Growing up, Matt Griffith spent lots of time swimming, water skiing, kayaking and white- water rafting. Now a successful pool operator, he is still in the water, and fast becoming a leading voice in the areas of research and risk management.

Griffith was raised in Rock Springs, Wyo., and started as a lifeguard at 15. He came to his current position of pool operator at the Georgia

Institute of Technology four years ago. Prior to that, he was interim pool operator at the University of North Texas while pursuing a graduate degree in recreation management.

“I was supposed to be a graduate assistant, but the day I arrived, the pool operator told me he was leaving,” Griffith says.

He had little experience as a manager when he stepped in, but he was well prepared for the challenge. Griffith holds an undergraduate degree in recreation management from the Metropolitan State College of Denver, AFO certification, and he completed an internship at Pennsylvania State University with Dr. Tom Griffiths, founder of Aquatic Safety Research Group in State College, Pa. He did so well that while he couldn’t come on full-time at UNT because of his status as a student, he was kept on as “interim” operator for the duration of his time there.

Griffith has recognized the importance of education since his school days, and he has long been proactive in seeking out learning opportunities, such as the internship at Penn State.

“I learned more there than anything prior or since,” Griffith says of his experience working with Tom Griffiths and others at PSU.

It was Griffiths who encouraged him to pursue the graduate degree at UNT, where he met Joe Walker, Ph.D., assistant professor-Kinesiology, Health Promotion & Recreational Studies. And professor Walker has encouraged him to explore the scientific research in aquatics, Griffith says.

As a result, he has published articles in Aquatics International and other publications, and presented at several conferences, including the National Recreation and Park Association National Aquatic Conference, and the Texas Public Pool Conference. 

“In the last few years I’ve seen it come a long way, but I still think there’s a huge need for valid reliable research for lifeguarding and risk management,” Griffith says. “That’s something I would like to make a focal point.”

Looking ahead, he is in a good position to make some significant contributions. He received an MBA from Georgia State University in Atlanta last year, and hopes to eventually get a Ph.D. For now, he’s focused on his day job at Georgia Tech, and growing Griffith Aquatic Group, the consulting firm he established in 2010. He’s also a certified AFO and CPO instructor, and was involved in drafting current revisions to the American Red Cross lifeguarding standards.