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How to Implement Aquatic Programming

Mark A. Stevens, Joe Schwar and Whitney Benedetti discuss how to implement aquatic programs at your club.

"I'm the fitness director at my club. We're adding a pool to our club soon and we want to implement a full aquatics program but we don't know where to start. Do you have any suggestions?"

A: Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Determine what programs you want to start with. Who you will be serving and what are the needs of those populations?
  2. Determine what the facility needs are. It is my belief that you design a pool after you design the space for the programs, staff, restrooms, storage, etc...
  3. Design the pools to meet the needs of the programs and populations served. Make sure the pools, pool areas and staffing meet city codes, state regulations, ADA compliance, etc.

Here are some other things to consider:

  • Building Programs:  Start small and see what naturally builds. Give programs a 3-6 month test; If the expectations are not met, try a new program. Do not add more classes if the current classes are not full. 
  • Program timing:  Programs accommodate more people than open lap swim so programs should have priority during the most peak times of day.  Leave two - three  peak times with no programs so everyone has priority a couple of times a week. 
  • Do not put a hot tub that is for adults in the same area as families swim.
  • Keep the pool areas open concept where staff can see all of the pools at one time.
  • Plan on shade structures if the pool is going to be outside.
  • Consider if the pools will be lifeguarded at all times or a swim at your own risk. How will you monitor the pools for safety?

Mark A. Stevens, Regional Director
The Houstonian Health Clubs and Spas

A: It all depends on what you want to offer and if you want to/plan to use it as revenue producing part of your club. 

I would suggest doing an Aquatic Exercise program.  We offer it here at ACAC as part of your membership. Offer family swim times which are also part of membership. 

Some revenue produces are Aquatic Personal Training, Swim Lessons and Lifeguard Training Classes. (The easiest way to do a swim lesson program is to hire Red Cross Swim Insturctors and offer the Red Cross program.) My one suggestion is to be very careful as to how much you program your pools and take the water away from your paying members.  

Pools sell memberships.  Even if folks don't use them, they will close a membership sale just because people will have that option.  

Joe Schwar, Asst. Mem Dir & Corp Outreach 
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers

A: Here are some steps to take/questions to ask yourself:

  • Create a checklist of questions to answer, include objectives of the program.
  • Visit other programs of interest that work in your area.
  • Have an aquatics professional help run/facilitate the implementation/set-up; someone who has taught lessons/classes, lifeguarded, managed a pool; someone well seasoned in aquatics.
  • What type of pool do you have?  Shallow water, deep water, warm water, lap pool…The type of pool, the hours of operation, and the temperature of the pool will help guide what you offer.  A 5 lane, 9’ deep, 25 meter lap pool at 78 degrees will not lend itself to an AFAP (Arthritis Aquatics) water class or a pre-school swim program.                     
  • Who is your target group?
  • Are they fee based classes?
  • What do you want to offer?  Group/private swimming lessons, competitive swim programs, and/or water aerobics classes.
  • What certifications are involved?  Red Cross swim lessons require instructors to be certified Water Safety Instructors and hand out Red Cross certificates to participants.  If you plan on implementing your own curriculum, you will need a hiring and training strategy in place for your staff.
  • Do you have lifeguards on duty?  How are they trained/supervised/maintained?
  • What equipment do you need for the classes?  How/where is it stored/maintained?

Whitney Benedetti, Acquatics / Activities Director
Rochester Athletic Club


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.

Reader Comments (1)

These are all really good posts chock full of the right kind of information to help you implement a profitable, sustainable aquatic venue.
One thing I would add - it is important to the health and safety of the clients as well as employees, to have a certified pool operator either on staff or outsourced.

There is a poor track record for complying with public health codes, according to a recent study by the CDC. Pool inspection data from 15 jurisdictions across the United States indicated that 12.1% of inspections resulted in immediate closure because of the seriousness of identified violations; violations regarding the following issues are frequently identified:Free Chlorine level (10.7% of inspections), pH level (8.9%), other water chemistry (12.5%), filtration/recirculation system (35.9%), water test kit (3.3%), record keeping (10.9%) and licensure (2.7%). [CDC. Violations identified from routine swimming pool inspections – selected states and counties, United States, 2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59(19):582-587]

Also the CDC's Model Aquatic Health Code just released it's first module, Operator Training, to help address these gaps in training and care.It is significant that the “Operator Training” module is the first Model Aquatic Health Code module to be released. Currently, only 23 states have adopted requirements that public pool operators complete a minimum two-day training program. Studies cited in the Model Aquatic Health Code reinforce the obvious. Minimum training helps operators prevent violations of health codes.

The good news is training is readily available. The National Swimming Pool Foundation, a non-profit, and the leading educator in the field offers the Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certification. They also offer a collection of management training courses for aquatic facilities, all available at low cost, and online. You can learn more by visiting their website,
June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie Batter

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