In 2021, the University of San Diego’s summer swim lesson program sold out in less than two weeks.
Serena Gandara, the director of Campus Recreation, said 99% of the marketing is word of mouth and they have a 90% return rate to the program. “[It’s] designed for kids who are three years and older to not only learn how to swim but how to enjoy swimming,” she explained.
The program has been successful due to keeping the teacher-to-child ratio low, whether private lessons or small group lessons. This allows for individualized attention, as well as the ability to learn from peers. Gandara said the ratio has contributed to the successful return customer rate.
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As for what lies next, Gandara has a few ideas and pieces already in place. “We hope to continue to offer lots of private lesson options to meet the needs of our customers and allow the children to continue to thrive in a safe and stimulating environment,” she said. “We are preparing for Summer 2022 by offering fall and spring weekend swim options. By doing this, we are keeping kids in the water and engaged in our program year-round and ensuring they have access to early registration.”
Rentals, Services and Equipment
While swim lessons are often a popular summer pool program offering, that doesn’t mean it works for every campus rec center.
In fact, Chris Crume, the director of the Aquatics Center at Denison University, shared they hosted a Learn-2-Swim program for years. However, several outdoor pools in the area had established programs as well. “We always filled our classes, but we weren’t meeting our standards because we struggled to find instructors and to work around our events,” said Crume. “About four years ago, we cut this part of our program out and haven’t looked back. We let our area facilities provide a service they are good at while we focus on our strengths.”
Those services are rentals and events. Swim meet management is also a strength. “Because of our geographical location and venue, we really host a greet meet,” said Crume.
Over at the University of Colorado Boulder, a large success to summer pool offerings isn’t necessarily a program but rather consistent hours. Barbara Bogner, the assistant director of Aquatics and Ice Rink, explained they don’t infringe on the open hours of the pool. “It makes it a leisure space they can come and either enjoy the pool deck or enjoy the pool itself,” she said.
However, making sure equipment is available and in good operating condition at all times is also key. For Bogner, those pieces look like a volleyball net, basketball hoops and in-pool lounge chairs from Frontgate — which are the most popular.
Poolside Parties and Movie Nights
In fact, using the space around the pool is something Gandara found successful in 2021 as well. She noted they started offering poolside parties. People could reserve a section of the pool and deck that included tables, chairs, lounge chairs, umbrellas and pool toys. “We hope to enhance this in the future and include a food option, inflatables and more,” she elaborated.
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Bogner shared another program they’ve successfully put on surrounding the pool was summer movie nights. For eight weeks on Thursday evenings, they would show a movie every other week following a theme — from Sharknado to animated films. During the in-between weeks, they would host a yoga class, a Spin class, etc. It has been so successful she is planning to host it again in the 2022 summer season.
She also noted on Friday afternoons in the summer a DJ was brought in from 3 to 5 p.m. to play music. And finally, fire pits are part of the space where students can come and relax.
Keys to Success in Summer Pool Programs
Two keys to the success of such programs are consistency — students knew the pool always had something going on for eight weeks on Thursday nights — and asking students what they want.
All in all, the success — as well as COVID-19 — had Bogner thinking about this coming summer and how they can grow usage of the pool. “I think we’re going to be expanding on evening activities and alternative uses for the space,” she said.
As the 2022 summer pool season draws near, how are you and your offerings planning to make a splash?
Images courtesy of the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of San Diego.