I recently came across a Huffington Post article titled "Why Mommy and Me Programs Send the Wrong Message," and it got me wondering about how most facilities who read Aquatics International handle their programming.
In it the author and medical expert John Whyte shared his less than favorable experience of trying to take his son to swim lessons. In fact, he said they almost didn't happen because he had a hard time finding a facility that welcomed dads to participate.
"Photos on websites showed mom and child floating in water -- smiles abound," he writes. "Frankly, I was annoyed by this. It seemed to imply that only moms play a role in swim lessons. Even when I went to inquire about it, a woman at the desk told me dads can come if they want. Hardly a welcoming invitation! Why don't they just write "No dads allowed"?! he added.
The aquatics community typically is known for being inclusive. From creating special swim times for those with certain religion beliefs and providing multilingual instruction to building extra changing rooms for transgender and special needs patrons, facilities continually roll out the welcome mat for all.
Yet, sadly, this father didn't receive the same level of treatment. Despite his efforts, Whyte settled on a Mommy and Me class for him and his son. Only one other father and child were in attendance. Whyte believes more may have joined if it weren't for the misleading name.
And he may be right. Recently, I took my now 7.5-month-old daughter to her first swim class at a YMCA. Instead of marketing it as Mommy and Me, the classes are referred to as Parent-Child Swim. Although our participation was short-lived (a story perhaps best saved for another blog post), there was one family -- mother, father and child -- in the class. Granted, this isn't any different than the number of dads in the class Whyte attended. However, the YMCA facility I visited has a fairly large family changing room. And overall there were a good number of men, woman and children using the pool for free swim. In general families were scattered throughout the property, an indication it was a family-first facility.
Coincidentally, here is the photo on the website for the Parent-Child classes:
Perhaps Whyte has a point. As the industry continues to push for water safety, and facilities struggle to stay afloat with operators clamoring to come up with ways to entice participation, it may be a good time for some to reconsider how they market their classes.
you promote your swim classes? Do you encourage participation from both
parents, or are dads left on the sidelines to observe through glass
windows? Have you found either approach more effective? Tell us about
your experiences, good or bad, in the comments section below.