Form the Relationship
At World Wide Swim School, we have found the key to running a successful school program all boils down to maintaining a healthy and professional relationship with the responsible person at hand. This generally tends to be the sports coordinator, the principal or may even be a deputy’s head. If it happens to be a school that you have not previously worked with, arrange a time to meet in person. Find out what exactly the school is after and what goals they would like the children to achieve by the end. Discuss what you can offer and sell WHY this particular school should use your venue for their school swimming lessons.
Plan to plan and plan
The great thing about working with schools is that they generally have the upcoming year outlined in advance. This gives swim schools a great opportunity to plan in advance and teach accordingly. With open lines of communication, you may have the opportunity to bring about some positive changes and results from what the school has organised in the past. For example; perhaps the program has previously only ever operated for one lesson per week over eight weeks. We believe that children learn through repetition and regular participation will increase better skill acquisition. This may be something that the school has not considered in the past. The staff could simply make them aware of the results, which could be achieved by operating their program twice weekly or even daily.
Planning ahead of time is always recommended especially if you are a larger facility and planning multiple programs over the same period of time. It is important that you ascertain the type of program that you will administer for the school itself. Will you follow your particular curriculum or are there specifics or guidelines that the school would like you to cover?
Prior to booking any type of program at your pool, you must first ensure that you actually have pool space available on the requested dates and times. Never be afraid to negotiate dates and times with the school should pool space prove to be an issue. You may not be able to meet a school’s demands for a certain requested day as space is going to be really tight with other programs running. Maybe if they start an hour later just for that one particular day, they may have access to a variety of benefits not normally available. For example, the deeper pool may be available which will allow your teachers to incorporate some deep water work into the program, whereas this would not generally be accessible. Drawing up specific pool maps with space allocation and labelling swimming areas for teachers and on-deck coordinators will ensure for smooth running throughout the program. Perhaps you will run your program in a facility where there may be public lane space. In this instance, it is important that there is strong communication between yourself, the lifeguards/Customer Service Attendants and paying casual swimmers. Use signage to notify all pool patrons of what lanes are available/unavailable.
It is important that you work out your costs of running the entire program. You must ensure that you look at all costs involved before you come up with a pricing strategy. Will you require any extra equipment? What will your admin cost be? What kind of student/teacher ratios do you need? How many swimmers will be participating? How many lessons will be running? Will there be breaks between lessons and will these breaks be an added cost to you or will you incorporate these costs into pricing? Will you price per student per day or finalise on an average of students attending? Will payment be required prior to the program, during the program or are you happy to send off your invoice upon completion of the program? All of these will need to be considered before finalising an amount for lesson participation.
Based on numbers and ratios discussed with the head of the program, you will need to work out how many teachers you will require. At WWSS, consistency is always paramount, so we, therefore, recommend hiring employees who can commit to the entire school program, as the consistency of teachers is more conducive to learning. In our industry, we do know that it is not always possible to have the same teachers for the same program, especially when running multiple/conflicting schools programs at the same time. Arranging rosters a few months ahead of the program will be extremely beneficial towards time management. It may also help with aspects of other programs that may run at your centre which coincide with the school program. It may require you to organise a detailed schedule with allocated time slots for each teacher you depend upon. You can never be too organised.
The topics mentioned above are just some insights of how you could work towards organising and conducting a successful school swimming program. With time and practice, you will be able to perfect the ultimate school swimming program that works for your venue and the schools you may already have and are yet to have in the future.
by Tara Martin
How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.