program’s success is due in part to the wide variety of classes offered. “Our objective is to never accept [the] status quo,” said Grady.

Grady also attributed success to the fact that the aquatic programs complement the fitness center’s classes. “Our Wellness Center requires a total transparency of effort between our aquatic and land programs,” she said. “We do this through open communication and cooperation between departments in developing the most effective programs for our members.”

Sanford Health’s Wellness Center has 30 aquatic employees, including full-time and part-time staff. This consists of 15 exercise instructors and 15 swim instructors/lifeguards. “In addition to their certifications we offer in-service trainings to practice back boarding and rescue skills,” explained Grady. “They are required to complete job specific and emergency competencies as well as on-going training.”

When it comes down to it, Grady explained a major part of the aquatic program’s notoriety comes down to its staff. “Our aquatic programs continue to grow every year, not because we’ve added more pool space, but due to an excellent staff who know how to offer multiple programs at once, make it work and are quick to respond to the needs of our customer.”

That, and the aquatic program’s ability to “bring people together to improve health,” no matter their age, fitness level or health needs

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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