Typically, journalists are skeptics by nature. I’m no exception. So when a group of industry professionals announced their intention to start an aquatics-specific trade association and conference, I admit I was a bit skeptical.

After all, this isn’t the first time the idea had been tried. Back in 2003 another group of high-profile aquatics leaders attempted to create the National Aquatics Coalition, aka the Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics. The group had big dreams about what a united aquatics industry could accomplish, dreams that promised to raise the prominence, professionalism and perception of aquatics.

Sadly, those dreams never came to fruition for the same reason challenging this latest venture: Aquatics is a fractured industry. Just imagine a group of educational, municipal, private, semipublic, for-profits and nonprofits finding common ground. Throw in the turf wars going on among certification and training agencies and you’ve got an industry at war with itself, including all the casualties that go with it.

Can’t we all just get along?

The Association of Aquatic Professionals says, “Yes, we can.” See our news story If its inaugural conference is any indication, the group may have finally discovered the secret sauce that allows all of aquatics’ disparate entities to at long last come together in one big melting pot. Everyone who attended that show seems to agree it exceeded expectations, and more than filled the hole left from the National Recreation and Park Association’s decision to abandon the National Aquatic Conference (yet another example of an aquatics group failing to gel).

Skeptical as I am, I’m willing to bet that AOAP may be able to do what others have not for two main reasons. First, the core group is more dedicated and passionate than just about anyone in aquatics right now.

Second, the organization recognizes that the only way to be an aquatics association is to welcome every color and stripe of aquatics professional into its fold — including the territorial training and certification agencies.

Still, passion and philosophy will only get AOAP so far. What it really needs is you. What the group really needs — what we all really need — is for the industry to come together.