For Tina Dittmar, the pool is always half-full. “I think there’s a lot in the future for aquatics, a lot of creativity in the way of utilizing technology and research, and I want to be one of those people who’s open to the future,” says the 40-year-old Dittmar, whose aquatics career spans nearly a quarter century.
As aquatics supervisor for the city of Laguna Niguel, Calif., for the past 16 years, Dittmar strives to bring professionalism and technology to the forefront. She says this bridges the generation gap among her staff who range from tech-savvy teenagers to employees in their 50’s who are still scratching their heads over text-messaging. But all of them have one thing in common. “We all have the same bottom line — we want [people] to love swimming and to be safe,” she says with her trademark enthusiasm.
Dittmar spreads that enthusiasm through her involvement with the National Recreation and Park Association as a conference speaker and event organizer, and with the California Aquatic Management School as organizing committee co-chair. In her own facility, she gradually introduces new ways of running operations to ease in the older staff. For example, she’s phased out the time clock card puncher and brought in one that reads fingerprints.
That pioneering spirit started in earnest about a decade ago when Dittmar discovered that only about 10 to 15 percent of facilities had automated external defibrillators. She released the results and spoke about them at conferences. Today, about 85 percent of aquatic facilities have AEDs. It’s a change she’s proud of, and one she says shows how the industry can change for the better.
Today, Dittmar continues to push for change. As a member of the revision committee for the Red Cross’ Water Safety Instructor materials, she saw the increasing need to address shallow-water lifeguard procedures due to the burgeoning waterparks and leisure pool markets. She says it’s a new area where the industry can address safety needs. It’s these types of changes that encourage Dittmar to change with the times — and look hopefully toward the future. “People are competitive in this industry and they’re ahead of the curve,” she says. “I love to talk about those kinds of things so all of us can learn within our environment.”