Aquatics And Leisure: Looking To The Future

We’ve come a long way in the 60-odd years since the huge boost that was given to aquatic leisure in this country by the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. And probably, in a sense, we’ve come even further in the last 30-40 years since the first moves were made to enclose some of the predominantly outdoor 50 yard pools that sprung up after the Olympics.

We’ve gone from summer-only, cold-water outdoor venues run with an iron fist by “hose and thongs” men to modern, multi-faceted, all year indoor and indoor-outdoor venues that offer a huge diversity of activities to millions of users annually. (Sadly, some hose and thongs staff persist: I met one not more than 10 years ago who bragged about pushing the clock forward 15 minutes near closing time and who got the hose going in the change rooms at 5.30 pm as a way of encouraging people to pack up and leave!)

The changes have been dramatic. The dominant model of an outdoor 50 metre pool and a static shallow-water “play” pool surrounded by lawns and rusty cyclone fencing (I think there was a company that manufactured it that way so as to be as unappealing as possible) has given way to heated indoor 25 and 50 metre indoor lap pools; specialised warmer water “program” and health pools; interactive water play areas; ever-larger fitness gyms (of increasing specialisation); a multitude of program rooms; consulting suites; cafes with quality food in place of snack-selling kiosks or canteens; quality lounges, seating and waiting areas; multiple change and other service areas including those for people with disabilities, and much more.

Management has changed too. Many of the hose and thong and family-managed venues have long since given way to professional management regimes with greater numbers of and more skilled staff. Many venues are still contracted out but most are to fully professional organisations (whether commercial or not-for-profit) with highly skilled staff, staff training programs and staff with a broad diversity of skills. [Read more…]