Category Archives: Programming

Lifeguarding/Bather Supervision Module Open For Public Comment

The Lifeguarding/Bather Supervision Module for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was posted by the CDC on May 31, 2012 for public comment.  With most of the seasonal pools in the United States opening that week, we suspect that many industry professionals may have  missed the posting, including us.  The deadline for public comments is October 14, 2012. Counsilman-Hunsaker strongly encourages everyone in the aquatic community to review and participate in this process.

MAHC Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module Abstract

Health and safety issues related to bather supervision and lifeguarding for both the patron and the potential rescuer of an aquatic facility are increasingly being documented. The Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module is a first step towards improving the consistency in training, lifeguard management and supervision, lifeguard competency for guarded facilities and proper bather supervision at unguarded facilities. The Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module contains requirements for unguarded and guarded aquatics along with the training necessary to be a qualified lifeguard. The module includes:

  1. Standards for which aquatic facilities need to be guarded and which may not need to have professional lifeguard supervision but are still supervised.
  2. An Aquatic Facilities Safety Plan guide including pre-service, in-service, staffing, single lifeguard, lifeguard management and Emergency Action Plan requirements.
  3. Requirements for aquatic facilities to define, diagram, and document required zones of patron surveillance.
  4. Determination of what constitutes proper staffing by the ability of the lifeguard to reach all areas of their zone of patron surveillance within a certain time frame.
  5. Required lifesaving equipment, communications standards, and general requirements for lifeguards and lifeguard supervision/management training.

In addition to the Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision module, an annex section is provides support information to assist users in understanding the background of the provisions.

The Model Aquatic Health Code Steering Committee and Technical Committees appreciate your willingness to comment on the draft MAHC modules. Click here to download comment form.

All public comments will filter back to the Technical Committee for review before the module is officially released.

MAHC Background

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) effort began in February 2005. 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 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. 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. To view the latest updates regarding the Model Aquatic Health Code go to

All Stories

University of Tennessee Hosts U.S. Olympic Team

The Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee is currently hosting the 2012 U.S. Men’s and Women’s Olympic Swimming Teams for a last-minute training camp as part of their final preparations for London later this month.  The aquatic design and engineering of the state-of-the-art facility was done by Counsilman-Hunsaker and opened up in 2008.  1,800 spectators were on hand along with 100 members of the media for their first practice.  While Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin typically receive the most attention, it was Knoxville-native Davis Tarwater who arguably received the warmest welcome from the local fans.

Swimming World reported that the Stars and Stripes held their first open practice on July 12, 2012 and sports fans lined up around the block to get a chance to see some of the world’s best swimmers.

Spectator Seating Basics

Spectator seating is more often associated with natatoria than with outdoor pools that are used primarily for recreation. Spectator seating is universally associated with competition in any sport. For swimming, the seating shall be located with viewing from the side of the course so the spectator can follow the race, water polo matches and synchronized swimming from end to end. Likewise the viewing of springboard and platform diving is preferred from the side, not head on.

Seating locations vary. Deck seating is usually found in small natatoria with short course pools, i.e., 25M. Larger natatoria with diving platforms and long spans develop overhead clearances that will easily accommodate second floor gallery seating. Sometimes budget or other influencing factors leads the designer to create mezzanine seating where the first row is 1 to 1.5 meters above the pool deck which improves the line of sight over deck seating but is not quite as desirable as gallery seating. Like those sitting in deck seating, spectators in mezzanine seats can still have their view blocked by athletes and officials walking on the deck. End seats are sometimes provided when building configuration dictates and the primary racecourse is in the short course direction, across the long course direction of the pool. Traditionally the preference is for side seating that is parallel with the main race course. It is only when extraordinary circumstances exist that alternative orientations occur.  A design that combines permanent seats and a flat mezzanine either behind the permanent seats or to the side may “fit” with the natatorium space.

There are several configuration options and combinations among those the most advantageous view is from a balcony one story above the water. Lesser quality viewing is a mezzanine approximately 1.2 M above the pool deck. The least desirable but still acceptable is deck level. The varying factor is obstruction of view by people walking back and forth along the deck, i.e., officials, athletes and coaches.  For locations that do have elevated seating, accessibility will become a key part of the design as multiple entrance/exist points will be required.

The line of site or viewing angle of the spectator seating is also a key design element for consideration.

Other factors that must be considered with spectator seating is controlled access, traffic patterns that do not cross wet decks, ADA design issues, emergency exits, restrooms for spectator use only, custodial implications and considerations, and parking requirements.

Seating construction can vary. Permanent seats are often considered the first choice due to easier housekeeping tasks and lower annual costs. However, when other issues are considered such as first costs, convertible space, frequency of competition events, emergency exit requirements, density of spectators and parking requirement ratios, a mixture of seat construction types are considered, i.e., retractable, temporary and portable.

A typical seat count for a short course Pool (25M or 25 Yard) natatorium is 100-250 seats.  Facilities hosting multi-team meets, will usually require 250 to 500 seats. Since these events are infrequent, a combination of permanent and temporary seats is the most cost effective. Some pools are in locales with many age group teams that want access for bigger meets. These facilities can justify 500 – 1,000 combined seats.  A long course pool (50M) that will host major competition will typically require a minimum of 1000 plus permanent seats, with space for placement of additional temporary seats.  Larger attendance may occur for a US age group invitational meet.    U.S. Division I universities with highly developed swimming and diving programs that wish to attract the National NCAA Championship meets frequently provide 1000 to 2000 seats made up of both permanent and temporary seats. The U.S. Olympic Festival requirements were 2500 to 3000 seats prior to that events demise. Major international swimming events such as the FINA World Championships or Pan American Games, would typically require 7,500 to 10,000 seats.  At the top of the scale is the Olympic Venue for aquatic sports with a requirement of 15,000 to 20,000 seats, which includes up to 1/3 reserved for VIP’s, the Olympic family and the media.

Are Your Arms Paddles or Propellers?

For decades swimmers have been taught that freestyle, AKA “front crawl,” involves keeping their elbows high and using their arms to make an S-shaped pattern underwater.  Known as “sculling,” this technique was developed by Doc Counsilman and helped Indiana University win 6 consecutive NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships (1968–1973) and 20 consecutive (1961–1980) Big Ten Conference titles.  May of his swimmers went on to set world records and win Olympic gold medals, including Mark Spitz, Gary Hall and Jim Montgomery.  But in recent years, top level swimmers have started to modify their stroke, slowly abandoning the sculling technique in favor of the straight arm “deep catch” technique.

A recent Johns Hopkins study lead by Dr. Rajat Mittal, a mechanical engineering professor and devoted recreational swimmer, compared both swimming techniques using fluid dynamic models, laser scanners and motion capture video.  The study’s results indicates that if all variables are equal “…the deep-catch stroke is far more effective.”

Not surprisingly, the results of this study are likely to pose more questions than it answers.  In the meantime, read the article below and decide for yourself what style arms you have: Paddles or Propellers.

Article Link:

Doc’s Biography:


Competitive swimmers execute headfirst dive entries from starting blocks into pools where water depths can vary. If the swimmer’s head strikes the bottom of a pool, this could result in damage to the cervical vertebrae, thus may result in quadriplegia. This was a significant topic of conversation in the industry in the early 1980s when a varsity swimmer at a university was injured in practice.

In prevention of Cervical Spinal Injuries (CSI), a cohesive plan currently does not exist in a minimum uniform water depth, which would lessen the likelihood of catastrophic tragedies. “No Diving” signs are posted when the water is less than five feet deep in some states, and four feet in others. This is still more inconsistency. What is the right depth for balancing safety and function for in a swimming pool? What depth? And what about recreation/therpy swimmers?  

Here’s the Confusion

Up until the early 2000s the industry standard water depths were in the 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet range. November 2001, the NFSHS changed minimum water depths from 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet. USA Swimming followed suit with a note that teaching off a starting block shall be limited to 5 feet water depth. 

Policy makers, swimming pool rulebooks, and state swimming pool codes still lack research in regard to water depth requirements under starting blocks. Moreover, water depth requirements under starting blocks in governing bodies’ rulebooks not only conflict with one another but often conflict with state statutes, which may in turn conflict with local county and municipal ordinances.  

The following shows a variance among the four aquatic governing bodies, as well as the YMCA and the American Red Cross, in regard to water depth for headfirst entries. 

Federation Internationale DE Natation (FINA): 4 feet 5 inches.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): 4 feet.

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHS): 4 feet.

USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming: 4 feet for racing, 6 feet for teaching.

YMCA: 5 feet.

American Red Cross: 9 feet.  

The Research

There has been plenty of research on the health advantages of recreation, lesson, fitness, and competitive swimming and how it impacts safety and lifestyle. Here’s a nice shout out to water safety programs and ongoing swim lessons nationwide. Even though more and more people are exposed to a growing number of swimming pools at new aquatic facilities across the nation, drowning death rates in the United States have declined in the last decade according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Should We Build All-Deep Water Pools?

Is the answer that we build all-deep water pools? And if so, how deep? Twenty years ago swimmers swam nearly their entire race at the surface. Today most elite swimmers swim a large percentage of their races 3 to 4 feet below the surface, utilizing a butterfly (dolphin) kicking technique. In a shallow pool, swimmers utilizing this technique may face higher drag forces and may even have to modify their technique.  

Because of these factors, pool depth more closely correlates to swimming speed today than in the past. Championship pool depth may impede many instructional, fitness, and recreational opportunities and consequently, revenue potential. And since people frequent pools for a variety of reasons—fitness, relaxation, instruction, competition, and therapy—today’s swimming facilities do not just accommodate competitive swimmers but are multidimensional centers encompassing all types of swimmers.  

To provide a fiscally sustainable facility, multiple users must be able to use the same space for different purposes at different times. Building an all deep-water competitive/lesson pool with a moveable floor for altering water depth for various purposes can be provided; however, the cost of such a floor system is often considered prohibitive. The following shows preferred water depths for various types of swimmers.

0 – 3.5 Feet



        Wellness / Therapy 

3.5 – 5 Feet


        Lap Swimming

        Wellness / Therapy 

6 – 10 Feet

        Competitive Swimming

        Water Polo

        Synchronized Swimming 

11.5 Feet +


In addition to variances of water depth for different types of swimmers, pool water temperature is another consideration in multi-use pools. Water too cold causes muscles to tighten while water too warm causes overheating and lethargy. Water temperature at 79-81° F is ideal for competition while the natatorium is maintained at two degrees above the pool water temperature to minimize evaporation. The following shows different water temps (in natatoriums) for various types of swimmers. 

Competition Pool                    =          82 ° F, competition and training prefer 78° to 82°

            Air Temperature          =          84° F (or 2° above water temperature)

 Leisure Pool                            =          82° to 86° F

             Air Temperature          =          84° to 87° F (if in separate space)

Diving Pool                              =          84° to 86°

            Air Temperature          =          86° to 87° F (if in separate space)

Therapy Pool                           =          88° to 92° F

            Air Temperature          =          86° to 90° F (if in separate space)


If you build an all-deep water pool with a movable floor, you still have a problem with water temperatures. Competitive swimmers like it cooler than recreation swimmers who like it cooler than warm-water wellness seekers. Building multi-faceted facilities with separate pools for various types of swimmers seems to be an answer in providing various water depths and proper water temperatures at aquatic centers. Swim meets, lap swimming, deep-water aerobics, life saving instruction, diving lessons, survival swimming, synchronized swimming, water polo, deep-water aqua jogging, underwater hockey, and scuba instruction can take place in an all deep-water competitive/lesson pool, which frees up the warm-water therapy pool for water wellness seekers, and the leisure/recreation pool for swimmers who want to use the play features such as waterslides, current channels, participatory play structures, etc.