For many agencies, getting ready for summer means preparing for aquatic camp visits. It can be challenging to manage the throngs, especially with the influx of youngsters who may or may not be as skilled swimmers as camp chaperones might think. But Woodridge Park District developed a system to help ensure summer camp visits are more enjoyable — and safer — for everyone.
"Our Cypress Cove facility hosts two or three camps every day, Tuesday through Friday," says Amanda Nichols, CPRP, the agency's Aquatic Manager. "Camp size ranges, but we allow up to 350 campers in the facility per day."
Nichols developed a system to address the main challenges related to summer camp visits. "For us, the first is patron complaints about perceived overcrowding due to large numbers of summer camp children," she says. "Then, unsupervised summer camp children — not all camp staff is as vigilant as we would like. And lastly, handling the challenge of collecting certificates of insurance."
Front Loading the Process
The process begins long before the first camper jumps in the pool. "Every year, we train our customer service employees on the booking process for aquatic-group outings before we provide them with our Aquatic Guide," she notes. "We also annually train all aquatic staff on camp processes prior to opening day."
Advance planning applies to the organizations bringing aquatic camps to Cypress Cove as well. "When someone books a camp visit, we require a signed contract and certificate of insurance naming Woodridge Park District as an additional insured," Nichols explains. "We also send camp supervisors a Cypress Cove Facility Guide and ask them to share it with the staff that will be visiting, so they can be familiar with our facility before they arrive." The guide spells out the check-in process, facility rules, attractions of the park for various swimming levels and information on water depth.
Camp participants cannot enter the facility until the agency's head lifeguard meets with the counselors and campers to review facility rules and where to go if a camper gets separated from her camp group. The lifeguard then leads the camp through the entrance to a designated camp area. "We wristband each non-swimmer with a neon orange band," explains Nichols. "The wristbands alert our lifeguard and deck attendant staffs to those children not allowed in water deeper than 2.5 feet — nor allowed to use our slides."
Nichols says the procedures have improved camp counselors' supervision of their charges as well as their knowledge of Cypress Cove before their visit.
Advice to Other Agencies
Nichols advises other PDRMA members to think ahead of the season. "Make sure camps are fully aware of facility rules prior to entry," she says, "This is especially true for your agency's internal camps that visit often." She suggests working with supervisors before the start of the season, so aquatic staff and camp staff agree on campers' behavior and supervision. "Make sure everyone understands each other's job duties — communication is key."
The importance of communication extends to outside summer camp visitors as well, especially when it comes to accountability. "If a camp causes issues at your facility, don't be afraid to contact the supervisor at their organization to let her know," Nichols adds.
Staying on top of potential problems is the best way to ensure the safety of campers and counselors — and keep your aquatic facility running smoothly this summer.If you missed our Preparing Your Camp for Aquatic Facility Visits webinar on April 19, click here to download the recording.