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Aquatics Operations During COVID-19

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At this point during the COVID-19 outbreak, most facilities are closed until further notice, including your pools. If you are an aquatics professional, this can leave you with a lot of questions such as whether to completely shut down your pools or keep them running, the effect of either on your budget, training and recertifications for staff, and ultimately, what your plan will be for reopening.

Wesley King, an aquatics industry consultant and owner of Wesley King Consulting, LLC — a business that provides consulting on aquatics safety, service and sustainability — recently led a roundtable call for aquatics professionals to discuss their concerns and challenges and to see how he could help. The following is his advice:

Virtual Team Training

Because aquatics is hands-on, personal and can very well be emotional, training and staying up to date on recertification is a pressing concern. But if you can’t be in the pool, or even in your facility, how do you encourage staff to try and continue practicing and learning?

“Don’t make it about certifications and in-services, make it about the team,” said King. “The most success I’ve ever had is when the team supports the team, and that’s what’s missing right now, because you can’t get in front of the team.”

King’s virtual team training suggestions include using technology to stay connected. This can look like asking staff to submit brief five-minute videos of practicing CPR with a towel or prop. Other ideas include opening up a challenge to see who can submit the most creative video and then provide an incentive. Incentives can be sharing the video among staff, or providing gift cards if available. The overall goal is to encourage and engage staff, even when they can’t be face-to-face.

Facility Management

While many facilities have a certified pool operator (CPO) or pool company guiding them in the decision to drain and shut down pools or keep them up and running, King advised looking at your budget and making an action plan. “Have you thought about putting down a date in which you’re going to shut down and not reopen until?” he asked. “Make a decision as an organization so you can start creating plans – it gives you a foundation to build from.”

Even if you don’t set a date to shut down, King suggested analyzing what you’re spending. “Measure what you manage and manage what you measure,” he said. “Find out what it’s going to cost if you shut down and see how much you’ll save.”   

While the key to saving money may be to shut down, King emphasized the challenge is doing it right. “Like winterizing for example, if you didn’t close properly, then it will be more expensive and quadruple your bill,” he said.

King offers a complimentary aquatics risk and facility assessment tool you can access here.

Think Differently

Once you reopen, if you only go back to offering the same aquatics programs or swim lessons, your facility has no chance of standing out among all the other facilities who also just reopened. King suggested thinking of this time as a grand reopening opportunity. “You’re not going to be successful if you repeat the same process,” he said.

One of the activities King does when meeting with aquatics groups is to bring in an empty cardboard box and fill it with water, obviously resulting in a mess. He then describes how it would be different with a tub — obviously it would hold the water, just like a pool.

Then he poses the question, what you would put in the pool if it couldn’t be water? “Would you put an art studio in there, a rock bank or a gym class?” he asked. “It guides people to think differently. Now we put water in it, how did what we come up with translate to something new?”

And with these new programming ideas, one thing you can start doing is think about how you give your potential new member tours to up-sell the value of aquatics. Use this opportunity to showcase the new classes, events or even personal training that will take place in your pools — think differently.

Plan Ahead

King’s last piece of advice for aquatics professionals is to begin planning a year ahead, or as he calls it, the Sunday before the Superbowl. “Tell your staff now, the Sunday before the Superbowl 2021, you’re all going to meet,” said King. “Work backwards from that day and build out a timeline of your programs, classes, trainings, in-services, etc. If there was no virus and your year was already planned, you would have an idea of what your schedule would be, so when you reopen, you’re not scrambling and wondering what you’re going to do in the short season.”

For a collection of articles, virtual resources and more to help your staff and you during the coronavirus pandemic, visit the COVID-19 Resource Page. Plus, join the COVID-19 Resource Group for Club Operators on LinkedIn.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is an assistant editor at Peake Media. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com

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