Aquatic Management Training

Once management candidates participate in this evaluation process, they become an integral part of a learning environment and help drive the next set of topics. A typical 7-hour day (one Saturday per month from January through May) includes an ice-breaker, a pre-determined scenario with discussion, a 1-hour session on concepts of leadership or supervision then a 30-minute lunch break. The afternoon may consist of a training DVD on a public-safety subject, a guest speaker presenting on workplace violence or sexual harassment, then a team-building session. The day ends with an evaluation and closing.

Another aspect of this management training is a concentrated weekend near spring break, which helps accommodate candidates who may be out of state attending college. Because of the nature of the training, management academy is mandatory, and attendance is only excused by being in an out-of-state college, or living more than 300 miles from the organization. This concentrated weekend’s curriculum is packed with relevant information and opportunities for learning. Also included in the management conference are several hours of water work. Guest speakers are invited to present topics such as workplace safety, specific water-related issues, and other train-the-trainer ideas.

How To Get Started

Building the capacity of veteran lifeguards to lead teams has been a successful venture; by taking the following steps, the possibility of developing pool managers is also there:

Assess the facility’s needs. Do you operate multiple facilities? Do you have a decentralized operation, where you will need competent oversight of facilities? By training returning staff in management practices, you create competent leaders who can:

  1. Evaluate staff members. Do you have a large seasonal staff that returns each year? If staff members have opportunities for seasonal advancement, even starting a small management program will work.
  2.  Network with other aquatic professionals. Do you belong to a state or national parks and recreation organization? Membership in at least one of these groups may assist aquatic professionals in networking with other professionals. For small leisure organizations, consider partnering with smaller agencies and combine efforts for training staff in management practices.
  3.  Examine your own professional-development status. How much aquatic knowledge do you currently have? If you intend to train staff members in management concepts, should you acquire more training and education? Attending workshops hosted by organizations mentioned in #2 can assist in this endeavor.
  4.  Update your aquatic certifications. Has it been a few years since you guarded a pool or taught a swim lesson? Invest in courses such as Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO), or obtain an instructor certification. For example, teaching lifeguard training or Water Safety Instructor (WSI) can assist with presentation skills, and can become familiar with deeper concepts.
  5.  Read industry publications (like this one!). There are many free subscriptions that are full of informative articles. Membership in parks and recreation organizations may also have a monthly publication. There are abundant online resources as well.
  6.  Participate in various social media. Many social networking sites have relevant discussion topics to which people answer questions and share resources.

Terri Webster Matal is the Aquatics and Adult Sports Supervisor for the city of Sacramento, Calif. Reach her at



Houben, G., Lenie, K., and Vanhoof, K. (1999). “A knowledge-based SWOT-analysis system as an instrument for strategic planning in small and medium sized enterprises.” Decision Support Systems, 26(2), 125-135.

Williams, C. (1998). “The state of quality management in six leisure related research sites.” The TQM Magazine, 10(2), 95-103

Yarger, L. and Ogoreuc, R. (2009). “Aquatics professional development.” International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 3(1), 83-88.

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One comment on “Aquatic Management Training

  1. Great article and ideas! Training seasonal staff to think and act like full-time staff is a difficult job, and this article gives practical tips to get the process started.

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