Most aquatics professionals will tell you one of the biggest issues facing the industry is the lack of available education. That’s where Alex Antoniou, Ph.D., comes in. “I’m always trying to ask myself, ‘What else can we do? Where is
there a gap in the industry that we need to fill, from an
educational standpoint?’” says Antoniou, director of
educational services at the National Swimming Pool Foundation in
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Antoniou is the gate keeper of one of the most recognized pool and
spa operator programs available. He administers all of the
foundation’s educational tracks for public health officials,
pool operators and builders. He’s also a mastermind behind
NSPF’s recent success, the Certified Pool Inspector
program, which health departments such as New York’s are
Antoniou is qualified for his position is an understatement.
He’s certified in 21 areas of aquatics — everything
from lifeguarding and CPR to scuba training and small boat
He was first
introduced to aquatics during college, while finishing his
undergraduate degree in education. Between semesters, he’d
hop the pond from England to New Jersey to work as a lifeguard at a
YMCA summer camp. Meanwhile, he was busy accumulating every
relevant certification he could. In 1992, he became director of the
Rutgers University aquatics program, which was almost nonexistent
at the time. When he left 11 years later, the learn-to-swim program
went from averaging 20 kids per session to 700. His efforts earned
Rutgers various accolades, including two from Aquatics
International for in-service training and emergency action
By the end of
his tenure with the university, he was ready to make another big
change. At the time, Antoniou had already been involved with NSPF
as a CPO instructor and member of the educational training
committee. While still at Rutgers, he had also begun developing CPI
for the foundation. Eventually, NSPF CEO Thomas Lachocki approached
Antoniou about a new position that the foundation was
heard of the position at the foundation, I thought, ‘Wow.
Here’s an opportunity to do something in the aquatics
industry that has implications on a national and perhaps
international level,” Antoniou recalls.
International, indeed. Last year saw
the launch of the Spanish-language version of the Certified Pool
and Spa Operator Handbook, and he recently introduced CPO to Spain.
He also plans to launch a number of online training modules to
supplement the CPO program, such as hazmat and blood-borne pathogen
training — OSHA-required qualifications that many pool
operators need. “We need to address training at a national
level, even if we have to do it one state at a time,” he
says. He points to the recent rash of large outbreaks, such as last
year’s cryptosporidium outbreak that affected nearly 4,000
visitors at a spraypark in New York.
industry is growing in leaps and bounds,” he continues.
“We’re getting more pools, more spas and more people
using those facilities. We need to make sure the operators in
charge of those facilities have the best possible training to
ensure the health and safety of the public.” —