How I Made PRO Aquatics a Professional Priority
By Brad Hernden

Where do we find great aquatics professionals? We make them - by grooming and helping them to be competent in their own work.

I know many of you have a story like mine:  You're currently managing a workload that has multi layers and strands, where aquatic programming and aquatic facility management may only be a fraction of what you do. It certainly isn’t what’s constantly pulling your leg at work, even though it probably needs your attention. Badly.

We go through our work days knowing and trusting that our superstar aquatic staff have all the bases covered. And they most often do. But, when are you carving out time to invest in them or you? You know you need to start putting more coins in the professional development bank but the day-to-day metaphorical fires often interrupt.

Ten years ago, I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor. Times were tough at work and the budget was lean, but I knew inherently that I couldn’t expect anyone else to advocate for me if I continued to ignore prioritizing my own professional growth. My realization was that I actually needed to convince myself first that I was worth the investment, and that it was ok to stand strong in that value.

At the meeting, I explained to my supervisor that I needed to attend the PRO Aquatics Conference to extend my knowledge beyond what it was at that moment in time. My exact words were, “this is important to me, and I need this.” Do you know what he said? “Brad, I will find the way to support you.” Now, I’m making it sound a bit more simple than how it  occured. It actually took some extra courage that day, and key advice from another experienced colleague, but since that day, I understand that we just have to ask for what we want and need. While the conclusion and/or decision may not always work in your favour, it will eventually come in another way if it’s important enough to you.

Knowledge is our currency, and it's evident that each of us need to leave the office at some point to sharpen the blades of our knowledge saw. Investing in yourself, and in turn integrating what you've learned back into your own communities is true leadership. Our cities are looking at us more than ever to help them understand how to use water in safer ways.

I strongly urge you to find a way to join us this November for the PRO Aquatics Conference hosted at Blue Mountain. In the 3-days we'll spend together, you will ultimately crash course your way back into becoming relevant in the aquatics world. 

And finally, to supervisors, managers and senior leaders . . . as we recruit staff into our aquatic portfolios, I want you to consider how many of us have recreation programmers that have moved into aquatics with little or no aquatic background. Think of the knowledge and support they desperately need to be brought up to speed. If you’re in a position to support someone’s own professional development, find a way. Remember, someone along the way personally invested in you to attend additional training and/or a conference, and it's really up to us, as leaders in our organizations, to pass that power onto others so they may have the same opportunities we’ve been given to grow.

To register for the PRO Aquatics Conference, click here. See you there! 


Brad Hernden is the chair of the PRO Aquatics conference for the second time in a row. He works for the City of Stratford on the Community Services team.