Every four years during the Summer Olympics, people everywhere get hooked on swimming. Aquatics professionals know that’s great for the industry because it draws new people to the pool.
This year, to build the excitement,USA Swimming has launched a new, nationwide initiative. Some operators also are organizing events and programs to celebrate the games and promote aquatics.
USA Swimming kicked off its Swim Today campaign just before Memorial Day.
“The emphasis … is trying to capitalize on the interest in our sport in an Olympic year,” explained Karen Linhart, media relations manager of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based organization. “In 2008 we saw an 11 percent jump in membership.”
SwimToday.org features information on how to get involved in swimming on any level. For everyone from beginners to seasoned competitors, it includes a national database of “Make a Splash” learn-to-swim providers, USA Swimming clubs, and facilities for fitness swimming; a swimming ability assessment tool; and recommendations on training tools, equipment and videos.
“We’re trying to find a way to make it as simple as possible for someone to find out how to get information on where to swim,” Linhart added.
Speedo USA is a campaign partner, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Summer Sanders serves as spokeswoman.
Some aquatics operators also are planning events on a local level.
The Chatham County Aquatic Center in Savannah, Ga., is hosting an open house on Aug. 3. The public event will include swim team demonstrations and mini stroke clinics, said Misty Selph, facilities manager.
“We really want to promote swimming in Savannah,” she added. “[The open house] allows parents and kids to talk to swim clubs about what they offer.”
At the Olympic Indoor Swim Center in Arlington Heights, Ill., it’s all about inspiration.
“We are planning a motivational viewing party for our swim team before their championship meet,” said Tim Jaskiewicz, aquatics facility supervisor. “We are going to put the Olympics on and have some pasta.”
For operators such as Jaskiewicz and Selph, events tied to the Olympics seem like common sense.
The Olympic Games “should be forefront on everyone’s mind,” Selph said.
“Everyone in the United States is going to be interested in what Michael Phelps is going to do, and the other Olympians.”
But not everyone sees it that way.
Of the many operators contacted by Aquatics International for this story, almost no one had anything formal planned. In some cases, that may be a result of limited resources due to the weak economy.
But other operators say they get so much additional interest as a result of the Olympics, there’s simply no need to do anything more.“We actually have to run additional team tryouts in an Olympic year to accommodate the interest, and our lap lanes are packed,” said Kathy Fisher, aquatic director at West Morris (N.J.) Area YMCA.