What does it take to be the best? That was the question running through my mind as I went through the multitude of wonderful entries submitted this year for our annual Best of Aquatics award program. The answer became quite clear as the candidates slowly were whittled down to 10 winners and 12 finalists:

Dedication. All of our entrants showed great commitment to bettering the field of aquatics and proved it by putting in the hard work. But the best push for constant improvement. A prime example is Galter LifeCenter. Its Aquababies program went from being mostly a free-play session to a true learn-to-swim program. They did this by making continual improvements to the curriculum, developing new techniques and policies, and implementing customized equipment. The resulting program is a huge success, making it possible to expand its offerings to include adult learn-to-swim programming. It’s also had the added benefit of tripling the facility’s aquatics revenue.

Creativity. Thinking outside the box can produce phenomenal results. The City of Phoenix Aquatics did just that by adopting a Mystery Shopping approach to lifeguard audits. The highly successful program is in its third year and has been effective in helping managers see which areas of guard training need more attention. By implementing the necessary changes, lifeguard performance in some areas has improved by nearly 50 percent!

Teamwork. The most successful companies are those that encourage their staffs to work together for a common goal, with managers who inspire their employees to greater achievements. Nowhere is this more evident than at River Road Park and Recreation District. Here, even the support staff, such as the receptionist and custodial engineers, are provided with lifesaving skills and have a defined role to play in emergency situations, thereby ensuring the best possible outcomes.

Generosity. Organizations that care for the communities they serve can show it in many way. Wet ‘N’ Wild Waterworld not only provides water safety presentations and free or low-cost swim lessons to its community, but also hosts a lifeguard Olympics program, helps the local food pantry and partners with the U.S. Agriculture Department to offer free lunches to thousands of children from low-income families, among its many community outreach endeavors.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the wonderful work our 2015 award winners perform, day in and day out. Read on to discover what makes each of our 10 winning facilities the best in their categories. My hope is that their excellent example will inspire and challenge you to make your facility the very best it can be.