In order to really take aquatics participation to the next level, it’s important to know what’s trending in aquatics and if you should act on those trends.
“Acting on current trends is tough with college students,” said Alex Sperling, the coordinator of aquatics and summer programs at Montclair State University. “Fitness classes and amenities need to be in line with the newest trends, but special events and programs everyone knows — that rely on nostalgia — seem to do fine.”
Below are a few different aquatics trends in amenities, programming and facility changes you could consider implementing:
“I see lazy rivers in college recreation centers — they’re popular because of their multi-purpose quality,” said Greg Schmidt, the aquatic center manager at Eastern Washington University. “They’re used for relaxing and floating, of course, but also for swim lessons, water aerobics, athlete rehab and conditioning work for sports teams.”
Another trend in aquatics, not just in campus recreation, is the addition of inflatables. One in particular, a floating waterpark called a Wibit, is growing increasingly popular. Usable in both pools and on the open water, Wibit inflatables are customizable, massive, obstacle course-style parks that float. “We would love to add one, but we’re still waiting to see if they are going to be permitted on campus by the health department,” said Sperling.
But not everything that brings students to the pool has to be big and flashy. According to Schmidt, something as simple as a steam room can bring students together. “A common amenity is a sauna,” said Schmidt. “College students are still very interested in the social attraction of a large co-ed sauna.”
Even though students are drawn toward social gatherings, it doesn’t necessarily mean they seek out large groups of people. According to Sperling, students seem to be more willing to participate in aquatics activities with small groups.
“Campus recreation seems to be trending toward smaller group activities, and away from large team or large events,” said Sperling.
The phenomenon of exclusivity tends to be effective with college students. If you announce sign-ups for an aquatics event that has only 25 spots available, students might feel an extra urge to sign up for fear of missing out.
At Montclair State, events marketed toward specific groups have seen success as well. While these events don’t always draw huge crowds, they can help create loyal and consistent participants. “The smaller events we host that have been successful are targeted at groups that already exist on campus,” said Sperling. “For example, our NCAAP chapter hosted a small pool party, with around 15 people in attendance. Not huge, but some of the members have returned several times to the pool since then.”
There has been a shift to more stylistic pools versus competitive aquatics. “We’re seeing things like zero-depth entry pools with volleyball nets, chaise lounges in the shallow water, school logos in the bottom of the pool in tile and lots of sunning areas for the shallow pools,” said Schmidt.
In fact, Schmidt and his staff have a goal of making the school’s aquatics facility more conducive to casual swimming. “My vision for this facility is to add these leisure and social components,” said Schmidt. “The leisure area would ideally include a huge spa, lazy river, sauna and lots of natural light in a sunbathing area.”