The Complete Aquatics Manual – What Topics to Cover With Your Team

What’s in your aquatics manual? Great staff guides are easy to understand, but thorough enough to cover expectations for most poolside scenarios. Below, we suggest the outline for a great training document. Detail your team directives, discuss them with your crew and evaluate performance based on your requirements. Here are the topics you need to consider.



Job Duties – Start with the basic expectations of each aquatic position. Each job should have prime directives as well as secondary duties that may be assigned to them when needed. Be sure to note that these lists are not exclusive. Anyone may be called to perform any task, at any time – that’s what makes a great team.

Scheduling – Let the crew know how you’ll be scheduling throughout the season. Communicate openly regarding availability requests and schedule release timing. Make sure you’re noting policies for time off requests, on-call shifts and schedule modifications due to weather.

Reporting to Work – Different pools managers have different expectations for when aquatic staff are expected to arrive and when they should be in uniform ready to work. Quantify your requirements for your team and hold them to this standard consistently.

Substitutions – A lax substitution protocol in June may wreak havoc on your August schedule. Consider how important personnel consistency is to each role and make sure your team knows that you’ll be tracking their adherence to the designed schedule. Aquatic programs (swim lessons, swim team and group ex classes) lose value quickly when rotating instructors lead the show.

Illness and Absence – There’s nothing worse than being short-staffed, but situations will arise when your team just can’t make it in to work. Make sure they know how to report an illness so their absence does not have a major impact on your operation.

Uniforms – Clear uniform protocols detail not just what a staff member wears, but how they wear it. Lifeguards and aquatic personnel should be neat and clean but most importantly they should be readily identifiable. Be sure to note essential equipment (whistles, hip packs, sun glasses) that may be a requirement of your complete uniform.

Staff Meetings and In-Services – We’re big on regular training, and you should be too. Your successful summer requires a team that’s committed to getting better every day. Make in-service training a regular occurrence (weekly is best) and set attendance requirements early. Not sure what to train on? Here’s the list.

Communication – Throughout the season you’re going to need to get in touch with your team outside of the office. What will that look like? Are they expected to check email daily? Will you text them? When you leave them a message do you require a prompt response? Let the team know how you’re going to connect with them, and how you expect them to connect back.

Cell Phone Policy – Cell phones have become a pervasive problem poolside. Make sure you’re addressing this with your team before it becomes a safety or customer service issue. Candidly discuss the importance of this policy, and the actions you’ll take if you find someone in violation.

Chemical Control and Pool Operations – Young and / or untrained staff should not be allowed to perform potentially dangerous mechanical or chemical operations. Your pump room is a hazardous place. Limiting access to a small group of trained professionals is a smart risk-reduction strategy.

Bio-Hazard Response and CleanupThese protocols come right from the CDC. Include their recommendations in your staff manual and don’t waiver from this national standard unless your state or county suggests stricter guidelines.

Facility Usage – Can team members utilize your facility when their off the clock? If so, make sure you’re clear about how and when they do. Peak hours and high demand activities should be considered. Staff members should remember that they are not paying members – there may be limitations on some facility features and services.

Rule Review – We’ve given consideration to what your rules should consist of (click here for the article). Now share that information with the team that is tasked with enforcing those regulations. Reading through the rules in a handbook-review meeting will highlight any trepidations or questions your team may have about your policies and procedures. You’ll be able to answer their questions and reinforce the value of consistent enforcement.

Perception, Appearance and Conduct – Visualize your perfect lifeguard. Eyes trained on the water, rescue tube neatly across their lap, barefoot in the chair, perched and ready to spring into action in a moments notice. Cultivating that reality with your team starts with relaying your expectations. This section of your manual seeks to identify the seemingly intangible actions that seem innate in top staff members. Consider how your team greets swimmers, how they interact with both parents and children, what type of verbiage they use when describing programming and how they carry themselves in different areas of your facility.

Emergency Action Plans – No aquatic manual is complete without a discussion of EAP’s. If you’re writing your EAP’s from scratch, start here.

Time to write your manual? Don’t start from scratch. We’ve cataloged great manuals from great facilities. Contact us here and we’ll send you an good template.