Aquatics programming, when executed properly, is a big boost to youth participation in community recreation, since most kids love being in water and it facilitates a wide variety of activities.
The Spurlino Family YMCA in Tampa, Florida, understands the importance of its aquatics offerings, and puts a lot of emphasis on making private and group swim lessons, water safety education and lifeguard training opportunities available for youth and families.
“A pool is where children can learn to be safe around water,” said Matt Mitchell, the CEO of the Spurlino Family YMCA. “Ours is also used to provide drowning prevention programs, which is a very important program here in Florida, seeing as there’s so much water all around us.”
The newly-built Spurlino Y facility, as a whole, gets a huge boost in member engagement from its aquatics programming alone. This is due in part to Tampa residents’ fondness of water, but it also speaks to the popularity of water-based activities among families and children anywhere.
“We have this wonderful, new facility with an attached 30,000-square-foot outdoor aquatics center,” said Mitchell. “People come just for that outdoor aquatics center — they go straight to the pool.”
A point of focus in the Spurlino Y’s aquatics programming is its planning in conjunction with youth programming during warmer months. “It’s a place where kids can spend their time constructively when school’s out, whether it’s aquatics programs, various sports or day camp programming involving the pool,” said Mitchell.
One program in particular, called “Safety Around Water,” is solely focused on teaching the community, especially youth, basic swimming and safety techniques. This program is extremely popular among families for its educational value.
And according to Mitchell, the Spurlino Y’s aquatics programming can also provide early, basic professional development for teenagers. “Pools are also a place where teens can gain employment experience, through volunteering or potentially through a first job as a lifeguard,” he said.
Whatever activities you’re implementing, the most important focus of aquatics programming should be on educating the community, and helping them maintain active and healthy lifestyles.
“Really be purposeful and deliberate about making sure you’re using this resource to serve this community as best as possible,” said Mitchell. “Provide a place where kids can socialize and stay healthy.”