The last column highlighted the use of national programs and partnerships to increase minority participation in your aquatics programs. Now let’s take a look at how the use of local partnerships also can assist your organization in capturing this challenging target audience.
One of the best resources and partnerships any organization can establish is collaborating with your local schools and Parent/Teacher Associations. The Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission has been wonderfully surprised about how supportive our local schools have been with distributing aquatics program fliers and information to students, allowing managers to install and update seasonal bulletin boards within the schools, allowing for summer recruiting during school hours, and offering students special events and field trips to our pools.
Managers are encouraged to reach out and work with physical education and health curriculum staffs to co-develop water safety programs and incorporate this information and activities into the year-round school curriculum. If you happen to live in an area where school-based food service programs are offered, targeting your programming efforts to these schools could put you in a better position to reach students most in need of learn-to-swim and water safety information.
Key findings from last year’s University of Memphis study indicated that free and/or reduced-price school lunch recipients reported significantly less swimming ability and also expressed a significantly higher fear of injury and drowning as a predictor variable of no and/or low swimming ability. This information also sheds light on where managers can focus or initiate their efforts when targeting schools.
Other potential marketing opportunities with your local schools include sharing aquatics program information during morning announcements, placing program advertisements in school newspapers, establishing after-school water safety and learn-to-swim programs, and working with Parent/Teacher Associations.
The National PTA has established a “Healthy Lifestyles” initiative, providing parent guides and toolkits promoting regular exercise and good nutrition for children in English and Spanish. Reinforcing with your local PTA the lifelong health and safety benefits that come from learning to swim and practicing water safety provides managers with a relevant platform to further promote aquatics programs and opportunities.
Another great partnership to establish is with local churches or faith-based organizations. It's not uncommon for churches to offer targeted youth programs and to sponsor regular activities for young participants. Particularly in minority communities, the church is where you’re almost guaranteed to find families and children congregating and sharing information.
Working and programming with youth and teen ministries or church-based social clubs can provide managers with access to large groups of youths in need of learn-to-swim programs and water safety information, and it also will open the door to potential lifeguards and swim instructors for your aquatics programs. These organizations often produce regular newsletters seeking ads from local businesses. If your budget allows, placing a seasonal or regular ad promoting your programs in these newsletters could bring in new clients and establish your organization as a staple resource within the community.
A final partnership that few organizations take advantage of are sororities and fraternities, which can help co-program, reach new clientele, and serve minority communities. Sororities and fraternities often look to partner with organizations that promote improved lifestyles and service to the local community. Most members of these organizations are connected to prominent local and national networks that can assist in spreading the word about your aquatics programs and opportunities.
The best way to secure this type of partnership would be to reach out to the organization of interest and to emphasize the need for learn-to-swim and water safety programs in the community. Several minority-based organizations serve local communities throughout the United States, including the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations.
Improving minority participation in aquatics is not just an urban issue — it is a national issue. As aquatics professionals, we have the power and resources to reduce these statistics. One lap at a time!