Keys to Running a Successful Aquatic Certification Program

Let’s be honest. We are always looking for ways to make a little extra revenue. A perfect option for gaining extra spending money, while optimizing usage of your aquatics facility, is through hosting various certification courses.

At the University of Northern Iowa, the recreation department hosts a variety of Red Cross certification courses, such as Water Safety Instruction, CPR, First Aid and even a few youth programs like babysitting and junior lifeguarding.

Certification courses are open to everyone in the community, both on campus and off. According to Rachel Cook, the aquatics and certifications coordinator at the University of Northern Iowa, students who want to participate in the course receive a discount.

Student aquatics staff that already work at the UNI Recreation Center lead the courses. “I have about 10 instructors that take a lifeguard instructor course and then they are eligible to teach these classes for us,” explained Cook. “If it is a Water Safety Instruction class or a certain LGI class then it would be myself or our professor in academics who teaches the class.”

Lifeguarding can seem like an appealing job to a high school or college student. Sitting out at the pool, while getting a tan, sounds great and according to Cook, this has been one of the biggest challenges when running the program. “We have a handful of highschoolers who take the courses. They are 15 and they want to get their first job,” added Cook. “They think it is sitting out there getting a tan, so a big challenge is to train those lifeguards that it is more than that. Kids don’t necessarily realize what it takes to be a lifeguard.”

In order to market the program, the in spring they send out brochures and information to all high schools and city pools within a 100-mile radius from the university, which helps get the word out.

While running a certifications program poses it challenges, Cook offers a few pieces of advice. Firstly, take advantage of your student staff. Get them properly trained so they can teach the course. “I know some recreation centers where the person in my position is the only person who is trained to teach classes, but it is a really great experience for the student instructors because they can learn about customer service, public speaking, how to run a class and things like that.”

Lastly, choose the right certification program. UNI uses the Red Cross, which Cook explained has been a great experience. “Each region has their own Red Cross Representative and ours has been a great help,” said Cook. “She helps with whatever class we are having issues with or if we have questions she is there to help.”

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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