It has been quite a year and as we reflect back, the United States Swim School Association took some time to learn from our members the impact this past year has had on their ability to teach swimming.
While about three months was the average time our member swim schools were closed, we still have a handful of schools that remain closed. Those still closed are located in California, Hawaii, Toronto, as well as Arizona, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Florida. Some closures are a result of the location of the pool space used by a member, in other words if the location where they held lessons is not open, they have not been able to resume lessons.
One of the most alarming numbers to come out of our survey is the fact that more than 77,500 kids are no longer getting swim lessons. With about 1/3 of our members completing the survey, the actual total is much higher. It does bring to question, what the future holds for drowning rates across the country. Drowning is already the number one cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 and a leading cause for older youth.
Why are so many not back at lessons? Over 60 percent of schools are still operating at reduced capacities, meaning less lessons are available. We are also seeing a trend among swim schools trying to rebuild and hire new staff. Staff shortages will make it more challenging to rebuild back up to pre-COVID lesson levels.
Schools have also noticed over this last year a significant increase in newly enrolled swimmers. Over 40 percent are seeing 21 – 40 percent of their enrollments coming from new swimmers and nearly 20 percent are seeing 41 – 60 percent new swimmers. We can speculate that as parents looked to find a safer activity for their children, they learned about the safety measures in place at private swim schools, the CDC statement that the virus has not been spread in chlorinated pools and that the air ventilation rates are some of the best for indoor spaces.
Over this past year private swim schools needed to get creative with almost 15 percent offering shorter lessons, but only about half of them are planning to keep the change in place in the future. This year also found an increase in private lessons with nearly 93% offering private lessons. While more than half made no changes to their private lesson rates, a majority of those that did make a change had to increase their rates. Members also added new programs this past year including family swim, swim team, aqua fitness and home lessons. New technology was also added this year including Zoom meetings, check-in kiosks, an app for parents and SpotTV for lesson viewing outside the building.
There were a number of COVID-19 safety protocols added this year, the most popular right now is all staff wearing cloth masks outside the water, all staff wearing face shields in the water and all customers wearing cloth masks in the building. Staff temperature checks at the start of their shift also remains high on the list along with only allowing one adult in the building with the swimmer. We asked our members if there were any of these protocols they planned on keeping in the future, with the top choices being hand sanitizer used upon entry to the building and staggered start times for classes. There are also almost 23% that plan to continue use of the face shields in the water by instructors.
Consistent with earlier surveys, there continues to be almost ZERO cases of COVID-19 being traced to swim schools. With over 53,500 students, instructors and staff involved in weekly swim lessons there have been only 8 cases or 0.014% traced to a swim school.
Swim school owners are resourceful and passionate small business owners. They are working hard each day to serve their communities and offer the lifesaving skill of swimming. They will continue to learn and work to rebuild into an even better swim school than a year ago and USSSA is here to support them every step of the way.
You can review our full survey report here.
And if you are interested in starting a career in learn to swim, you can find our job board here.