In 2021, the University of San Diego’s summer swim class 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% response rate to the program. “[It’s] was developed for children from the age of three so that they not only learn to swim, but also enjoy swimming,” she explained.
The program was successful because it kept the teacher-to-child ratio low, whether it was private tuition or small group classes. This allows for individual attention as well as the ability to learn from peers. Gandara said the ratio contributed to the successful number of returning customers.
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Gandara already has a few ideas and parts ready for what’s next. “We hope to continue to offer many private tuition options to meet the needs of our customers and allow children to continue to thrive in a safe and stimulating environment,” she said. “We are preparing for summer 2022 by offering weekend swim options in fall and spring. That way, we keep kids in the water and in our program year-round, and making sure they have access to early registration.”
Rentals, services and equipment
While swimming lessons are often a popular summer pool program, that doesn’t mean it works for every recreation center on campus.
In fact, Chris Crume, director of the Aquatics Center at Denison University, shared that they ran a Learn-2-Swim program for years. But several outdoor pools in the area had also set up programs. “We’ve always filled our classes, but we haven’t met our standards because we’ve had trouble finding teachers and bypassing our classes,” Crume said. “We dropped that part of our program about four years ago and we haven’t looked back since. We allow our local facilities to provide a service they are good at while focusing on our strengths.”
These services are rental and events. Swim meet management is also a strength. “Because of our geography and venue, we’re really hosting a welcome meeting,” Crume said.
Over at the University of Colorado Boulder, a big hit with the summer pool offerings isn’t necessarily a program, it’s more like consistent hours. Barbara Bogner, the associate director of Aquatics and Ice Rink, stated that they are not violating the pool’s hours of operation. “It makes it a recreational space where they can come and enjoy either the pool deck or the pool itself,” she said.
However, it is also important to ensure that equipment is readily available and in good working order. To Bogner, these pieces look like a volleyball net, basketball hoops, and Frontgate pool lounge chairs—which are the most popular.
pool parties and movie nights
In fact, Gandara found utilizing the space around the pool successful in 2021 as well. She noticed that they started offering poolside parties. People could reserve a portion of the pool and patio, which included tables, chairs, lounge chairs, umbrellas, and pool toys. “We hope to improve on this in the future and add a dining option, inflatable boats and more,” she explained.
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Bogner shared another program they’ve successfully hosted around the pool was summer movie nights. For eight weeks they showed a film on a specific topic every two weeks on Thursday evenings – from Sharknado to animated films. In the weeks in between, they hosted a yoga class, spinning class, etc. It was so successful that they plan to host it again in the 2022 summer season.
She also noted that on Friday afternoons during the summer from 3pm to 5pm, a DJ would be brought in to play music. And finally, fire pits are part of the room 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 there was always something going on Thursday nights for eight weeks—and asking them what they want.
All in all, the success — as well as COVID-19 — got Bogner thinking about the coming summer and how they can increase pool usage. “I think we will expand the evening activities and alternative uses for the space,” she said.
As the 2022 summer pool season approaches, how do you and your offering plan to make a splash?
Images courtesy of University of Colorado Boulder and University of San Diego.