Category Archives: Operations

Hiring in Aquatics: Qualities to look for in aquatic managers. 

Hiring management staff is difficult.  You have to find the right person, with the right experience, training and knowledge that will be a good fit for your organization’s culture.  A good hire can mean lower costs, higher revenues, better employee morale and a safer environment for patrons.  So how do you choose the best candidate for your organization?

You need someone with the right background knowledge.  With the right background knowledge, the aquatic manager can be a resource to staff and the public.  You’ll want to look for a number of the following certifications:

  • Pool/Aquatic Operator Certifications – these can be obtained through multiple authorities and provide the basic knowledge for pool operations.
  • Lifeguard and/ Lifeguard Instructor Certification – background knowledge in lifeguarding and training lifeguards
  • Swim Instructor/ Instructor Trainer Certifications – background knowledge teaching swim lessons and training others to teach swim lessons
  • Lifeguard Management

If they’ve made it to the interview, you probably have a good feel for their knowledge, and they meet the minimum requisites for the position. So what else do you look for?  I look for 5 main qualities when I am hiring management positions.

  1. Customer Oriented
  2. Desire to learn/adapt
  3. Grit
  4. Honesty
  5. Leadership

Customer Oriented – I look for people with strong customer service backgrounds and drive.  Ultimately whether people come back to your facility or your programs has everything to do with how well the staff treats the customer.  Look for someone that will go the extra mile for your customer and is able to articulate the importance of exceptional customer service to other staff.

Desire to learn/adapt – Like most industries, aquatics is constantly changing.  New training protocols are released almost annually, along with new research and equipment.  Programs fall in an out of favor with the public.  To provide the best service, your operator must have a desire to learn about the industry and apply that information to the aquatics operations.

Grit – grit is defined by Miriam Webster as “firmness of mind and spirit”.  I see grit as the ability to try, fail, learn from that failure and try again.  Leaders need to be able to take criticism from their superiors, the public and their subordinates.  They need to be able to take that criticism and look at it constructively and act on it.

Honesty – Look for someone that has the strength of character to be honest when it’s hard to be.  Everyone makes mistakes, but good leaders can be honest about them and move on, and their staff will move on with them.  Lifeguards often have lots of options of who to work for.  They will stay for a manager they respect and is honest with them.

Leadership – Look for someone that sees what they can do for their staff, not what the staff can do for them.   According to the United States department of Labor, the Recreation industry has the highest turnover rate of all industries.  Good managers can combat that by showing great leadership.  Find someone who will frequently give credit when its due and hold people accountable.

I have seen the quote “People leave managers, not companies” a lot lately, and I think most people would say that its true.  Look for an aquatic manager that is not only going to be able to bring the necessary knowledge to the position, but also the qualities that you want to see in your staff and in your organization.

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Water Basketball Goals

Water basketball can occasionally become an afterthought during the commercial swimming pool design process due to its relatively low startup and maintenance costs. Furthermore, water basketball goals can be accommodated in a variety of places across a typical leisure pool and are hindered by the available water depth more than the available space. Often times, they are placed somewhere in the lap lane area of a pool because the larger amenities such as play structures, current channels, and water slides demand specific water depth and clearance requirements that don’t align with the ideal conditions for water basketball. Counsilman-Hunsaker has recognized a need to consider water basketball during the schematic design phase of a project with the type of water basketball goal specified becoming a function of the pool overflow system (gutter vs. skimmer), the ability to move the goal, and the desire to have an adjustable height goal. Each type of water basketball goal has its advantages and disadvantages that will be further discussed.


During initial phases of the design of a swimming pool, a “water basketball nook” should be considered accompanied by an on-looking underwater bench. By designating a confined area of the pool to water basketball, design teams can help mitigate un-desired interactions between calmer portions of the swimming pool and the unavoidable, yet popular, rowdy water basketball game. That being said, the type of water basketball goal to be specified for the pool contractor is determined by the pool overflow system. Water basketball goals have ideal setback distances from edge of the pool to the water basketball goal anchor. For example, SR Smith manufactures a water basketball goal known as the Swim N’ Dunk (S-BASK-ERS) with a setback distance of 18 inches. This smaller setback limits the type of pool that this particular goal can be installed on to skimmer pools. Obviously, the type of overflow system should not be a slave to the type of water basketball goal specified; however, it is important to keep these ideas in mind when discussing potential designs with a facility owner.

Figure 1: SR Smith Swim N’ Dunk Water Basketball Goal


Fortunately, SR Smith makes an extended reach model of the water basketball goal previously mentioned that increases the setback distance from the pool edge to 30 inches. The extended reach model could be used on a pool with a gutter perimeter overflow system, but it still lacks adjustability. The Spectrum Adjustable Basketball Hoop allows for the height of the water basketball goal to be raised and lowered. The Spectrum system uses a compression mechanism and two extension arms to do this. The setback distance for this goal is 26 inches and could be specified for a pool with a gutter system. Designers should keep this mechanism in mind when accounting for the surrounding deck space as the lever used to adjust the goal can have a large swing radius. It is important to note that any water basketball goal with an adjustable height should have a safety stopper to prevent the backboard from falling from its highest point. Without this safety implementation, backboards have been known to come crashing down on the coping stone below with some force.

Figure 2: Spectrum Adjustable Basketball Hoop


Both of the water basketball goals mentioned thus far have a fixed position. More specifically, they are anchored to the pool deck and, while they can be removed and stored, will more or less be there permanently.  Dunn-Rite, Inc. has a model known as the Splash and Slam that is both movable and has an adjustable height. The base of the water basketball goal is a hollowed polyethylene basin that weighs 500 pounds when filled with water. The water can then be drained to allow pool operators to move the goal. The backboard height can also be adjusted and leveled to compensate for the occasional uneven pool deck. This goal, while it has its advantages, would typically be specified if water basketball was considered as an afterthought during design. It is customizable, but lacks aesthetically and in sturdiness when compared to the fixed position goals.

Figure 3: Dunn Rite Splash and Slam


Water basketball goals should be a staple when it comes to leisure pool design because of their sheer popularity and low startup and upkeep cost. Ideally, the goal is placed in an area of the pool far away from where younger children will be playing and adults will be lounging. Different perimeter overflow systems demand different types of goals as fixed goals need to be provided with a deck mounted anchor. If all of these considerations are taken into account during the design phase of a project, water basketball can become the primary feature of a facility. They do bring with them many liability issues, but that is a topic for another discussion.


Expansion and Contraction in PVC Pool Piping

In the commercial swimming pool industry, the overwhelming choice for pool piping material selection is Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). The use of such materials can provide security, as it is non-corrosive, and if installed properly, some would say this pipe material can provide an almost infinite life span. But, in comparison to other pipe material selections, such as cast-iron, ductile iron, steel and concrete, PVC has a much higher coefficient of thermal expansion. This coefficient considers the amount of expansion or contraction that will occur due to the temperature range your pipe will endure and the length of pipe you are calculating. Thus, the design and installation of PVC pipe must consider how to accommodate such changes in pipe length.
For pools located in areas with seasonal temperature changes that utilize long runs of straight pipe sections, consideration should be given to accommodating expansion and contraction of the pipe. The ASTM Standard 2774 Underground Installation of Thermoplastic Pressure Piping, contains specific information on the topic of expansion and contraction in pool piping. A science-based formula for determining the expected change in pipe length due to expansion and contraction is:

By knowing the amount of expansion or contraction that will occur in your piping system, you can adjust the design as needed. These accommodations can range from changes in vertical or horizontal direction of your piping system, to the use of mechanical expansion and contraction joints. Changes in pipe direction using expansion loops, offsets and bends are ways to accommodate the expected changes in pipe length within your system. Considering that pool piping systems often have changes in direction due to the inclusion of supply inlets, main drains and feature supplies, the design and installation of the underground pool piping system naturally accommodates expansion and contraction. However, there are times when pipe runs become quite lengthy without changes in direction, and considerations for the inclusion of an expansion loop or mechanical joint will be needed.

Mechanical expansion joints come in many different types. Their primary purpose is to provide a means of flexibility in the piping network for expansion and contraction. They often work by allowing the pipe to slide into or out of itself like a piston. Installation of mechanical expansion joints for underground piping is critical. If the mechanical expansion joints, along with the materials used for backfill around the joints, are not properly installed, the effectiveness can be compromised. For example, backfill materials can make their way into the mechanical joint and hamper pipe movement. If backfill materials are a concern, it is recommended to boot the joint for protection.

In most installations, the straight pipe runs are not excessive enough or the design of the piping network will already include many bends or turns in the pipe. However, for those occasions where environmental factors result in expansion and contraction of pool piping, or straight pipe runs 100 feet or more exist, the design and installation must have allowances for the changes in pipe length that will occur. Without these provisions, the underground piping will be susceptible to potential damage, which will result in leaks to your pool piping system.

Does Your Facility Have a Lockdown Procedure?

Unfortunately, we are surrounded by reports of violence and acts of terrorism that feel too close to home every day. Operating facilities serve thousands of people every day. And while this is an incredible opportunity, there is also great responsibility associated with that. Is your facility prepared to handle an emergency situation? Is your staff ready to act if your facility becomes a target? These are important questions to ask yourself as a facility operator so you and your staff can have a positive effect on the outcome of emergency situations.

Training for the Worst to Perform the Best

Work with your local law enforcement and fire departments to determine the best course of action for different emergency scenarios within your facility. Each facility has its own unique challenges and opportunities in regards to patron safety, which should be taken into account when developing threat-specific action plans. Above all, guest and staff safety are obviously paramount. But in certain scenarios, that can be complicated. For instance, there are cases where your staff is responsible for the welfare of minors (swim lessons, day camp programming, etc.). In an emergency, is it your staff’s responsibility to usher children to safety before protecting themselves? Or should staff members prioritize their own safety? These are questions that local law enforcement can help you work through. It’s important to take input from local law enforcement, decision-makers in your organization, as well as from neighboring facilities to determine the best plan for your facility. Once plans have been developed: consistently practice them. Practice with your staff so often, that in the case of an emergency, the process is second nature to them. That way, when disaster strikes, you and your staff are ready to help.

Active Shooter

fbiIn most cases, active shooter situations unfold quickly, and law enforcement do not arrive on scene until after the incident is over. So it may be up to you and your staff to take action to help your patrons to safety. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), together with other partners, developed a short video outlining some of the choices when faced with an active shooter situation. While the video primarily focuses on the office building environment, the information and tips it provides can certainly be applied to your facility. Your response is certainly going to differ if you’re operating a facility with one small building, a large, open water park space, and 2,000 guests. But the core message remains the same. It’s important to know your options (Run, Hide, or Fight) and know when you might choose one option over another. Local law enforcement will assist you in making that decision, but most typically say it’s best to run and exit the park at any exit point. This means ensuring your staff is aware of all emergency exit gates. These gates should remain unlocked during business hours. Staff who are stationed at the top of water slides or other rides can hit the emergency stop and hide in the flume towards the middle until it is safe to exit.

Other Types of Disruption

There may be an instance where there is a violent eruption in your facility with a specific target in mind, such as a fight or domestic disturbance. If your management has established a good presence on-deck, and your staff consistently speaks with customers, you’re more likely to spot these incidents before they escalate. But even with the best managers, disturbances happen. Train staff to see these problems before they arise, separate individuals, and take statements in an area where all parties are safe. After the problem has been resolved, make sure your staff knows how to resume normal operations, and relocate individuals to a different area of the facility as necessary.

Nearby Event

Sometimes, the danger may not even be at your facility, but rather in the neighboring area. This can still affect your operations. Slide towers, for instance, are high points visible from far away. If there is danger outside your facility, youKCMO Waterslide1 may need to evacuate slide towers or other tall attractions to ensure staff and guests are safe. In these situations, it is not uncommon for your staff to be the first to notice the need to lockdown the facility. Law enforcement are busy protecting the immediate scene of the danger and may not have time to warn you of some impending danger. Close off any areas where someone may be in danger and take care to move them to a safe location. Recently, a facility in Oregon implemented their training and prepared for an active shooter situation when a shooting happened at an adjacent park. Because they had been trained to properly respond to nearby emergencies, they were ready to take action and save lives.

Prepare for After

One thing that all emergencies have in common is that at some point, they will end. Make sure that you have a process for ensuring your staff is safe and accounted for. Select a meeting place offsite for those who are able to flee the scene. Prepare an emergency bag (or several) located at facility exits for someone (usually management) to grab on the way out. This bag should include staff names, emergency contact information, photos of staff members, and a current schedule. These tools will allow you to assess who is missing, who to contact in case someone is injured, and help law enforcement identify wounded who may still be in the facility. Violent incidents will have psychological and emotional impacts on staff. Make sure there is a debriefing process post-incident with professional counselors to ensure staff are mentally healthy and able to continue to work. As part of this plan, determine the time frame when it might be best to re-open the facility and allow those involved to return to work.

Every situation will be different and require a different response. But by putting the tools and training in place to effectively prepare staff for a violent incident, you increase the probability that everyone will remain safe and unharmed.

What Parents Want From a Water Park

The modern family is very busy and sometimes has limited family fun time. Because of this, it’s important for family outings to allow the entire family to be able to have fun. Water parks certainly fall under this category, as kids and adults alike enjoy spending time cooling off in the water. But there are a lot of things that can make visiting a water park difficult for parents.

First of all, making the trip to the water park requires a bit more preparation. If you have younger children, it’s expected that you’re going to have to pack some extra items anywhere you go, but this is especially true when visiting a water park. Parents have to remember to pack an extra supply of sunscreen, beach towels, dry clothes, and much more just to be prepared. Additionally, it can be a pain to have to continuously return to your belongings throughout the day to re-apply sunscreen, dry off, etc. You can sit and watch your belongings the entire day, but then you miss actually experiencing the park with your family. One potential solution that we are seeing more and more is water parks that offer free sunscreen at stations strategically located throughout the park. Not reapplying sunscreen on your children can make for several painful days for everyone if your kids get sunburn. More sunscreen stations would allow you to pack less, and spend more time with your family without worry.

Additionally, most dry parks have areas with various activities and rides for family members of all ages to enjoy, but that isn’t always the case when visiting a water park. There is usually a zero depth entry with an interactive play feature for younger kids. The play feature might have a small slide or two, water sprays, and maybe a water gun or cannon to Bellaire (29)play with. Counsilman-Hunsaker also typically sees a water feature that dumps or sprays water on kids below in this zero depth entry area. These features are great for really young children, but older kids might not pay them any attention.

A lazy river can be a great way to spend some one-on-one time with your kids, but they are typically too deep for smaller kids to enjoy. Counsilman-Hunsaker hopes to see more water parks offer shorter, more shallow lazy rivers with some smaller inner tubes for younger kids to feel more comfortable riding on.

Kids of all ages are drawn to water slides and wave pools. But these features tend to have height requirements, meaning younger kids aren’t able to join in on the fun.

Because each area of a water park is meant for a specific age range, it can be difficult for larger families to all spend time together at water parks. Additionally, the selection of attractions can be rather limited for middle-aged children–those who aren’t toddlers, but are still too small for larger attractions. Parents want new attractions for this age group, as well as more family slides and rides, allowing everyone to be included in the experience.

Families want to visit water parks because they offer a fun experience for every member of the family. But they can be taxing on parents with kids of different ages. With that being said, more and more we are beginning to see water parks make changes and adapt to better accommodate families and their needs to make water parks a recreation destination for everyone.