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Health Club Infant Swimming Program Boosts Revenue, Value

It’s quite a sight—something most people aren’t used to seeing. At the Hockessin Athletic Club (HAC), a 109,000-square-foot, family-oriented multipurpose club in Hockessin, DE, Aquatics Director Nadya Davis routinely places babies face down in the pool; parents watch from the deck with anticipation. Within seconds, each infant rolls onto its back to float and breathe, until Davis picks up the child, prompting cheers and smiles.

Unconventional as it may seem, the routine is part of the club’s carefully planned Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) Self-Rescue program, which provides survival swimming lessons for children ages six months to six years. Founded in 1966 by Dr. Harvey Barnett as a way to prevent pediatric drowning, ISR today has nearly 500 certified instructors in 16 countries who are focused on the organization’s defining mission: Not One More Child Drowns.

“We wanted to partner with ISR to further its objective, which ties in with our core value—that of community,” said Davis, who led the initiative to bring ISR to HAC. “We pride ourselves on raising awareness for various health, fitness, and charitable causes.”

As the first commercial health club—and IHRSA member—to have its staff trained to offer the ISR program, HAC has made a commitment to prevent drowning, the leading cause of accidental death for children under age four in the U.S.

Davis encouraged other IHRSA clubs to do the same. What better way, she said, is there for operators to demonstrate to their staff, their members, and their community that they deeply care about the health and well-being of others?

A Valuable Feeder Program

Since it began to offer ISR lessons four years ago, HAC has taught 250 children, even though the commitment to the program on the part of participants is intense. The youngsters attend 10-minute, one-on-one lessons five days a week for four to six weeks, at a cost of $21 per lesson. There’s also a one-time ISR national registration fee of $105 for an initial medical history review.

Upon completing the initial lessons, children can enroll in weekly maintenance lessons at HAC, and may also take an annual ISR refresher course to deal with changes in their cognitive and physical development.

HAC members and nonmembers are encouraged to take advantage of ISR, and some families travel for as long as two hours to attend the lessons. A number of local participating families have gone on to become members.

The successful program has become an integral part of the offerings of HAC’s extensive aquatics facility, which includes a 25-yard, four-lane indoor pool; a 25-yard, six-lane, heated outdoor pool (open year-round); a warm-water therapy pool; a zero-depth entry leisure pool; and a catch pool beneath a water slide.

“Children start ISR lessons in the six-months to three-year-old range, and then, typically, stay with their ISR instructor for maintenance lessons until they’re ready for stroke mechanics around age four or five,” Davis said. “The ISR program not only extends our revenue opportunity to younger children, but also feeds into our traditional private and group swim lessons.”

Delivering a Unique Opportunity

To get the word out about the ISR program, the HAC instructor team attends community events such as health and safety fairs, and activities at the local children’s hospital and birthing center. But the best marketing is word of mouth, and the club showcases pictures, videos, and parent responses on its website and Facebook page, and in its newsletter.

HAC is the only facility of any kind within a two-hour drive time of the club that offers ISR. Traditionally, ISR instructors have been independent contractors who rent pool space from facilities or homes to conduct lessons, but the organization appreciates the role that health clubs can play.

Davis encouraged other IHRSA clubs to consider the program. “ISR is the safest and most effective way to teach children how to navigate an aquatic environment independently. By offering our community access to ISR Self-Rescue skills, our families are enjoying the water more safely.”

John Peoples, the general manager of HAC, agreed.

“ISR has given our families the chance to participate in an innovative program that’s not only fun for the child, but also delivers exceptional value,” he said. But Davis acknowledges there are things that clubs should consider carefully before they become involved. “Because ISR’s approach to the lessons is so comprehensive, it mandates safety protocols having to do with pool and air temperatures and water chemistry. Plus, the club must integrate ISR into all of its aquatic offerings and allocate the necessary pool space.”

However, being able to make a real difference is worth it.

“We’re so thankful that HAC believes in the program,” Davis said. “We’ve learned that a moment’s inattention doesn’t need to cost a child its life—that’s the principal reason all of us should have ISR at our clubs.”

Read the full article on HAC’s infant swimming program in the May issue of CBI.

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