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Staying Afloat

Staying Afloat, aquatics program

How to maximize on your pool’s wide appeal to a variety of demographics.

Aquatics might seem like a topic only relevant in the summertime, but for many clubs, their aquatics programs are crucial to the way they function all year long.

Anthony Stec, the director of sales at Steel Fitness Premier Health and Wellness in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said with three heated indoor swimming pools, they consistently see plenty of action. “People who are just getting started with a fitness program, or fitness in general, tend to gravitate more to our pools first, and then graduate to the rest of our club — our classes and our weight floor,” he said.

Stec explained each pool serves a different purpose. Inside of Steel Fitness, there is a lap pool, a therapy pool and an activity pool used for water aerobics classes.

Some aerobics classes include Aquaticize, Aqua Pump and Hydrotone, while a different set of classes take place in the club’s therapy pool. “Aqua Arthritis and Pi-Cho-Chy are geared more toward the senior population, or people with rheumatoid or osteoarthritis,” explained Stec. “It allows their joints to move with minimal restrictions and increases their range of motion.”

The great thing about aquatics is that it’s truly accessible to almost everyone, from the elite athlete to the older adult, to the fitness newcomer.

But, Stec noted the importance of knowing your audience and staying up-to-date with fitness trends when determining what programs are right for your club.

Steel Fitness’ aquatics director, Michael Seip, explained bringing in outside resources can be helpful to running a successful program. “We have a contract with a local aquatics club that provides the children’s lessons, and we have an independent contractor that comes in and provides ‘Learn to Swim’ for adult lessons,” he explained. “We also work with a scuba company.”

Seip said maintaining the club’s three pools can become quite the maintenance task, so working with outside contractors to offer lessons helps to increase the membership base, which helps subsidize pool costs.

Since Seip views third-parties as a mutually beneficial relationship, he works to promote the programs internally.  “If I know there’s a group coming in that hasn’t been here before, I’ll give the sales team a heads up so that they can develop some sort of special marketing plan,” he said.

Steve Ellis, the facilities manager at Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, said while his club offers nearly 100 aquatics classes per week, their physical therapy classes are the most well-received.

“Water therapy is very, very popular because essentially you’re in a giant bathtub you can move around in,” said Ellis. “Our pools are saltwater, so we make our chlorine through electrolysis. That helps with the environment, because you don’t have that strong chlorine smell you have in a lot of other places.”

Ellis added members appreciate the variety of programs offered at the club, and the way the programs are organized throughout the day. “We have several lap swimmers that come in early in the morning or late at night so they don’t affect class schedules,” he said.

Brynne Elozory, the aquatics coordinator and program coordinator at Cherry Creek Athletic Club, said her role is the first of its kind at the club and it is her responsibility to develop programs that will appeal to all of the memberships’ wants and needs.

To do so successfully, Elozory said considering demographics is the first step. “What I’ve seen at a lot of gyms is the baby boomer generation really loves the aqua-fit classes, so if you have a gym that’s more for that population, focus on programs that cater to them,” she added. “If you want to bring in younger people, have programs like group lessons, or even swim lessons for kids.”

Either way, Elozory said she’s noticed people want to workout for more than just a good sweat — they’re also looking to make connections with others. Therefore, building niche communities within your aquatics program can encourage long-term success.

“I’ve noticed a trend in 2017,” said Elozory. “People really want to build their communities and their experiences within their gym life. They don’t want to just come in, workout and go home. They want to meet people, they want to network, they want to have fun while they’re working out.”

With this in mind, Elozory added leadership can also play a factor in the response your aquatics program garners. Is your staff contributing or hurting your program’s community? “I think people should focus on hiring with intent,” she said. “Having a good swim coach, someone who is energetic and excited, can really make or break any program that you run.” 

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