The National Swimming Pool Foundation, known for its CPO certification courses, handbooks and World Aquatic Health Conference, is celebrating 50 years of work in the aquatics industry. A reception honoring the organization was held yesterday at the Desert Foothills in Arizona.
But how did NSPF get to where it is today? Take a look back at the history:
Back in the 1960s, there was an explosion of interest in swimming pools thanks to the prosperity created after World War II and advances in plastic materials and disinfection. As the pool and spa industry grew, a group of visionary leaders, the National Spa & Pool Institute, realized a need for an educational organization to research and supplement practical aquatic knowledge for the industry. In 1965, that organization became the National Swimming Pool Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, with the original mission to receive and maintain funds to use for scientific and educational purposes which would influence the design, construction, and operation of swimming pools and spas.
The seventies were good years for the pool industry and the NSPF. As pools were becoming larger and more unique, the NSPF developed a mail-in correspondence course, which after successful completion, one received the Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certification. To this day, the CPO Certification is the NSPF’s most popular creation and has resulted in more than 400,000 successful CPO certifications in nearly 100 countries. This program is designed to provide individuals with the basic knowledge, techniques, and skills needed to operate pools and spas.
When the nineties arrived, consumers wanted low-maintenance pools with higher quality automatic cleaners, control systems and safety devices such as pool alarms and safety covers. A higher standard was also implemented in the NSPF, as then-CEO Les Kowalsky required pool operators to train and recertify every five years to have a valid CPO Certification. With this raised standard, the Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certification gained both popularity and credibility throughout the United States. Many changes occurred when the new millennium began, the National Swimming Pool Foundation moved from Texas (distribution) and New York (headquarters) to Colorado Springs in 2002.
A year later, Thomas Lachocki was appointed the new CEO with experience in areas of chemistry, research, education and business development. With Lachocki’s appointment, the NSPF reinvented itself with the goal of creating more value for the non-profit’s customers.
Not a year later, and the NSPF released the new, full-color, indexed, and updated Pool/Spa Operator Handbook. The board hired longtime NSPF instructor, Ronald Ford, to update the handbook, which resulted in a 30 percent increase in those achieving their CPO certification by the next year. In 2004 the annual World Aquatic Health Conference was launched by the NSPF as an unrivaled educational and networking event for the aquatics field.
That same year, Alex Antoniou was hired on as the Foundation's first Director of Educational Programs. At the time, there was only one course, the two-day CPO certification program; once Antoniou came on, the NSPF’s portfolio grew quickly and many “firsts” were launched. The nonprofit was the first in the industry to present a comprehensive series of online training programs that focused on specialized programs in aquatics, like the Certified Pool/Spa Inspector, Aquatic Play Feature, and 60 other courses. The NSPF was also first to fund the creation of a science-based, free Model Aquatic Health Code, which is now published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
By 2006 the NSPF’s international efforts expanded with the release of a Spanish Pool & Spa Operator handbook. A year later a French version was printed and ready for the masses. During this time of tremendous innovation, the NSPF reinvested about $4 million in research grants. The research focused on helping keep pools safer from drowning, illness, injury and chemical exposure. Additionally, pools are able to remain open thanks to research that is focused on the documentation of how immersion and water activity can benefit an individual’s health, thus creating better promotion within the field. In 2007 the Pool Operator Primer online course and Pool Operator Fusion classroom course was introduced as a blended learning course that resulted in a CPO Certification after both the portions are successfully completed. Two years later, the NSPF partnered with the American Red Cross and created the Home Pool Essentials, an online course that teaches backyard pool safety and maintenance for home owners.
Initiatives were then taken in 2009 as the NSPF’s new mission became, “to encourage healthier living by increasing aquatic activity through education and research.” To complement this new mission, the NSPF initiated the 10-year Step Into Swim campaign to create one million more swimmers. The goal being to reduce drowning, improve health, and build demand for our field. Today, the pool and spa industry continues to grow while the National Swimming Pool Foundation remains committed to furthering advances in research to demonstrate how aquatic activity creates healthier lives. The continued growth and development of the organization means constant evolution for the industry. Recently, the NSPF became a sponsor of Swim Today, a campaign that is meant to give a new splash of initiative to the sport of swimming for youth. Since 2003, the organization has grown from three employees to 19 to better keep up with the flourishing needs of the industry. The NSPF looks forward to support initiatives that help to keep pools safer and keep pools open, to assure that the future of aquatics is more accessible to the people who enjoy the benefits of getting into the water.
“The innovations we have created has resulted in 12 consecutive years of mission-focused training-program growth. As a result, we are able to give back to prevent bad things and to promote good things,” says CEO Tom Lachocki. “All we ask is that everyone in our field train their staff. If you choose to use NSPF materials, thank you! We take your confidence very seriously and commit to serving you for decades to come. What’s more, we intend to give back to help mankind through aquatics.”