For those new to aquatics — and even for veterans — once the pool season starts, paying attention is nearly impossible unless you have a good schedule in place to keep you grounded, say longtime managers. That’s because aquatics supervisors don’t just have to manage staff. They also must stay on top of pool maintenance, uphold standards of care and safety among guards, and ensure proper water quality, not to mention managing marketing and budgets.
“In aquatics you do a little bit of everything,” says Adam Peper, aquatic manager for The Pointe at Ballwin Commons in Ballwin, Mo. “So it’s very encompassing. It’s not just one concentration.”
As the new swim season approaches, here’s a schedule of the tasks managers must address this month to make sure they’ve got everything covered for the coming swim season.
1. Recertify guards. With less than a month before the pool opens, it’s time to make sure your guards are certified, or that they get recertified, says Peper. He does a “water blitz” in which guards demonstrate all the necessary water skills. This is also the time to go through bloodborne and pathogen training.
2. Train staff. Alexa Pritchard, recreation superintendent for city of Roseville, Calif. Parks, Recreation and Libraries Department, goes from three staff members to about 200 in May. So it’s all hands on deck to get those new folks trained. This entails customer service, new employees, management school for senior guards, assistants and managers, and rookie school for new guards. “You’re going to be really tired in May, but it’s also going to be really fun,” she says.
3. Orient the staff. Once you’ve settled on your staff, it’s time for orientation. Peper covers the following: Who’s their supervisor? What’s changed from last year? Which operational changes do you want them to know about? Who are the head lifeguards? What are the dos and don’ts? Are rotations being modified? Which groups can you expect at the facility?
4. Test the staff. Seasoned managers know the time to test staff is before the pool opens, not after. Peper does a mock emergency action plan drill that involves the entire staff and the local fire department, along with emergency medical services. Guards not on the stands act as patrons, then one “patron” must be rescued. Following the EAP drill, Peper does a thorough debriefing.
5. Stock the facility. Make sure you have everything on hand that you’re going to need once those doors open for the summer, says Janel Twehous, recreation supervisor of aquatics and special events for Columbia, Mo. As far as equipment goes, make sure you have backboards, trauma bags, first aid kits, rescue tubes and all necessary rescue equipment on hand — and that they’re in good working order. Make sure restrooms and concessions are fully stocked and ready to go as well. Finally, don’t forget necessary office supplies.
6. Calibrate pools. Jerry Martin, facilities and parks specialist for Columbia, Mo., recommends filling pools the second week of May to leave time for balancing and warming the water. It can take several days to get the chemistry balanced and feeds calibrated, Peper warns. Similarly, getting flow rates and turnovers coordinated requires some time. Most importantly, make sure underlying problems aren’t causing flow or chemical imbalances that will haunt you through the year. Red flags to watch for: Are you losing water? Is your feeding system working? Do you have persistent water-quality issues? “Once you have people in the water, it’s a lot harder to figure it out,” Peper says.
7. Do final maintenance. This is the time to make sure all of your play features work properly and reassemble everything. Examine joints and do any necessary caulking. Finally, check ladders, diving boards and fences to make sure everything is secure, Martin says.