There are two basic rules to follow when managing aquatics programs:

• Rule number one: Have Fun!

• Rule number two: Play Safe!

The information below is designed to serve as a primer for those charged with the responsibility for managing aquatics programs. Where possible, specific resources have been provided for further information.

The aquatics director or manager has an awesome responsibility, regardless of the breadth and scope of the program. Knowledge and experience make a big difference in the level of success the right person can bring to the position.

However, there are aspects of this position that are best met with maturity and perseverance, hard work and personal ethics.

Remember, you and your charges are being paid to work when others play! Your investment in the program quality and your commitment to safety are essential to a successful experience. A personal philosophy of mine is to lead with your heart and manage with your mind. Have fun and play safe!


Plan Ahead: Identify the goals for your aquatic program and create a calendar of programs and special events for the entire season.

Best Practice includes following a planning model like the Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS). PPBS was developed for the Air Force by the Rand Corporation in the 1960s (Robbins, 1980) as a system for budget control.

PPBS has evolved into a program-focused tool that I’ve personally used for nearly three decades: Planning, Programming, Budgeting, Evaluation System for Activities, Classes, Projects and Special Programs (PPBES). PPBES, when properly implemented, is an extraordinary tool for any program manager today.

There are seven steps in this system that can be explained in terms of their impact on successful program/special event management:

• Objectives: Planning the specific objectives in measurable terms (the end results to be achieved) for each program/special event.

• Program content: Planning the program content, schedule and timetable for achievement.

• Leadership: Planning the leadership required to facilitate the programs and special events, including the necessary staff training.

• Facilities and equipment: Planning the required facilities and equipment.

• Promotion: Planning the promotional activities, including establishment of a promotion timetable.

• Budget: Preparation of a budget, usually in terms of direct costs for each program and/or special event (other budgetary items, like staffing, facilities, and so on, are typically indirect costs).

• Evaluation: Measuring the results of each program/special event.

Best Practice has the camp waterfront director creating a PPBES form for every program and special event identified in the season’s calendar.

This type of detail will establish the critical programmatic needs for the season, including staff leaders and training, facilities and equipment, promotional needs and materials (with a timetable) and the direct cost of those items that are not already supplied.

Planning in advance will enable the aquatics director to focus on the program objectives… Fun!

Use Lessons Plans and Train Your Staff: Without a doubt, providing a set of lesson plans for all instructional programs, and the staff training to implement these plans, will increase the probability of learning! Would you expect anything less of a class or program you were planning to attend yourself?

Adequate preparation for each and every time someone will be taking lessons at your facility includes utilization of explicit, objective-oriented lesson plans. These plans include the specific objectives to be achieved, the “tools” or equipment/facilities required for the experience, creative and physically active skill development, skill assessment (when appropriate), practice time, playtime… and fun!

Best Practice has each staff member involved in the development of his or her course lesson plans in a manner that creates “ownership”, and each staff member participates in a comprehensive period of program training with an emphasis on excellent instruction.

Too often, unprepared staff are assigned a group of children for swim lessons, without any program coordination, including standards for skill assessment, safety, and other requirements. And, too often this same staff is responsible for creating an environment that will facilitate learning but are ill prepared to do so. Under such circumstances, the staff will generally fall back to what they know or have personally experienced, good or bad!

The Best Way to have Fun

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