We’ve all heard that what you get out of something is determined by what you put into it. At the University of Rhode Island, they put a whole lot into their pools: sail boats, scuba equipment, mechanical submarines, kayaks, manikins and — oh, yeah — people. Lots of people.
The Tootell Aquatic Center is home to the men’s and women’s varsity swimming and diving teams, club teams such as water polo and synchronized swimming, and collegians in general. But it is also the aquatic home to many Rhode Islanders. “We have a strong outreach program,” says Ted Boyett, coordinator of aquatics.
Before Boyett’s arrival in 1995, not only had there been no aquatics director at URI in nearly a quarter of a century, but there also were virtually no programs of consequence.
Now, there is a remarkable array of options, beginning with the fairly standard classes for kids and seniors in a 75-foot, four-lane, warm water pool (there are two other pools in the complex, one for diving, the other for competition). But there also is quite the eclectic collection of possibilities for both students and locals.
The school has a strong sailing program, with practices in the pool. There are scuba and snorkel training, kayak lessons. The annual Super CPR/AED Saturday has staff educating the community. Even miniature submarine races occur; a few years back, a group of URI engineers won the International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition. There’s a class teaching pool operation to homeowners. And there’s even an annual Ice Safety Day, with local firefighters demonstrating ice rescues both in the pool and a nearby campus pond.
“We probably generate a quarter to a third of a million dollars” a year, says Boyett. Of course, “some of that has to go back to pay for teachers, people who run the programs,” many of whom are students.
“The students are wonderful. They love to work with the community.”
For all the fancy programming URI offers, students and others have ample time to just stop by for a dip.
“We’ve got a facility. … I like to have people here,” Boyett says. “We have a lifeguard on duty from 7 in the morning till 9:30 at night. An adult can come in anytime to swim except 3 to 6.”