“Before, technology had not been much of an option because when electronics and water mixed, you usually ended up saying some choice words and praying the Ziplock bag of rice might do the trick,” said Chrissy Fandel, the association aquatics director at the YMCA of Greater Richmond. “Now we are able to use technology to enhance aquatics safety, communication and even improve how we manage our pool operations.”
The Richmond Y, with 18 locations throughout Virginia, is using a variety of technology in their aquatics programming like SwimWins, TeamUnify, and HY-TEK’s Meet Manager and Meet Mobile systems.
TeamUnify’s system allows swim team managers and coaches to communicate with participants, recruit volunteers and manage events. “Plus, it also allows you to create and approve swim meet entries for events, and has several reports to help manage your swim team program efficiently,” said Fandel.
SwimWins is a branch of PLAYERSPACE, which allows your facility to communicate with swim lesson participants, track attendance, and record and track progress along the swim lesson skills continuum. HY-TEK’s Meet Mobile allows parents to view their child’s time and see how they placed in meets on their phone.
“So far, it has been great,” said Vicki Golat, the executive director of aquatics at the Central Florida Y. “We have been using PLAYERSPACE with our youth sports programming and have recently added SwimWins. Most of our swimming participants are already familiar with it from sports, so it is a natural progression.”
The Central Florida Y educates their members on the benefits of aquatics technology once enrollment takes place. Once enrolled, the member is automatically connected to PLAYERSPACE through the Y’s system. An email is then sent to them and the member sets up an account.
According to Golat, the biggest enhancement technology brings to aquatics is real-time communication to parents. “As skills are obtained, they are tracked in the application,” she said. “Parents log into their account and can be updated on progress. Mid-session reports and final certificates of achievement are posted as well. Communication regarding any changes — i.e. postponement due to thunderstorms — are sent to parents via email or text.”
“In 2020, technology is becoming more of a tool than ever,” said Newson. “Once people understand how technology can increase efficiency and enhance learning, it can be very valuable. Moving more toward a more paperless society, we can utilize technology to hold all the information we need without filling up the filing cabinets.”
The Saskatoon Y uses a variety of technologies in multiple ways.
First, it uses an online scheduling system for staff that shows when they work, for how long and what is included in their shift — teaching, guarding, cleaning, etc. There is also an Excel registration system allowing instructors to see up-to-date lists of all the participants registered in their classes. This registration system makes it easier for participants to register, as they would only need to email or call, versus going in and filling out a piece of paper.
But while technology can be a very useful tool, it can also create challenges.
“As great as some technology is, it can also be a cause for distraction,” said Newson. “We try to utilize technology as a tool and less of a privilege while on duty. There may also be limitations when it comes to available internet connection or charging ports, and of course, the mix of water, laptops and phones does not always end well.”
For Fandel, the biggest challenge when it comes to aquatics technology is adapting to new systems. “When the systems were new to us, there was a learning curve,” she said. “However, we have evolved and adapted, and I think my team, participants and members have seen the positive impact.”
Fandel gave two specific examples. “Nagi Smartpool provides a safety alert system through a wearable device that tracks your workout and creates an alert should the swimmer experience an in-water emergency,” she said. “For aquatics safety, we will be piloting PunchAlert’s Rescue in the near future to see if we can utilize this system to enhance our Aquatics Emergency Action Plan and improve communication during emergency situations.”
Additionally, Fandel mentioned Poseidon, which uses cameras that track the movement of swimmers, and if an abnormal movement/trajectory is detected, it signals an alarm to alert lifeguards of possible drowning victims. There are also wearable devices like the SEAL SwimSafe system that alerts if a swimmer has been submerged for too long, or that can be preset for a certain time duration based on a swimmer’s ability.
All in all, technology is making a splash in the aquatics industry, and it’s time for your facility to ride the wave. Whether it’s for safety or management, aquatics technology holds many benefits. “I think technology is incredibly beneficial,” said Newson. “It allows for more insightful learning, minimizes human error and is a creative way to engage with younger generations.”