We don’t get no respect.
One of the most common themes I hear from aquatics professionals is, ‘Why don’t people realize this is important? Why don’t they understand?’.
The next most common theme is ‘should we or shouldn’t we adopt standards, issue licenses, and have regulations?’.
Legitimate questions with legitimate concerns about why our work is not recognized appropriately and what adding formality to an industry really means in terms of cost, bureaucracy and competitive advantage.
The two issues are intrinsically related. If you don’t treat yourself with respect, no one else will treat you with respect. So, how do we treat ourselves with respect?
We establish standards of conduct, training, and production quality and develop appropriate testing and licensing for professionals in aquatics-related fields (pools/spas, water parks, lifeguards, swim instructors, commercial products, etc), and then enforce those standards, including censure or penalties for non-compliance.
If you think about it, it’s fairly astonishing that we have not been forced to comply more with consistent standards. Would you allow your child to attend a school where the teachers had no formal training, no knowledge of first aid/CPR and no background check? Do you really want the wiring and plumbing in your house done by someone who may not have had formal training or know what is the best current practice?
I’m not suggesting we are the Wild West with charlatans and con men running around, but as awareness increases about the risk of drowning or a few motivated people get the ear of a cooperative member of Congress, you can be certain that the government will turn it’s eye to the neglected aquatics industry and begin to impose well-meaning but perhaps unrealistic standards, which will result in cutting out potential markets, lowering profitability, and damaging the industry's reputation regarding professional standards and ethics.
Lawyers, doctors, electricians, plumbers - they all have to reach basic industry standards that they developed, and if they flout those standards they are disbarred or have their license revoked. What does that give those industries? A whole lot more freedom to decide for themselves what 'reasonable' behavior and standards make professional, market and ethical sense. Do it yourself, or someone will do it for you.
The irony is that anyone who works with or around water understands that if you don’t respect the water you will never come out on the good side of any encounter. Time to start showing ourselves some respect and organize industries with sensible professional standards and a mechanism for enforcing those standards.