Highlight new classes, events and employment opportunities. Consider hosting an open house or special deals such as a free class. At one of our facilities, the managers host a “Water Fitness Open House” for an entire week, allowing patrons to visit and participate in the new classes for free!
When recruiting new staffers, get creative. We utilize an aquatics-specific recruiting hotline and email address to field questions and requests for employment information. Also look for opportunities to participate in local job fairs, health and fitness events, and school pep-rallies/assemblies.
Tap into National Water Safety Month. May is National Water Safety Month and it’s prime time to reinforce the importance of water safety within your community and remind the public about your exciting aquatics programs and facility. Use this month as an opportunity to market free or low-cost events to generate interest and participation. Our department advertises in our seasonal guide, Web sites, e-newsletter, facility marquees and fliers.
Offer training courses. By getting swim instructors trained for pools in your area, a safety instructor course is a great way to find new instructors, and they generate revenue. You’ll also want to offer a lifeguard training course prior to the season’s start. Weekends may enable high-school students to participate more easily.
Prepare for opening day. What will opening day look like at your seasonal pool? Will it include any special events or ceremonies? Start planning early.
Begin summer program registration. Many people want to plan summer activities for their children early, so offering summer registration early for these forward-thinking parents ensures you don’t miss getting them in your programs. Early registration should include summer swim team sign-ups.
Order/distribute equipment. Be sure all supplies and equipment are in place. This includes lifeguard uniforms and administrative materials such as office forms, phones and computers.
Assess your certification situation. Do you or any of your staff need re-certification? Start planning your strategy early. By offering challenges and re-certification at the same time each year, it will be easier to track expiration dates of certifications.
Shawn P. DeRosa, J.D.
Check in with college students. You’ll want to confirm who’s returning as soon as possible (ideally in January or February), but remember that March and April are spring break time for your college students. If you haven’t heard from them already, use that opportunity to find out whether they have finalized their work plans for the summer.
Advertise for new hires. If you’re doing any print advertising, remember that magazines generally have deadlines a few months ahead of the publication date (for example, if you want to place an ad in an April issue of your community magazine, the deadline may be in January. Aquatics International’s deadline is usually 3 months in advance.) Follow up with high schools and consider nontraditional sources of potential lifeguards; provide training dates of any upcoming lifeguard training courses.
Hire! Hire! Hire! You should have a list of who will be returning confirmed sometime in March, so aim to begin hiring new staffers soon after that. Review applications; contact those of interest to set up skills and knowledge assessments; test all employees for knowledge and skills; and schedule interviews with those lifeguards who successfully complete the skills and knowledge testing. By the end of April, you should be ready to extend conditional offers of employment to qualified applicants and begin checking references. Conduct background checks before making a final offer of employment.
Hold a pre-summer training. Once you’ve hired your staff, bring everyone together to get prepared for everything that is going to happen at the pool over the summer. This is also the time to address local, state and federal training requirements.
Alison Osinski, Ph.D.
Conduct a complete inventory. Do this at least one month prior to the scheduled opening day (earlier, if necessary). Inspect the grounds, safety equipment, the pool itself, waterfeatures and play equipment, the deck, bathhouse, office area, pump room, chemical rooms, and auxiliary areas for broken or malfunctioning equipment, minor maintenance needs, winter damage, and vandalism. Once you’ve got a list ready, you can prioritize what needs to be done when and start delegating the work.
Clean and fill the pool. Once the water supply is turned on and the pool emptied of all debris, drain the remaining water with a trash pump, rinse the pool with a power washer and flush out the gutters or skimmers. When that’s done, you can begin preparing the pool surface — sandblast, acid wash, chlorine wash, repaint, replaster and/or patch as needed. You’ll also want to repaint or touch up any lane lines, depth markers or other graphics as needed. Begin filling the pool about seven to 10 days before opening, once you’ve got the system in place. Grates should be bolted down, pumps and motors set, skimmer baskets cleaned and in place, and antifreeze drained. Start circulating and filtering as soon as possible.
Prepare the water. After the pool is filled, superchlorinate and balance the water, vacuum and backwash as necessary, and run dye tests. When the water is ready, you can turn on the heater.
Make your facility shine. Repaint and clean auxiliary buildings, including restrooms, concessions and locker areas. Unpack, clean and arrange deck furniture and shade structures, and replace vandalized or missing signs.
Stay on top of your online presence. During this season, your Website should be regularly updated with as much information as possible regarding your facility amenities, fees, programs, special events, pool rules and water safety information. Having this type of information readily available for patrons will limit the number of phone call inquiries and allow more time for focusing on the lifeguard team and patrons already visiting the facility.
Utilize nontraditional events to spark interest in your facilities. We partner with our Arts and Cultural Heritage Division to host “Dive-In” movie events. These events are featured in an annual “Summer Performances, Concerts and Summer Cinema” brochure. Normally, clients would not expect to find an aquatics-related event in the summer arts brochure, but it’s a great way to pull in new patrons.
Tap into the teen market. We host several aquatics opportunities within our “Safe Summer” late-night recreation program. The program mainly focuses on dry recreational activities; however, our aquatics team uses it to increase youth exposure and participation in aquatics. Teens and young adults are allowed free admission to a few of our indoor aquatic facilities between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. throughout the summer. At this time, we host swim clinics, water sports and activities, and general swimming.
Spread the water safety word. Consider providing “water safety” information to elementary schools. Lifeguards in uniform may inspire young children.
In-service training is key. Every staff member needs two to four hours of training each month.
Collect customer program evaluations. How are you doing? Collect program evaluation forms from every customer in every program.
Keep your staff happy. Keeping the staff happy and productive requires constant feedback and recognition. Rewards help to maintain morale, but make sure any incentives you offer are truly valuable to your staff and find ways to keep rewards top of mind.
Audit your team. Now is the time to see if all the vigilance in hiring and training you’ve provided has paid off. Making sure staff is vigilant and can perform required skills is essential. Observational and skills auditing is an important way to verify that your team is up to par. If you’re not prepared to do an audit, consider hiring an outside expert.
Don’t let the end of the season sneak up on you. Prepare for winter early by meeting with your maintenance division to discuss winterizing for seasonal pools. Good planning and coordination and clear expectations can help ensure everything gets done correctly.
Prepare the lifeguards of the future. Toward the end of the season, display posters on site to recruit guards for next year. Running a summer junior lifeguard program also is a good way to recruit future guards and generate revenue at the same time.
Commence “Operation Recruitment.” Make a list of the lifeguards you want to come back next season and tell them that you look forward to having them back next year. Ask if they plan to return, and arrange to follow up in January.
Inspect daily. Regularly inspect grounds, safety equipment, signage, fencing and barriers, the pool itself, suction outlets, waterfeatures and play equipment, the deck and deck equipment, pump room, chemical rooms, and auxiliary areas. Look for broken or malfunctioning equipment, minor maintenance needs and vandalism. If something is broken or missing, replace it or make repairs immediately. If that’s not possible, reduce the risk of injury by closing the broken or improperly maintained equipment to guests until repairs can be made.
Close the pool if it's unsafe, or unacceptable conditions exist. The following conditions may be hazardous to guests.
- Grates or other suction outlets that are missing, damaged or improperly secured
- Cloudy pool water that prevents drains from being clearly seen from any point on the deck when standing within 4 feet of the pool edge
- Missing, vandalized or inaccurate depth markers
- A malfunctioning recirculation system.
- Barrier fencing or access gates in disrepair, with no lifeguard present for monitoring
- Electrical current leakage
- Pool chemicals are significantly out of range.
- The water temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare your staff on emergency procedures. Make sure everyone knows what do to for a fecal contamination, contamination from vomitus or dead animals in the water, or bacterial contamination of the water or circulation system.
Complete routine maintenance procedures. Do this prior to opening each day, and maintain logs. The person actually completing the maintenance task should initial the daily log verifying that he/she performed the job. Before opening the pool to guests in the morning, and prior to closing the pool for the night, the supervisor should sign the log verifying that all daily maintenance duties were satisfactorily completed as indicated, and that the facility was compliance ready. Daily pool chemical and maintenance logs should be retained for a minimum of three years. Information from chemical controllers should be downloaded to a computer and saved. At the start of each week, copies of the previous week’s daily pool logs should be sent up the chain of command for review. A one-page summary that includes information on water quality, chemicals and quantities used, and highlights unusual occurrences, should accompany the logs.
Don’t overlook preventive maintenance. After the normal day-to-day routine maintenance and housekeeping chores, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get to those preventive items, but it is essential that they get done. Keeping up with preventive maintenance — servicing, repairing, replacing and cleaning equipment and components that make up your aquatics facility — will help prevent breakdowns, loss of revenue and costly downtime, and ultimately extend the life expectancy of your equipment. It also helps identify potential problems.
Welcome new patrons and thank your regulars. A good way is with nontraditional, off-season events, such as a “Doggie Dive-In” event. Take advantage of this opportunity to distribute year-round program information, collect e-mail addresses and invite participants to try other programs.
Increase community outreach opportunities during Hispanic Heritage Month. If your department hosts special events or produces any marketing collateral around this annual event (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15), try to incorporate information about your learn-to-swim and water safety programs. Also plan to set up a marketing table at scheduled events. A higher rate of low- to no swimming ability is present within the Hispanic community, and this is a great opportunity to educate and engage potential new clients for your facilities and programs.
Gear up for the year-round competitive swim season. Advertise “safety training for swim coaches” opportunities via the Web, fliers and plain old-fashioned word of mouth! Many coaches are getting heavily into their swim seasons, so this is a great time to use your lifeguarding and water safety instructors to run this sometimes hard-to-find training opportunity.
Review evaluations. Before the end of the summer, you’ll want to be sure each program participant and staff member has filled out an evaluation. Staff feedback at the end of the season can be very useful and often gives great ideas for improvement to programs and services. By September, you should have a stack of evaluation forms and it will be time to begin compiling the data for use when preparing for next year. In addition, annual attendance reports and revenue data will help your team track business trends.
Compile rescue and incident data. Accident, incident and rescue report data also should be compiled yearly, to track trends and potentially solve problems. It’s good risk management practice as well.
Analyze revenue and expense data. Review fees and look closely at each program area to determine if fees are appropriate and program attendance is meeting desired outcomes. If the cost analysis modeling shows potential for fee increases, start working on getting them approved immediately.
Begin your aquatic staff manual revision process. It’s never too early to begin your annual manual review. Your manual should be a living document that changes with agency policies and industry trends.
Put together a “Summer in Review.” Share fun photos from the summer with your staff. Include key accomplishments of individuals. This serves as a great way to connect with employees. You should also remind them that you hope to work with them next summer.
It’s never too early to start planning staffing for next season. Are any staffing changes necessary? Submit budget requests in a timely fashion. Remain alert through the school year for job fairs at local high schools; collect contact information throughout the school year from people interested in lifeguarding over the summer. Send out any additional info/recruitment packets as needed.
Conduct a comprehensive inventory. Before anything is packed away, record what you have and what you’ll need new for next year. Also plan ahead for any major renovation projects.
Store all equipment smartly. This includes all deck chairs, ladders, diving boards and movable lifeguard stands. Chemicals and other materials with an expiration date should be disposed of or returned to the distributor. Opened chemicals can be stored in tightly sealed containers in a well-ventilated, secure room.
Winterize the pool. If you properly winterize your pool in the fall, it can prevent a lot of headaches in the spring. This process may take several days or even weeks. Start by superchlorinating and cleaning and vacuuming the entire pool, then empty and remove skimmer baskets and traps. Backwash filters, drain sand filters and/or remove any DE filter elements. Once you’ve lowered the water level to below the skimmers and return lines, prepare the pump room and install the winter safety cover.
Turn off utilities. Turn off the gas lines and water supply to the pool and bathrooms. Also turn off any unnecessary phone lines and unplug any unnecessary appliances, such as the fridge that stores your lifeguards’ lunches.
Ensure security. Install alarms and make sure perimeter fencing is secure.
Protect your assets. Make sure all equipment is properly lubricated and cleaned, as directed by the manufacturer.
Get your recruitment marketing materials out there. The holiday season is a great opportunity to begin thinking about marketing new employment opportunities for the following summer. Focus on training and certification opportunities, and use the holiday season as a time to get new lifeguard candidates into lifeguarding and water safety instructor classes. Students will have time off from school to participate in classes and they’ll walk away feeling secure that a cool job awaits them in May. Tag lines such as “Our Christmas gift to you … a summer job!” might be one way to go.
Use your indoor facilities to host a seasonal event. Holiday time is family time. Kids are out of school and everyone is looking for something fun to do. Programs such as “Swim with Santa” are especially fun for indoor waterparks or facilities with slides. Use Santa as your slide dispatcher and allow children to visit with Santa, take a picture, and then off they go, down your water slide! Lifeguards can serve as the elves, with little effort involved.
Market water fitness programs as a way to achieve New Year’s resolution goals. It’s not uncommon for people to start the new year with a new outlook on their health and fitness; however, many don’t always remember the great health and fitness benefits achieved by participating in water aerobics classes. It is up to you to remind them! Utilize your Web site, e-newsletters, and staff to educate patrons and market the health and wellness benefits of your water fitness program.
Increase community outreach opportunities during Black History Month in February. If your department hosts special events or produces any marketing collateral around this annual event, try to incorporate information about your learn-to-swim and water safety programs. Plan to set up a marketing table at any scheduled events. A higher rate of low- to no swimming ability is present within the African-American community and similar to Hispanic Heritage Month, this is an opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of participating in aquatics programming and engage potential new clients.
Analyze spring and summer offerings. Summer planning starts early. Use the data you collected last year to make your programs better than ever and determine the number of staff required. You’ll also need to review equipment to identify what needs to be replaced and what may need to be purchased to support any new programs.
Begin the annual budget process. January is usually when agencies start to think about the budget for the next fiscal year.
Check in with potential recruitment opportunities. Get in touch with high school coaches and guidance counselors and provide them with whatever materials they need for students, information, fliers, posters and the like. Set a notification deadline of March 1 to hold positions for staffers expected to return. After that date, prepare to hire as needed.
Make recruitment info, testing dates and application materials available online. Require an application and cover letter for all staff members, including returning lifeguards.
Remember your team at the holidays. Consider “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy New Year” cards or e-mail messages to last year’s employees who were asked to return.
Prevent pipe damage. To ensure that your pipes don’t burst when temperatures go below freezing, add a solution of one part nontoxic antifreeze (stay away from automotive antifreeze) two parts water.
Play caretaker. Visit the pool at least once a week to inspect for vandalism or other damage. See that all covers, locks and alarms are in place; see that the water level remains constant.