by Elizabeth Zuidema, Aquatics Director, Lockport Twp. Park District
The Lockport Township Park District opened a half million dollar indoor swimming facility in September of 1973. Aided in its construction with HUD funds, the pool has now been in operation three years. During that time many programs have been offered, some successful, some not. Successful, enjoyable programming comes from experience in learning to meet the needs of each community. Perhaps, some of the ideas discussed here will be a help toward that desired end.
Any discussion of pool programming is immediately dependent on several physical factors: 1) is the pool enclosed; 2) is the water heated; 3) is the deck lighted; 4) is the pool shared with a school system? For this discussion let us assume all the physical factors are in our favor. Those of you who have limitations should attempt to adapt the following to your individual situation.
Another important aspect to your neighborhood needs is a family time. A time set aside where children, accompanied by parents, can play together as a family unit. Friday night after supper is a good time for this.
Water is a totally unique medium. Realizing this we adapted an exercise class to the pool. It was called Swimnastics and it is not necessary for a person to know how to swim to join in the fun. Jumping jacks, leg lifts, running in place, all take on a totally new dimension when done in water.
Frequently children can become bored if they come to open swim and have nothing to play with. With that in mind a time was set aside and called Water Games. During this time organized games and activities were conducted. Many of the games taught during that period were played in open swim later.
In the summer months time was allotted for mothers to bring pre-schoolers to swim thus avoiding the crunch of the open swim crowd. This was greatly appreciated and it wasn't too difficult to find an extra hour in the schedule somewhere. Lunch hour swims have been tried without much success. Yet the idea should not be discouraged. It may simply be that certain areas do not respond.
Scout Night has been popular since swimming merit badges would be difficult to earn during open swim. Qualified staff and the pool were offered at certain times during the year for this program. Teen Swim can be a popular program. But usually something has to be offered in addition, such as a band, records, food, etc.
Springboard Diving is always successful, particularly if a swim team star is available to instruct the program. Everyone enjoys the diving board. Scuba Instruction has been extremely successful. If a program can be offered that results in certification the class will be filled.
There is a strong element in almost every neighborhood that is interested in age group swim competition. Usually competitive swimming have conflicting needs which have to be ironed out, but don't hesitate to make this a part of your program. It is a legitimate interest group just as all the others and you will find them to be your biggest supporters.
Illinois Parks and Recreation 32 September/October, 1976
Swim Instruction can take up a big part of your swim program. Diaper Derby for children 3 months to 3 years was offered with the main objective to make them "drownproofed." They are programmed to paddle to the side whenever released to the water. Next is Pre-School Instruction where an attempt is made to actually get the pre-schoolers to swim on the surface up to at least a length of the pool.
The next age group lessons offered are Grade School. The Red Cross program from beginners to swimmers should be followed. The Red Cross Basic Water Safety and Basic Rescue and Water Safety (changed from Junior and Senior Lifesaving), as well as WSA and WSI (Water Safety Aid or Instructor) are also good courses to offer.
The adult class should be handled somewhat differently, in that high school and college students may not be the best instructors. An older adult would probably result in a more successful adult swim program. Hundreds of adults have been taught to swim who were petrified of the water. Some have even gone on to Senior Lifesaving and WSI.
Handicapped residents, also, have special needs which are sometimes difficult to balance out with recreational needs and competitive needs. But offering a Handicapped Instructional class has its place in the aquatic program, too.
Open Swim should take up the greater part of your program. After all, user fees are what pays for the pool. How are people enticed to open swim? Perhaps by offering a free swim during a slow season or special holiday prices. Valentines Day why not have a two-for-one fee or St. Pats' Day offer half price to anyone dressed in green? Show movies on a Saturday afternoon, offer inner tube races on a Sunday, dive for pennies, etc. If people will come through the gate, and are shown a good time, they'll be back.
In retrospect it has been found that needs and wants can be identified in your community and when an attempt is made to meet those needs in your pool, your program will be successful. Attempting to dictate an idea from above will usually result in failure. Sometimes a community has to be educated in the need before they will respond, but once the need is realized, the program should be successful-Stay in tune with your community, meet with local organizations, talk with your pool users, and you will have your finger on the pulse of the area, and your pool will be a success.
Illinois Parks and Recreation 33 September/October, 1976