Our Aquatics Family

By Cory Hilderbrand, AOAP President and Community Services Manager, Irvine, California

Growing up, many of us were taught the only thing that matters is family. It’s our support system made up of those we love, are related to (good and bad), and those we live with. As I’ve grown up through the years (I’m not getting older, just wiser), the meaning of family has begun to differ from the definition found in the dictionary.

Family, as defined in the dictionary:

  1. A group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit.
  2. All descendants of a common ancestor.

While those definitions are accurate, family to me is so much more. Sure, I have my typical family unit made up of my grandparents, parents, siblings, spouse, and kids, but I don’t limit it to the typical definition. Family is a much broader support system that includes my friends, co-workers, peers, and aquatics acquaintances across the country. Family to me includes anyone that offers a positive relationship, forming a strong bond of support through good times and bad.

The need to have additional family support systems has never been greater than this past year and a half. As we all dealt with the global pandemic, we moved through the shock of the initial closures which quickly turned into the panic of dealing with operating facilities in a safe, yet effective, manner. For me, that panic was calmed the more I connected with my fellow Aquatics professionals. Not only did we assist each other with developing reopening plans, but we also become better listeners, counselors, and life coaches. Regular discussion turned into self-care sessions to ensure we were spending ample time to focus on ourselves in addition to meeting the demands of work.

I’m the first to admit, work/life balance has never been one of my strong points. COVID-19 made that even more apparent as the use of technology helped give the perceived expectation to be available 24/7. In addition, telecommuting meant bringing work from my office to my kitchen table. Not a great mix for those of us that already struggled to separate work life from home life. Quick access to the pantry and fridge wasn’t so great either. Through all of the struggles, my Aquatics family helped pull me through. We met for workouts, enjoyed virtual happy hours, and spent more time talking about our kids. This, all in addition to solving our issues and problems at work. In the end, my Aquatics family was there for me and continues to help support, mentor, and most of all, encourage me.

Our Aquatics family has always been a close group of professionals and COVID-19 helped bring that to the forefront. As we move beyond the pandemic, I encourage you all to offer a little more support to one another. Work to be a better listener, a better friend, and most of all a better family member. We are all stronger together!

I’m so excited to spend time with each and every one of you in February at the annual AOAP conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida. I hope to see all of my Aquatics family there to celebrate!

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Juliene Hefter

Juliene is the Executive Director/CEO of AOAP. She has a background in running and operating diverse aquatic facilities and venues and is a national and international speaker on a variety of topics. She is also an expert witness/consultant.

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