Category Archives: News

The 12th Annual WAHC, I can’t wait!

As the National Swimming Pool Foundation begins to celebrate its 50th year anniversary, it is busy preparing for the 12th annual World Aquatic Health™ Conference (WAHC). Everything that the Foundation does, helps people live healthier lives. Since its inception, the WAHC has established itself as the preeminent scientific conference for the aquatic industry. There are many things that give me life changing experiences at this annual event. From the inspirational keynote speakers to those individuals that have dedicated their lives to helping others. One of this year’s keynote speakers is Rowdy Gaines, a three time Olympic gold medalist. I can’t wait to hear Rowdy speak. Every time I have attended, the conference has delivered. Sometimes it is hard to choose which session to attend, with so many excellent seminars. As I always tell my colleagues, this is a must attend event if you want to stay on the cutting edge of the aquatic world.

Timely and accurate information is a requirement to make knowledgeable decisions that protect lives and enhance aquatic experiences, which results in more users.  This information is available to owners, operators, manufacturers, and environmental health officials at the 2015 WAHC on October 7th – 9th in Scottsdale Arizona.  The latest in aquatic research will be shared with attendees so you can be prepared for the future.  The 2015 Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code will also be held in conjunction with the WAHC where recommendations for code improvement will be discussed and voted on.  I encourage you to attend and become one of the most knowledgeable in the aquatic industry.

Networking is key to the success. The WAHC allows for the opportunity to meet and connect industry leaders, scientists, policy makers, and so many more. Bring a stack of business cards with you. Registration for the conference opens at See you there and together, let’s shape the future through aquatics!

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Weird Swimming Rules

Starting From the Water

The National Federation of State High School Association Rule Book states (Rule 2-7, Art. 2. Penalties: 3.) “When one or more starting platforms are not securely attached to the deck or end wall, all swimmers shall start in the water, or on the deck, provided the water depth rule is not violated.”

Competitors swim during the women's 200m freestyle heats at the London 2012 Olympic GamesIn today’s sporting world, we have seen coaches go to tremendous lengths to gain an edge in competition. Famously, University of Iowa Football coach Hayden Fry, had the University paint the visiting team’s locker room pink in order to gain a competitive advantage. In 2005, at great expense the University added pink urinals, showers, and lockers to the visiting team’s locker room.

We have all been to our fair share of meets where there is a loose block, but I have never witnessed a coach requesting that everyone start in the water for a fair swim meet. During my senior year of high school, I myself might have won another state championship if this had been the case. In hindsight, I should have gone and looked for a block that was loose.

Why is it that coaches don’t pull this rule out more? I think our sport has a high moral character that is deeply ingrained into our coaches and participants. Every swimmer in every race has a chance to win as they all have a chance to get a best time! A coach isn’t going to sacrifice a best time for a chance to win a race… Well maybe a better way of phrasing it is that a coach wants his athletes to win a race while going a best time!

No Guns at the Pool

News flash… “NCAA Swimming Officials get held up going through a metal detector at TSA in a local airport. They are forced to leave starting pistol at security.”

The NCAA Rule Book states (Rule 2, Section 1. The Official Start) “When the starter sees that the swimmers are stationary, the starter shall start the race with an electronic-sound device. The use of a pistol shot is not permitted.”

The NFSHSA Rule Book Stats (Rule 2-7, Art. 3) “The starting signal shall be loud enough to insure a fair start…. NOTE: A pistol capable of discharging live ammunition shall not be used for the starting signal.”

I am all for safety at a swim meet. No running on a pool deck. Making sure there is adequate water depth for diving. These are all great rules that help keep our sport safe. Some might think that the NCAA rule book takes it to the next level when it states “the use of a pistol shot is not permitted” as a starting device at a swim meet.

Call me a helpless romantic, but when the timing system starter went out at a swim meet and I saw the Meet Referee/Starter get the pistol out of that little black plastic case, part of me got excited. The pop of the gun is one of those timeless aspects of our sport (and track & field) that brings back some nostalgia.  It is like playing football on a Friday night under the lights, the “pistol shot” got your heart racing and which definitely made you swim a little faster.

You just can’t imagine Jesse Owens or Mark Spitz starting with the electronic sound of the horn. Actually, Mark Spitz started with an electronic-sound device. We have to take it back another generation to Johnny Weissmuller. You just can’t imagine Tarzan starting with a beep!

PlayCore Acquires Fountain People

 Chattanooga, TN – September, 29, 2014 – PlayCore Holdings, Inc. (PlayCore), a leading designer, manufacturer, and marketer of a broad range of play and recreation products and services, and a portfolio company of Sentinel Capital Partners, today announced the acquisition of Fountain People, Inc. and its aquatic playground division Water Odyssey.

Fountain People, founded in 1987, is a leading designer, manufacturer, and supplier of architectural and interactive fountain equipment and systems. Their Water Odyssey Division was established in 1996 to provide the market with the highest quality aquatic playground equipment available. Fountain People and Water Odyssey will become a part of PlayCore’s Aquatics Group. Day-to-day operations will continue from Fountain People’s office and manufacturing facility in San Marcos, TX. It will continue to be managed by current President Jerry Elbel, and will be supported by the Aquatics Group management team located in Loveland, CO.

“We are excited about the addition of Fountain People and Water Odyssey to the family of PlayCore brands as well as the opportunity to increase our product offering architectural aesthetic fountain solutions to commercial, recreation, and themed entertainment environments. The company aligns greatly with PlayCore’s mission and values based culture. This expansion of our commitment to the aquatics industry is an important new opportunity for PlayCore and supports our mission of building communities through play and recreation,” said Bob Farnsworth, President and CEO of PlayCore.

Jerry Elbel commented, “We are extremely excited to become a part of the PlayCore family. PlayCore’s commitment to quality, innovation, and excellence blends seamlessly with the core values that Fountain People and Water Odyssey were built on. We look forward to expanding their industry leading product lines as well as our capabilities in support of our distribution channels.”

About PlayCore

PlayCore helps build stronger communities around the world by advancing play through research, education, and partnerships. The company infuses this learning into its complete family of brands. PlayCore combines best-in-class planning and education programs with the most comprehensive array of recreation products available to create play solutions that match the unique needs of each community they serve. Learn more at

About Fountain People

Fountain People, Inc. was founded in early 1987 with the goal of providing a complete package of products and services previously unavailable from a single source. Bringing over 60 years of collective experience, the principals of the firm developed the Total Services Approach to water feature design. Today the company is located in San Marcos, Texas and is a leading designer and manufacturer of architectural and interactive fountain equipment and systems. Learn more at

About Water Odyssey

Water Odyssey, by Fountain People, was established in 1996 with the goal of providing unique and leading edge aquatic playground equipment to the industry. With its strong base in water effects design, Water Odyssey is a leader in innovation, providing a full line of design services and a unique product offering. Learn more at

NEWSFLASH: The 1st Edition of the long-anticipated Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) has officially been released.

Click here to download a copy.

As the MAHC now moves into the next phase, local and state health jurisdictions will be able to implement all or portions of the code as seen fit.  The CDC will work with national partners to periodically update the MAHC to ensure it stays current with the latest industry advances and public health findings.

Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code:

The Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC; is a non-profit organization and will be the vehicle for recommending code modifications to the MAHC moving forward.  The CMAHC will be suggesting MAHC revisions as well as identifying research opportunities for the CDC’s final determination.

The CMAHC’s role will include:

  • Collecting, assessing, and relaying national input on needed MAHC revisions back to CDC for final consideration for acceptance
  • Advocating for improved health and safety at aquatic facilities
  • Providing assistance to health departments, boards of health, legislatures, and  other partners on MAHC uses, benefits, and implementation
  • Providing assistance to the aquatics industry on uses, interpretation, and benefits of the MAHC
  • Soliciting, coordinating, and prioritizing MAHC research needs

The CMAHC members will meet biennially to gather, assess, and decide on the need for proposed changes to the MAHC. This first meeting is planned for October 2015, which will be 1 year after CDC’s release of the MAHC 1st Edition.

Individuals and organizations can become a member or sponsor the CMAHC and help the organization become the driving force for improved health, safety, and fun at the nation’s public swimming facilities.

MAHC Background:

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) effort began in February 2005 with the 1st Edition now being completed and published in August 2014.  The MAHC will have a significant impact on the aquatic industry and we strongly encourage all industry members to take an active role in supporting the effort, identifying opportunities for improvement, as well as areas that could benefit from future research as this will be a living document.

The first industry standard was issued in 1958. In the subsequent 50 years, there have been at least 50 different state codes and many independent county and city codes. What was required in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another. It is clear that this historic approach is not working. Thus, the National Swimming Pool Foundation took a leadership position and provided funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the creation of the MAHC and now supporting the legacy and implementation efforts through sponsorship of the CMAHC. The MAHC is intended to transform the patch work of industry codes into a data-driven, knowledge-based, risk reduction effort to prevent disease, injuries and promote healthy water experiences.


You want more competitive swimmers? Make swim meets shorter!!

Competitors swim during the women's 200m freestyle heats at the London 2012 Olympic Games“If I had only one day left to live I would spend it at a swim meet because they last forever.” I’ve seen this on swimmers’ t-shirts at swim meets across the country, and I couldn’t agree more.

I was recently visiting with USA Swimming in Colorado Springs when we began discussing how to get more competitive swimmers into the sport. Several approaches were discussed, all with merit. USA Swimming is beginning a great new campaign called “Swim Today” to convert swim lesson kids to swim team kids.  However, there was one approach that I felt needed to be addressed: shorter swim meets would draw and retain younger kids (and parents) to the sport.

With three age-group swimmers between the ages of 8 and 11, and having swum competitively myself, I understand the current age-group swim meet agenda: spend five to six hours on a pool deck either early on a weekend morning or late into the evening on a weekday. This is costing the sport future competitive swimmers not because the kids do not want to compete in swim meets but because the parents, who may not have been competitive swimmers, do not want this big of a commitment.

Over the last couple of years, I have been able to recruit some of my kids’ friends to the swim team through conversations with their parents.  I have appealed to the benefits of gaining confidence in the water, to a healthy lifestyle, to fun with friends.  What I tend to leave out is the lengthy time commitment required for swim meets.  I would say that I have only had about a 10% retention rate after the parents’ experience a long swim meet.  Now usually they stick it out for a short period of time, but the reason I get for their kids quitting is the swim meet time commitment.

We have all heard the phrases “practice makes perfect” and “practice like you play,”  but this to me is one of the largest disconnects in the sport of swimming.  Swim practices can last one to two hours with interval training and very, very limited breaks.  Rarely does a swimmer get out of the pool during practice.  Yet at a swim meet there may be an hour between events.Start Backstroke

During high profile meets like the Olympics or FINA World Championships, the media always make a big deal out of a condensed time frame between races for athletes like Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps.  I understand this for high-caliber meets but age group kids (and parents) do not need a long break to rest.  A typical swim meet may include three to five races for each of my kids over the five to six-hour time frame.

Here is a typical meet……kids arrive at 6 a.m. to warm up for 20 minutes.  Meet starts at 7 a.m.  My son swims a race and then is back on the grass field playing baseball or football.  I don’t know an age group kid out there that can be contained to “rest” for the next race when it’s an hour away and all of their friends are ready to play.  But hey, there is good news for the parents… get to stand behind a starting block for two hours, time the other kids, and see your kid swim for maybe two minutes.

Something has to change.

Think about this, most other sports like soccer, baseball, and football all have the same practice requirements as swimming (one to two hours) but the games are typically equal to the length of practice and most often are shorter.  I would enjoy a maximum of 2.5-hour swim meet where coaches have to select events (and entries) that fit within that time frame.  PS:  my 10-year old doesn’t need to swim the 200 Fly. Or we could have more swim meets that have condensed time frames – baseball and basketball games are commonly held frequently throughout the week. In fact, I recently saw an article on where a Major League Baseball executive suggested a 7-inning MLB baseball game to appeal to more people.  The same type of thinking needs to take place in the sport of swimming!