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Engaging Members Through Aquatics


Aquatics programming is an important component of health clubs, as it offers members an opportunity to reach their goals through low-impact exercise. And with so many aquatics programs and amenities on the market, there’s essentially no limit to the demographics your pool can cater to.

On opposite ends of the country, both Hockessin Athletic Club in Hockessin, Delaware, and the Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) in Los Angeles, California, have each experienced success engaging members through unique aquatics programming. Here, we dive into their wide variety of offerings and keys to success.

Hockessin Athletic Club

Two very specific changes in programming have helped Hockessin’s aquatics department gain a lot of steam. For example, the addition of WATERinMOTION — a choreographed group exercise class — has provided a great spark to aquatics participation.

“We recently launched WATERinMOTION as a part of our aqua fitness program and it is a big hit,” said Andy Morris, the aquatics director at Hockessin. “Attendance is up, and even initially skeptical participants are now enjoying and reaping the benefits of the program.”

A low-impact, high-energy choreographed exercise class, WATERinMOTION is a complete workout. In WATERinMOTION, participants will work on lateral and linear movement, speed, suspension, their upper and lower body, core strength and flexibility.

According to Morris, WATERinMOTION has been well worth the investment. “The investment was not insignificant, but the rewards have been substantial,” he said.

With the success of WATERinMOTION driving the popularity of aquatics at Hockessin, the club also decided to make some updates to another tried-and-true program: its Swim Academy.

Aquatics exercises are great for engaging members.

“Last year we refocused our Swim Academy, better defining the schedule and focusing our marketing efforts on new member families and young families in the broader community,” explained Morris. “This coincided with a push to formalize the training and professional development of our instructors.”

The aim was to provide and obtain measurable goals for the program. “Success can be measured not only on the balance sheet, but on the faces of our swim students each time they leave the water,” said Morris.

By putting more emphasis on its Swim Academy, Hockessin has been able to drive the performance of its club. “The aqua fitness program and Swim Academy are seeing great engagement from our members — attendance and retention are up in both areas,” said Morris. “Revenue has also gone up in the Swim Academy.”

Even with the success of WATERinMOTION and the Swim Academy, however, Hockessin’s most important asset goes beyond a single program or amenity.

“The biggest investment we’ve made in the past year is in our staff,” said Morris. “Instructors have access to professional development funds to assist them in improving their practice. We have found good, local resources where we can send staff to get support and training. We regularly give out tokens of appreciation to staff for going above and beyond.”

According to Morris, these investments in staff members — from tokens of appreciation to development funds — have created a very positive work culture at Hockessin. “We have lowered our turnover rate among staff, and the investment is paying off in the daily experiences of our members,” he said.

“People are the key,” said Morris. “Having passionate, engaged and knowledgeable people in primary roles is critical.”

The Los Angeles Athletic Club

There are several unique classes that take place in water, and the more you can offer to your members, the more revenue and engagement you can generate from aquatics programming.

“Aquatic programs are great social outlets, while also allowing students to improve their swim techniques while building endurance and overall health,” said Skye Conant, the aquatics and junior program coordinator at the LAAC.

One of the premier health clubs in Los Angeles, the LAAC offers several aquatic programs catering to a wide variety of participants, including private swim lessons, Aqua Zumba, Deep Water Exercise and a swim conditioning club. 

However, the club’s swimming lessons are consistently its most popular aquatics activity. “Our private swim lessons are the most popular aquatic program at the LAAC,” said Conant. “Our instructors cater to all ages starting as young as 6-months-old through clients in their 70s.”

Clubs can teach all things aquatics: from basic swimming to diving.

But for those who want something a little more advanced or exciting than just learning how to swim, LAAC members can partake in Aqua Zumba, Deep Water Exercise or the Swim Conditioning Club.

“Taught in the shallow pool, we offer an Aqua Zumba class, which is very personalized and choreographed to dance music that allows guests to have a fun and great workout at the same time,” said Conant.

Dancing has been proven to give participants a great workout, and combining that burn with the low-impact environment of a pool is the perfect combination.

“Another popular program is our Deep Water Exercise class, which has strong engagement,” added Conant. “Since our current instructor has taken over, the numbers have increased. He does a great job challenging our members, which is why they love attending his class.”

And it’s available for pretty much all adult LAAC members. “This class now caters to a wide age group of both men and women,” said Conant.

Incorporating the effort it takes to stay several feet underwater into an aerobic exercise, the Deep Water Exercise program helps members strengthen their abs, legs, arms and backs.

If the previous two classes are a bit too exciting or intense, the Swim Conditioning Club is a great mixture of daily workouts and competitive swimming, depending on preference.

“The Swim Conditioning Club is very popular and gives adult members the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, ranging from lap swimming to the thrill of competition,” said Conant. “Anyone who is 19-years-old or older and knows how to swim can join.”

The Swim Conditioning Club will help participants build endurance, muscle strength, and heart and lung capacity through structured workouts and help from experienced coaches. It’s the perfect choice for inexperienced swimmers who want to improve their fitness, or experienced swimmers who want to take their skills to the next level.

Safety is also of the utmost importance in any health club, especially in the pool. Through its staff training, the LAAC places a high priority on member safety in aquatics classes.

“All pool staff are certified under the American Red Cross and our water aerobics instructors are certified under the Aquatic Exercise Association,” said Conant.

But at the end of the day, what has driven the success of this aquatics department has been the unique nature of its programming, which stems from the unique nature of the aquatics facility itself.

“Our success comes down to the fact the LAAC offers several aquatic activities throughout the year, and boasts the first above-ground pool built west of the Mississippi River,” said Conant.

Offering something different has put the LAAC in a place to succeed. If you’re looking for a boost in member engagement, it might be time to dive in to new aquatics programs. 

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine. He can be reached at bobby@peakemedia.com.

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