If you’re a seasonal aquatics operator, opening day is probably only a few weeks away; and for many in the industry that opening day may be as stress-inducing as the first day of classes is for most high school or college freshmen.But the good news is, others have found a way to mitigate the mountains of work — and they’re willing to share.On the following pages are some of the best practices collected from operators across the nation. Are you ready to take notes?


“Write things down! Opening day is a frenetic time and often one is making decisions so frequently that information doesn’t get filed away in right drawer of the ‘internal file cabinet.’ Simply writing things down has made the process of opening day smoother in that it lessens the number of unknowns that come up during opening. That is a very good thing!”

– Chris Swartz, park manager

NRH2O Family Waterpark

North Richland Hills, Texas


“Check with Insurance and check [state and local] codes. Your facility may or may not have kept up with changing requirements by your insurance carrier, and/or any changes to state and/or local codes. [Checking] prior to opening day allows for much less stress on everyone involved, not to mention avoiding an embarrassing closure by the health department!”

– Dewey Case, aquatics director

The Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Miss.


“Check the equipment and chemicals early. Don’t wait until the week before you open to start up the pool. A long winter can wreck havoc on pumps and filter systems, especially if they weren’t shut down correctly the year before. You’ll need ample time to start the system and see if repairs are needed. And it’s not just the pool mechanicals. All equipment – lifeguard stands, rescue tubes, backboards, etc. – needs to be checked, including your chemical stock. You can’t just assume that your granular chlorine or sodium bicarbonate has made it through the winter.”

– Dewey Case, aquatics director

The Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Miss.


“Check your zones. New construction, and the clearing of trees that comes with it, can turn a zone that was glare-free last year into a lifeguard’s nightmare this year. Also [consider how new equipment and additions might change sight-lines].”

– Dewey Case, aquatics director

The Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Miss.


“Update your Emergency Action Plan. Just because your EAP worked last summer doesn’t mean it will this summer. Review every step of your EAP and practice it during pre service training. You may find that adjustments need to be made.”

– Dewey Case, aquatics director

The Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Miss.


“Schedule ample pre service training and remember to include Emergency Medical Services. [This preparation] is critical to ensure that the lifeguards will be competent in an emergency and you need to know what [EMS] will require of your staff.”

– Dewey Case, aquatics director

The Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Miss.


“Can your lifeguard recruits perform basic rescues appropriately? Do they have a good working knowledge of CPR, First Aid and Spinal Injury Management? Can they submerge to the deepest point of your pool? Don’t just assume they can because they walk in with certification cards.” [Establish] a good lifeguard testing procedure.”

– Dewey Case, aquatics director

The Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Miss.


“Each year, the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission’s (M-NCPPC) Department of Parks & Recreation hosts a “Pool Operator In-Service” training prior to the start of our summer season. This full-day training brings together all of our pool operators to review departmental expectations, policies, and procedures for operating our aquatic facilities. Our typical agenda includes items such as managing pool contaminations, record keeping & documentation, hazard communication & chemical management, safety checks, and managing emergency action plans. We also review expectations and strategies for providing excellent customer service and managing a lifeguard team. This annual in-service training has proven very beneficial to our aquatic facility managers [and ensures] all operators receive consistent information …”

– Tara Eggleston, countywide aquatics coordinator

Sports, Health, and Wellness Division, Department of Parks & Recreation

Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission


“Review your group-use policy and meet or conduct a training with external groups that use your facility – such as day camps – to establish their leaders’ roles when bringing participants to your pool facility.”

– Mike Espino, aquatics safety and risk specialist

YMCA of the USA


“Plan early. Make an outline of things to get accomplished before your season starts and stick to it! Each year make notes on things to change, until you have a working template to use annually. Also remember to share this dated outline with everyone involved [as early as possible]. …The more employees get used to your system the more success you'll have.”

– Jordan Wienke, private lesson coordinator

City of Clayton, Mo.


It doesn't take a pizza party over Christmas or some elaborate Facebook page to entice returning employees. Simply send a letter with a reply card, kind of like a party invitation with an RSVP, asking who will be returning. Draft it in January and send [or email] it before the end of February. Include a list of training dates and an RSVP card with Name, position, hours per week they want to work, phone number and e-mail address.”

– Jordan Wienke, private lesson coordinator

City of Clayton, Mo.


“Even old or returning employees should have a training date. You can make this separate from the newbies or have [returning staff] come an hour and a half early to do a review and help with the newbie orientation. Plan at least one ‘Make up’ date.”

– Jordan Wienke, private lesson coordinator

City of Clayton, Mo.


“The Hiring process is the most crazy for me and just having all the processing paperwork all copied and in order helps.”

– Molly McCarthy, MWR Aquatics Manager

Naval Base Ventura County (Calif.)


“Having [all employees] sign a code of conduct for your pool is a good idea. If anything happens you can pull it out and say ‘you signed this.’”

– Molly McCarthy, MWR Aquatics Manager

Naval Base Ventura County (Calif.)


“Make sure you choose the right people to be in charge [such as] head lifeguards and assistant managers. If you choose someone you think will be great but then find out that person is not good at [leading] you’ll have a problem. [Try] putting them in charge of a few things before the summer season to test their ability to be leaders and take criticism from the group.”

– Molly McCarthy, MWR Aquatics Manager

Naval Base Ventura County (Calif.)


“Create a workflow that prioritizes attractions so you can inspect and evaluate your facility with accuracy and efficiency. We begin with inspection of the larger structures that demand the most attention because of their size and complexity, and then work our way to the smaller attractions, surfaces and grounds that patrons come in contact with most. [Be sure to inspect] your diving boards, ladders, chair lifts, hand-rails and walkways. Oftentimes we walk right past these small items on our way to inspect the large slides. In addition don’t overlook signs, posts, traffic ropes and fencing.”

–Nate Thorne, deputy director, Plainfield Parks & Recreation

Plainfield Recreation & Aquatic Center

Plainfield, Ind.


“Just because lifeguards and support staff have gone through orientation hardly means they’re ready to work together as a cohesive staff. To prepare, host a mock operations day. This gives all departments and divisions the opportunity to run scenarios in all areas of the park to experience a glimpse of the organization and preparation involved in handling a potentially life-threatening event. Invite all divisional employees, from the cleaning crew to the general manager, as well as your local fire and police department. Then, with everyone in attendance, run a mock situation. This can demonstrate the transition process from your park staff to EMS and garner much respect from your local officials, management and media as you show off your skills and preparation. [In addtion to preparing staff] this also allows you to have a large number of people interacting with your facility and equipment for one last test run, which can turn up any potential problem areas missed during inspection.”

–Nate Thorne, deputy director, Plainfield Parks & Recreation

Plainfield Recreation & Aquatic Center

Plainfield, Ind.


“Make sure you’re personally ready. Try on last year’s shorts (and after the usual winter weight gain) buy a few new pairs and bank some family time.”

– Lori Gogel, Director of Splashin’ Safari

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari

Santa Claus, Ind.


“Twice per month in the off-season we bump all of our motors. More issues occur from letting them sit idle then running them 24/7 and it takes less effort than changing one impeller or motor that ceased from sitting all winter.”

– Richard J Bishop

DelGrosso’s Amusement Park

Tipton, Pa.


“Do a walk through inspection in the fall and again in January in case you miss anything. Obviously some of the items can’t be done immediately, but opening day comes in a hurry so go ahead and take care of the items that can be done now.”

– Steve Brown, aquatics division manager

Statesboro-Bulloch Co Parks & Rec. Dept.

Statesboro, Ga.


“Always allow more time that you think necessary because you can bet there will be things that come up at the last minute and you don’t want to have it all piled up in April and May when the weather can be unpredictable.”

– Steve Brown, aquatics division manager

Statesboro-Bulloch Co Parks & Rec. Dept.

Statesboro, Ga.


“For opening day put one or two of your pool managers or supervisors on stand in the rotation along with lifeguards. Their added experience and maturity can keep the peace amongst junior staff, and helps facility management have a more uniform presence around the facility.”

– Nick Bacon


“For seasonal pool operators who need to fill pools that had to be emptied during winterization; fill the pool and wait to add chlorine until the pool is full and you have fully balanced the Calcium Saturation Index (Langlier Index for you CPOs). The pool will look really green and gross, but you should wait. This will help to prevent metal stains from the dissolved metals from the fill water during the initial superchlorination.”

– John Whitmore, organizational development manager

City of Denton, Texas


“Meet with your superior(s). Talk about last season and what your plans are for your upcoming season. Are there any changes to staffing? Programming? Operations? Budget?”

– Tukz Taaca, Aquatics Director, Winston Family YMCA

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.


“[When interviewing potential employees] Partnering with your superior(s) and HR (early) can help. He or she is your second opinion. Look for quality, not necessarily quantity. For me, as a supervisor, impressing me not only with words, but also with actions, hits a homerun. Does the candidate really care about getting this job? First impressions hold true.”

– Tukz Taaca, Aquatics Director, Winston Family YMCA

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.


“Are all of your staff members currently certified? Is anyone’s certifications about to expire? Keep this in mind or you may be the one sitting on the lifeguard stand or teaching a class. It’s a two-way street. Employer and employee should work in unison to make sure certifications are current. If you find some that aren’t, communicate with [those individuals] and get them recertified or certified. I always keep a list and send updates reminding staff that they are as responsible for their certifications, as am I.”

– Tukz Taaca, Aquatics Director, Winston Family YMCA

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.


“A mandatory all-staff pre-season in-service training needs to happen. Most of them will be rusty if they have not used their skills recently. This is also a chance to determine if some or all still have what it takes in case of an emergency. This is a new season and you have a new staff in terms of new people.”

– Tukz Taaca, Aquatics Director, Winston Family YMCA

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.


“My mentors taught me that I should always train with the mindset that, ‘You are only strong as the weakest link!’ Teamwork will get you through the day. Use your strong folks to bring along the weaker ones. Help them learn peer-to-peer.”

– Tukz Taaca, Aquatics Director, Winston Family YMCA

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.


“Use your organization’s core values or mission statement, or your own way, to unite your staff and help new staff members feel included. Ask them what their needs are and support them. Use stories from last season or put pictures up. This is especially important with the age group we employ because image, confidence and acceptance is huge.”

– Tukz Taaca, Aquatics Director, Winston Family YMCA

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.


This year, we are preparing to complete “Phase Two” of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act. Last year, during “Phase One” of VGB, all pools and spas were required to replace existing main drain covers with newly approved VGB covers prior to opening for Summer 2009. This year, aquatic facilities in the State of Maryland are required to replace all equalizer line covers with approved VGB covers. Facilities must be compliant by June 1, 2010. Facility managers should assess their facility needs NOW to determine whether existing VGB equalizer line covers will in fact, work for your facility or if a custom cover will be required. As we know, custom covers can have rather long lead times, so it is suggested that Facility Managers assess their specific needs ASAP! June 1st is right around the corner!

Thank you,

Tara Eggleston

Countywide Aquatics Coordinator

Sports, Health, and Wellness Division

Department of Parks & Recreation

Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission


“We train all our lifeguards [seasonal and year-round] together during the early spring for EllisTraining along with our own dept protocols. This is followed by site specific training in May by the Pool Manager and Aquatic admin staff. During season each pool has its own weekly staff meetings and trainings. Half way into the season we begin moving training/staff meetings to other pools so that they get exposed to different pool managers, site specific information and training protocols for staff since they tend to get bored at times and can be in neutral. So we shake up our facility training program along with the staff training meetings with wild scenarios involving mental and physical challenges.

- David Bucher