By Jim McCloskey
I grinned from ear to ear a couple weeks ago while reading a press release from the National Swimming Pool Foundation. It was about a request for proposals to create a “Learn-to-Swim Index” – a system designed to track how many people are completing formal swimming lessons in the United States – and I’m still smiling today.
What NSPF is after, I believe, is foundational information that determines everything having to do with watershaping in the United States and maybe even beyond.
The release quotes NSPF chief Tom Lachocki as follows: “Market research presented at the 2015 World Aquatic Health Conference shows that a person who is proficient in the water is two times more likely to become a member at an aquatic facility or purchase a swimming pool or hot tub compared to someone who is not proficient.”
It’s about time, he added, to start “measuring to what degree we are helping more people onto the path to water proficiency.”
Amen to that. As I have suggested often in these blogs, comfort in and around water is a crucial factor driving interest in both recreational and decorative watershapes: If, as a homeowner or facility manager, you personally cannot swim, how likely are you to be interested in purchasing a swimming pool, pond, fountain or any other sort of watershape for your backyard or commercial property?
In fact, my gut feeling is that this single factor – that is, the ability to swim – is much more than a two-to-one factor in the decision-making process. The research is great, but I think the ability-to-swim factor may be entirely determinative. If I were a non-swimming homeowner, it’d take incredible sales skill to get me anywhere close to considering pool or pond ownership.
I see tremendous value in gathering this information as a measure of success for the aquatics industry and learn-to-swim programs, but I see even greater value in the trending and forecasting information that will eventually emerge: By knowing what’s happening with swimming education coast to coast and at all age levels in something approaching real time, we will all be able to see how the market is shaping up for years to come – not just for swimming pools but for all of watershaping’s many sectors.
The statistics are out there: Time to go get ’em!
Of course, there’s a lot to be done to create a learn-to-swim index, which is why NSPF has opened the door to proposals from anyone who can figure out a way to make it happen. (For more information, click here.) I just hope there are enough hungry number-crunchers out there who will be motivated to step up and give it a try, because to me the index looks like a true game-changer. Kudos to NSPF for opening the door.
This blog accompanies the 150th edition of the WaterShapes digital newsletter -- an occasion I will discuss in detail in this space on August 10.
Finally, I should have known: Just weeks after I speculated in a Travelogue that Bellevue, Wash., would take its own sweet time in completing the canal that now runs about three-quarters of the way around the Bellevue Downtown Park (click here), I read that the funding has been found and that, by the time this blog appears, work will have begun on completing the circuit by the end of July 2017.
If any of you live in an area where a watershaping project has been hanging idle forever and needs a bit of a nudge, just let me know: I seem to have a magic touch!