Category Archives: Programming

Researching and Implementing New Pool Products

Swimming pool design is constantly evolving as new chemical treatment technology is developed, inserts and anchors are strengthened, and play features are reimagined. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the industry, operators and owners are not always eager to have a brand-new product installed at their facility. It is difficult to find a “guinea pig” to test a new pH buffer system when muriatic acid and CO2 are so tried and tested. Often, no one wants to commit large sums of money and manpower based on information from a manufacturer.

Counsilman-Hunsaker regularly reviews products to determine if they are worthy of being specified for use in a new facility. It takes a great deal of confidence in a product for it to be considered our basis of design. This confidence is only gained over time and positive feedback from those who deal with the systems on a daily basis. However, if a test facility were developed solely for researching new products on the market, what would it include?


Solid pH Buffer System

The Acid-Rite pH adjustment system is manufactured by Axiall and utilizes sodium bisulfate tablets as opposed to a traditional muriatic acid feed system. Axiall is a major player when it comes to chemical treatment systems and this new product is exciting because it appears to eliminate many of the concerns operators have with their pH buffer systems. Solid bisulfate tablets are provided in 45-lb resealable pails that eliminate the need for muriatic acid transport and storage. Muriatic acid has a very strong odor and can irritate eyes (and certainly harm skin) if not handled properly. The Acid-Rite system is said to be more consistent at balancing pH.

Acid feed systems, regardless of whether the acid is a solid or liquid, should be housed in a chemical room separate from the mechanical room. Muriatic acid feeders require regular maintenance to the small chemical tubing that delivers the acid to the main pool water line. If this tubing is compromised and the muriatic acid is exposed to the surrounding air, the equipment and ventilation systems become susceptible to corrosion. Even the vapors released while filling the muriatic acid storage tank can be enough to damage the HVAC system ventilating this room. The effects of solid acid tablets on the HVAC components will need to be studied before the Acid-Rite system can be considered a viable replacement to muriatic acid.


Silent Gutter Grating

Assuming our research pool uses a perimeter overflow system, Daldorado’s Silent Flow parallel gutter grating would be installed as it looks to be a promising new addition to the grating market. The grating has 40% open area, allowing more water to pass through it when compared with a typical 35% open area grating. Water is less restricted when passing through the grating which leads to greater noise reduction, hence the “Silent” name. The parallel grates are thin and frequent across the gutter, but still comply with entrapment guidelines.  Additionally, the grating can be installed along radii.

Taking this into account, along with noise reduction and pleasing aesthetics, the Daldorado parallel grating would work best on a freeform leisure pool. However, our research facility would subject the grating to “surges” of water created during competition as swimmers near an end wall. If the grating cannot capture enough of the water, specifically on a deck level gutter, puddles may form on the deck and the pool will slowly lose water over time.


Convenient Zip Line

Zip Lines are a cheap way to incorporate play value into a leisure pool, however they require full time attendance to regulate use. Full-length zip lines also take up a large amount of water area when in use; usually a lap lane or the width of the pool. The AquaClimb Aqua Zip’N combines the excitement of traditional zip line with the convenient functionality of a rope swing. Comprised of powder coated 304L stainless steel, the structure of the system stands eight feet tall and is mounted to the deck using two footings. The selling point of the Aqua Zip’N is a self-retracting trolley that eliminates the need for a life guard to be constantly stationed at the feature. Riders up to 250 lbs. can swing one after another as the rope will retract into the starting position after each use.

This feature seems like a no brainer for facilities that are tight on space or under-staffed, but there are still some considerations that need to be studied. For example, play features by nature are susceptible to scratches and chipping which can present issues for power coated stainless steel. Life guards will also need to be vigilant of the potential threat of a rider swinging out and over another swimmer.


Several facility owners are confident enough in these new products to already be implementing them. For lack of a multimillion dollar research facility, Counsilman-Hunsaker will monitor and evaluate their performance to determine their validity. Although, it may be some time before we see these products regularly installed as word of mouth is often the only way for people to become comfortable with new ideas in our industry.



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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.

Design vs. Programming

Know what you want to do, before you build (Design vs Programming)

When working with clients on new aquatic projects, the first question we like to ask is “how are you going to use it?”  While this seems like something most people would know, we find that many aquatic facilities are planned based on the available budget, and not how they want to use it in the future.  This can create challenges for sustaining your facility’s operations and keeping your clients happy.  While the initial construction budget is important, the cost of operations will be three to four times the initial investment over the life of the facility.  Therefore, decision should be made based on how they impact operational expenses and revenue potential, more than how they impact the construction budget.  Here are a few things to consider.

Planning the Pool

While pools come in different shapes and sizes, there are three main criteria that impact how you can use it:  Temperature, Access, and Depth.  Different aquatic user groups prefer different temperatures.

Temperature – While competitive swimmers like water temperatures between 78-82 degrees, this is considered cold water and not very useful for other pool users.  Recreational users like to have water in the 83-87 degrees range.  If you plan to do infant swim lessons or therapy programming, you may need to have water over 90 degrees.

Access – Similarly to the temperature, different users need different levels of access.  Most codes only require ladders or recessed steps with grab rails.  This is not a preferred method of ingress and egress for most people.  Stairs are the most usable and flexible option for entry and exit.  They can be used by a large variety of people and can serve as a program space for lessons.  Beyond the basic entries, you also need to consider entry for users with special needs.  Codes may only require a standard lift, but ramp entries are typically preferred by people who don’t need a lift, but also can’t use the stairs or ladders.

Depth – Lastly, you have to consider depth.  Shallow water tends to be more useful for programmed activities.  However, there are certain things you can’t do in shallow water (i.e. competitive starts, scuba diving, deep water fitness classes, etc).  Therefore, if you plan to offer these programs, make sure you have enough deep water.

Other Areas to Consider

Do you plan to have a large swim lesson program?  Do you want to host large events with 100’s of spectators?  Can your concession area handle a crowd during a pool closure?  It is easy when designing a pool to stop at the pumps controlling a pool and the hole you put in the ground but a truly good facility looks not only at the water but also at the other aspects of a true aquatic center. Lighting– Lighting is often an afterthought in many aquatic center designs and often times, no consideration is given to how it can effect a race. Lighting is important for both judging the distance and gauging the swimmer position, in competition. A good facility design has considered a careful balance of natural light with careful attention to limiting the glare it could cause and un-natural lights with proper angles and illumination for optimal racing, all while keeping in mind the spectator experience and officiating requirements.

Acoustics– It can be difficult to design a facility that considers and properly accommodates for all the action but when you are in the design phase, choosing the right elements can make for sound dampening like wall angles and materials, speaker placement, spectator viewing area placement and athlete accommodation areas.

HVAC Systems–Fresh air is critical not just for the swimmers but also for the comfort of the spectators and those fully clothed.  Spectators require cooler air with higher velocities as compared to the swimmers on the pool deck.  When it comes to HVAC solutions in natatoriums, there is not a one-size fits all approach.

Deck Dimensions– Optimal deck space is really dependent on the types of activities going on in your facility. Consider staging areas, traffic flow, and viewing areas.  Once your space is designed and built, it is very costly to expand you space and with the right feasibility study and market research, an appropriate size can be determined

It can be a challenge to consider all users that are affected by an aquatics facility but with proper planning and a good team, you can truly make a great space. Being considerate of your market opportunity and users can ultimately position your facility to stay on budget with a build and optimize the return by capturing an appropriate audience of users.


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.


COOL Programming

USA Swimming’s Facilities Development Department recommends all “new models” for aquatic facilities have at least two pools with one having water temperature 80 to 84 degrees (cool water and generally the competition or training pool) and the other pool having water temperatures of 87 to 89 degrees (warm water). However, we are very interested in improving the financial sustainability of many existing single-pool facilities. This article will help you with programming options in the cooler temperature pool (training pool).
Most deep water will be on the cooler side; 82 degrees and under. Deep-water exercise is perfect for nearly every population and provides variety, intensity, challenge, fun, and is impact free. Who can work in cooler water and possibly deep water?
Target Audiences for Deep-Water Exercise

  • All able body and special populations (see below)
  • MS could be vertical or horizontal
  • Obese or overweight
  • Prenatal
  • High Performance (competitive swimmers and tri-athletes)
  • Fitness Swimmers
  • Master Swimmers

Recommended workout formats for deep-water exercise include:

  • High Intensity (HIT) OR (HITT) High Intensity Interval Training
  • Deep water running / cross training
  • HI-YO Intervals
  • Cross Country Ski Series
  • Cycling / noodle / board / belt
  • In Deep with Pilates (must know what you are doing)
  • Deep Water Therapy
  • Deep Technique
  • Water Polo Gym

To learn about the above different types of exercises it is recommended to attend workshops and conferences held by the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) (

Small group training

This cost effective way to offer personalized exercise to people in your community offers multiple benefits for your facility, staff and customers. Potential benefits include:

  • Facility = Increase member retention, capture a new revenue stream, and use the pool during down times. All outcomes improve the facility’s bottom line.
  • Personal trainer / Swim Coach = Job diversity, the ability to earn more per hour and the potential to serve more people.
  • Customer = Personalized results with the support of a group at a lower cost than traditional one-on-one personal
  • training/coaching.

For all of these reasons, the value of small group training is clear. So now the question is, how do you establish small group training
programs? The inclusion of programming that offers both fitness and health benefits may be the right solution.

Step 1: Understanding the Fitness & Health Connection

An exercise program that offers both fitness and health benefits can be the difference between a person making a behavioral life change or reverting to old habits. There are components of fitness considered essential in improving physical health:

  • Cardio-respiratory endurance
  • Muscle strength and endurance
  • Flexibility and body composition

Health benefits might be thought of as a combination of physical, mental and social well-being. These parameters are not easily evaluated in a traditional analysis process however they are the key to making exercise personal.
Certification for fitness trainers places a strong emphasis on anatomy, kinesiology, and exercise physiology. Having a solid
understanding of these areas prepares the trainer from a scientific perspective to design sound exercise programs for fitness benefits. To develop and lead programming that has the potential to truly change how a person moves and feels requires consideration of the physical and biological and the behavioral sciences. Small group training that focuses on always including these three sciences offers the complete package. They make exercise personally relevant and rewarding.

Step 2: Hire leaders with the right skill set 

To effectively lead, the coach must use a balanced approach between the science and art of movement. Here are some important skills and qualifications that make a good water exercise coach.

  • Certified personal trainer
  • Certified aquatic fitness professional
  • Critical thinker
  • Knowledge specific to intended target audience beyond basic certification
  • Able to motivate group
  • Capable of cueing to a group, observing results, and providing follow up cues
  • Engaging
  • Able to multi-task and think ahead
  • Creating and implementing a season exercise plan

Step 3: Develop a program that delivers results
It is important to educate the community on how your program is different and its benefits. Here are some ideas to help develop a program that differentiates and elevates you in your community.

1. Offer small group training to a specific audience. This has several benefits from bringing together people who share similar experiences/life challenges while allowing the coach to design a program that uses exercises and techniques specific to the group. This will also offer the opportunity for socialization and being able to “fit in” with others like themselves.

Target classes may include:

  • Gentle moves to ease arthritis pain
  • Exercise for healthy knees & hips
  • Intervals for weight loss

2. Provide options for all fitness levels. Small group training can be designed for all ages and fitness levels from low impact to high performance. Small group training fills the gap between therapy and fitness. Once you have selected your audience it is time to determine the training format and what depth of the pool would be best; shallow (3’6” to 4’6”) or deep (5’ and deeper). One of the most important programming considerations is water temperature. Specific formats like Yoga or Ai Chi for fall prevention, or goal oriented formats such as circuit training for improved knee strength and balance are popular. Developing exercise programs for high performance and cross training would be for your clients who struggle with continuous training on land. They can train in the water a few times a week or more and still compete and do some properly designed training on land.
Knowing your clientele is critical to formulating a workout with responsible design. As a professional, due diligence is required which includes being familiar with current research, attending continuing education workshops and, if applicable, knowing the individual client precautions. For the particular group you are servicing, you need to know what muscles need to be strengthened or stretched, what skills need to be addressed, what time of day might be best for the audience to exercise, and what social and emotional needs are common. Environmental factors should also be considered, including pool entry/exit, getting to and from the changing facilities, and what client “fears” might be potential barriers.