We have worked very hard to provide aquatic leadership that is reflective of our diverse community. Most of our aquatics facilities boast a diverse staff that includes African-American and Hispanic facility managers. A large group of diverse part-time employees also leads day-to-day pool operations.
This combination has proven to be very effective in connecting with, and understanding the needs of, minorities visiting our facilities and also for promoting participation in our programs and employment opportunities. Having a diverse group of managers at our facilities also creates role models within the community who work to give our young swimmers a glimpse into potential careers in the wonderful world of aquatics!
Much of what we do in terms of outreach and recruiting has helped our organization relate to our audience
and encourage minority participation, not only for leisure but also for professional purposes. It is common for us to include photos of African-American and Hispanic lifeguards, pool operators and swim instructors in our recruiting brochures and on our Website. These marketing efforts reinforce the message that minorities are interested in participating in aquatics opportunities, and also serving as leaders and mentors within the specialty.
With multiple indoor and outdoor pools, I realize Prince George’s County is not the norm in terms of the number of aquatics facilities and opportunities available within heavily diverse markets. That's why it will take a concerted effort on the part of organizations regularly managing aquatic venues and programs to reach beyond what is commonplace and really seek out opportunities to recruit and retain a diversified work force.
It is completely normal for people to associate themselves with activities that provide them with the most comfort, fun and opportunity for continued learning. It is important for minorities to feel welcomed within your work force and also within your facilities and programs. At times, it also may be necessary to strategically place a “familiar” face to lead your programs and recruiting events to encourage others to participate.
In terms of recruiting more diverse lifeguard teams, several options are available to facility managers. For instance, in Prince George’s County we offer free lifeguard prep courses for customers and program participants who are interested in becoming lifeguards, but who may not have developed the strength and endurance to pass the lifeguarding pre-course. The goal of our program is to expose candidates to what it takes to become a certified lifeguard, build their endurance and, it is hoped, open the door to a lifelong commitment to aquatic safety.
Another option for recruiting a diverse staff is to incorporate your employment and program opportunities into Hispanic Heritage Month in September-October and/or Black History Month in February. Both
annual events are celebrated nationally and are great segues for interacting with members of these communities.
Finally, good old-fashioned grass-roots marketing is always helpful. This means hitting the ground running — or hitting the deck swimming, in our case — and getting out into your local, competitive swim leagues, schools, churches, job fairs and festivals to spread the message about employment and program opportunities within your organization. Be sure to take your story to the local media, too.
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!