Ask an Expert on Aquatic Programming
You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Seth Hazen, a general manager and director for Active Wellness, about running a successful aquatics program.
What would you say is the hardest part of being an aquatics director?
SH: For me the staffing side of aquatics has always been the hardest part of being a director. There is so much risk and stress involved in running and managing a pool, and oftentimes you are dealing with a very transitional and young employee base that needs a significant amount of coaching before they can actually start the job you hired them for.
And then, no sooner do you just start to feel comfortable with your staff that the season ends, or you have staffing turnover, and you start the training, coaching, parenting process all over again. It can make all the time you’ve spent working with your team feel wasted and that you are stuck in an endless hiring and training cycle. It takes a massive amount of mental fortitude to be an aquatics director.
How do you overcome those challenges?
SH: There are a couple of strategies. The first is to hire with a focus on the long term. Your interview process should have a deep analysis of the long-term goals and plans for your potential employee. You want to know if your employee will be taking off a month into your summer for an extended vacation, or if he or she is going to college out of the area. It doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily hire someone, but what it does do is give you the information to plan ahead so you can have someone hired and trained when that employee is ready to leave. Aquatics is all about being proactive, not reactive.
The second strategy is to have a strong training program in place. Whether you are hiring lifeguards or instructors, they will need to go through extensive training before they, and you, are comfortable in their jobs. With a strong program in place you can instantly get someone into the process and ready to replace your outgoing employees the day they leave.
What trends in aquatics are you seeing?
SH: I really haven’t seen anything new over the last year or so, but demand for water play features is a huge draw for families. It used to be a swimming pool on its own was enough, but slides, fountains and spray jets have really seen an increase in demand over the last few years.
What is your aquatics strategy?
SH: We get such a high year-round demand on our swimming pools from a wide variety of users that our overall aquatics strategy is to be a jack of all trades for our members. We want a member to be able to do whatever activity they prefer — lap swimming, water walking, free swimming — at pretty much any time of the day. While certain activities may be limited sometimes, we build our pool schedules in a way that a wide variety can happen at any given times.
We also believe in high-quality programming, and another one of our strategies is to survey our participants a minimum of twice per year and closely analyze that data so that we can ensure we are always meeting our members’ needs.