The new school year is fast approaching. Before you know it, hordes of students will be flooding back through the doors of your recreation center. To help you get ready, a few recreation professionals in various departments will highlight how they prepare for the new school year.
Zach Skinner, the Associate Director for Aquatics at The Ohio State University, shares insight on how to prepare your aquatic center for the upcoming school year.
CR: What are some of the things you do the get the aquatic center ready for the new year?
ZS: We deep clean everything. We really want this facility to look brand new and like it was built last week when the students arrive. We do some of the bigger projects that we can’t do during the school year because we don’t want to interrupt student access. For example, we drained our largest pool and are completing some standard maintenance there like repairing broken tile. This summer we also just wrapped up the installation of a new high-resolution jumbotron in the aquatics center. The other thing we are focusing on is staffing. We run with about 120 lifeguards during the school year, so just the management of the applications, the skills tests and interviews, hiring and all the training that goes into getting these lifeguards ready is a pretty big thing we are dealing with now as well.
CR: What kind of training do new student staff go through before the start of the school year?
ZS: If they are applying for a lifeguard job, they will come in and demonstrate their skills and we will interview them. If hired, they will go through some initial training. There is several hours of classroom training and then there is in the pool training as well. Then in September, after we have had a month to get everyone on-board, we bring the entire 120-person staff in on a Saturday or Sunday for a big five-hour group session.
It is really a great time for us to get with the students and ensure their focus in headed in the right direction and that we are guiding them in the right direction so they can get the most out of this job as they can. We are mindful that there is a tremendous amount of learning that can take place here. It is not just about coming in, doing the job and walking out. I think Student Life and Recreational Sports provide great co-curricular opportunities for students. For aquatics specifically, our full-time staff is focused on making the student experience something that has a long lasting impact on them.
CR: What other advice would you give about running a top-notch aquatics department?
ZS: Something we do well here is we recognize the strengths of everyone on our team. Mixing things up assignment wise to really tap into those strengths. When I got here originally, peoples strengths and desires didn’t necessarily match up with their duties, so we did a realignment and reorganization. I have seen amazing results. When you get someone who is really passionate about something and give them the opportunity to excel and support them along the way, I have seen this team accomplish things I never thought were possible.
The other thing I would suggest is getting involved. I know we work move in. We are out there moving students in and it helps me to see these students and talk to them and understand what their challenges are. Then they see me and I can personally try and recruit staff, which is also a great thing, but also just trying to get customers in. Telling everyone to come swimming, come check out the aquatics center. At the end of the day, that is what we are hoping to do is reach out and touch 100 percent of these students. I want every single one of them to come through our aquatics center at least once and hopefully many times.