By Jim McCloskey
My last blog – the one about the emergence of Ask the Masters and Watershape University as evolutionary extensions of the Genesis movement – was written when I had no inkling there would be more big news coming. But come it did, when Skip Phillips announced late in September that he was stepping away from his involvement with the organization he co-founded in 1998. He’s done so, he told me, out of a concern that Genesis’s mission and identity are at risk.
At best, it would seem there are difficulties involved in defining how Genesis fits within a universe defined by officials in the new Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. At worst, it would seem that a more extensive disruption of business as usual is in the works.
As I’ve expressed in numerous conversations, blogs and articles dating back to our own founding in 1998 and the launch of the magazine in February 1999, WaterShapes and Genesis have marched in philosophical lock step for more than 20 years. Given our growth together as parallel institutions, I am saddened to see the development of stresses that might pull Genesis apart.
I know, of course, that Genesis surfaced as a reaction to the old National Spa & Pool Institute’s failure to pay appropriate attention to the educational needs of the construction segment of the pool industry – more than ironic considering the prominent role builders played in starting NSPI in the 1950s. And I’ve watched as NSPI and its successor organization, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, have responded to the success of Genesis by developing programs and education for builders.
But while both organizations have been driven by some sense of rivalry with one another, I have to say it’s never seemed like a balanced competition on the educational front: The Genesis program has offered courses on a level NSPI/APSP has never matched, with Genesis University providing its higher-level participants with an aura of credibility that has yet to coalesce meaningfully around the NSPI/APSP Certified Builder program.
I still have hopes that the merger of the National Swimming Pool Foundation with APSP and their formation of PHTA will involve a thoughtful sorting out as well as a logical stratification of ongoing educational programs, but my suspicion given Skip’s decision is that such a reasoned, reasonable solution will not be easy to find.
The last remaining Genesis founder, Brian Van Bower, has told me he will stay on with the organization as its ambassador to the industry and is hopeful that Skip’s misgivings can still be addressed in positive ways that will allow Genesis to keep its stride. I hope so, too, but at this point things are happening so broadly and quickly that it’s unclear to me how it will all play out: If more disruptions are still to come, my sense is that Genesis as I have known and applauded it may be in perilous waters. It’s uncomfortable for me to think that way, but it’s an obvious possibility given what’s been happening in the span since Ask the Masters first stepped onto the stage in May 2019.
I’ve heard from friends across the country who, like me, are wondering where this all leads. I have stayed away from industry politics for many years now, and I’m aware that my antennae aren’t delivering me signals with the clarity they once did. But if more changes are coming, I can’t see how they lead to happy conclusions. For my part – the part of this universe I control – I can say that WaterShapes will stick to its mission, uninterrupted.
What I'll offer for the moment is that the pool industry has gained an incredible amount of ground through the past 20 years because of the availability of the Genesis brand of design education and technical training. There’s still more to be done, and it’s PHTA’s responsibility (and, I think, one of its core tasks) to keep the ball rolling. The big question, of course, is whether PHTA sees things that way, too.
I wrote two weeks ago that watching all of this unfold would be fun. I’m not so sure of that now: It’s still fascinating to me – but bittersweet.