For a little over a year now,
I’ve been working as the aquatics director for a new
community natatorium at a high school. The pool is a first for the
school district, and the community awaited its opening with great
Upon entering my new position, my experience as an aquatics
professional was limited; however, my personal experience includes
a lifelong involvement with aquatics, from lifeguarding to swim
lessons to competitive swimming and coaching.
That said, I was excited about the opportunity to take on the
aquatics director role and felt confident in my abilities.
Little did I realize just how much the job would require, beyond
confidence and a love of aquatics.
From the start, a majority of our participants have been new to
aquatics, and I assumed that as they became accustomed to the
facility, routine would fall into place. At first, I thought it
About nine months in, pool scheduling and course programming were
running smoothly, enrollment and staff numbers were up and growing,
and my professional relationships with stakeholders were
solidifying. But after reviewing correspondence from some of the
parents with children in our programs, it became clear that
something still wasn’t clicking.
One parent raised concerns over the attentiveness of some of the
instructors and guards during preschool learn-to-swim lessons.
Another parent questioned the teaching methods of our diving coach.
In fact, parents with all types of questions were constantly
confronting me on the pool deck. “Are all the instructors
following the same curriculum?” “Should my child be in
a higher level?” “Why is the water so cold?” On
further reflection, I realized that it seemed every parent I spoke
with had a question, request or concern specific to their
My initial instinct would have been to respond with assurance, but
I learned early on that generic responses don’t accomplish
much and usually only frustrate parents more.
With some guidance from my supervisor, I was able to piece it all
together. It appeared I was giving too much attention to the big
things, areas such as scheduling, staffing and relationships. What
I really needed to do was take a look through the eyes of the
Doing so allowed me to see the small concerns and incidents that I
previously would have disregarded, and I came to understand that
these “little things” often are what parents notice
Now I make it a point to be available to answer parents’
questions, especially during the first few days of a program.
I’ll spend time in the stands talking to parents, answering
questions and explaining our programming. We’ve made other
simple changes, too, such as asking our instructors to face the
entire group of students while working one on one, and
communicating to guards that every incident should be responded to
and handled with urgency.
The good news is, our patrons have recognized our efforts. Less
than two months after receiving a correspondence from one of our
learn-to-swim parents, I was contacted again. This time that parent
expressed enthusiasm for the adjustments.
1. Sweat the small stuff. This is especially true when
dealing with parents. Every correspondence, question and concern
has value and is important.
2. Communication is key. Obtain feedback from
parents. I look forward to hearing their opinions and suggestions.
It provides an additional perspective and enables me to direct
aquatics programs that everyone in the community recognizes and
looks forward to being a part of.
3. Change is good. If something isn’t
working, don’t be afraid to take the time to analyze the
situation and fix it. Sometimes even a small “tweak”
can make a big difference.