What is your most important mission as an aquatics professional? Tom Griffiths would argue that it's teaching every child to swim. "Even in this tough economy, [swim lessons for every child] are where we need to place what resources we have," says Griffiths, director of the Aquatics and Safety Office for Athletics at Penn State University in State College, Pa. "We in the field think of learning to swim as a necessity, but many [public officials and parents] see it as an 'extra.'"
Given that it's now more difficult than ever to finance the construction of new pools, or maintain the operation of aging existing facilities, Griffiths believes that to remain viable, operators will need to reduce expenses and increase revenue. Swim lessons are a logical resource. It's fairly easy to generate income with learn-to-swim programs so operators should focus on maximizing participation, he says.
To offset the need for more staff, he suggests using supervised volunteers and developing an internship program.
"We've made a lot of programmatic additions in the past several years [thanks to our interns]," says Griffiths, who also is founder of the Aquatic Safety Research Group. "They can do [a number of] things aquatics professionals perhaps don't have the time or inclination to do. Plus they're free!"