Encouraging healthier living by increasing aquatic activity through education and research
Who We Are
We believe everything we do helps people live happier and healthier lives. Whether it’s encouraging more aquatic activity, making pools safer, or keeping pools open, we believe we can make a difference. Founded in 1965 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit and located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, our proceeds are directed to fund education and research and to help create swimmers.
What We Do
We offer books, online courses, and training programs that are technically sound, convenient to access, and beautifully designed. Our Instructors have trained over 500,000 professionals in more than 100 countries through the Certified Pool & Spa Operator® (CPO®) Certification program. Aquatic professionals around the world learn to prevent injuries, illnesses, and accidents through our online training courses, such as Pool Operator Primer™, Water Chemistry Basics, and Advanced Service Technician™.
Through funding over $4 million in grants, we have impacted policies and practices around the world. In addition, each year we host the World Aquatic Health™ Conference which attracts professionals worldwide to learn of the latest advances in aquatics. In 2018 we welcomed The Alliance to the NSPF family, now the largest member association in the aquatics industry. In 2016 we merged with GENESIS, the educational leader for designers and builders of residential pools and spas. In 2012, we launched the Step Into Swim™ campaign, a 10-year initiative to create one million more swimmers.
NSPF Company History
Birth of the National Swimming Pool Foundation
In 1963, a group of visionary leaders in the growing pool and spa industry formed the National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF®). These leaders recognized a need for educational to supplement and accentuate practical experience. In addition, they realized research was needed to answer many technical questions and fill knowledge gaps.
NSPF received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service. The original mission of this new organization was to generate funds to conduct scientific research and provide education to positively influence the design, construction, and operation of swimming pools. Funds would be used either directly or by NSPF, or distributed via contributions to organizations that qualified as tax-exempt and supported the NSPF mission.
Origin of the CPO® Certification
The first pool operator course to educate the public on the safe and proper care of swimming pools and spas was developed by NSPF as a correspondence course. Upon successful completion of the course, recipients received the Certified Pool & Spa Operator® (CPO®) Certification.
In the early 1970’s, Seattle-based professor Don Van Rossen, Ph.D., authored the first formal, black and white, Pool & Spa Operator course handbook, which outlined best practices to care for swimming pools and spas. By the late 1970’s, the booming pool industry had taken notice of the first complete swimming pool manual, and Dr. Van Rossen sought to expand the reach of the course beyond his own teaching.
Fontaine Piper, Ph.D., a Missouri-based university professor, was hired to create an Instructor school to train select CPO® Certified individuals to become Instructors. By 1985, 58 Instructors were trained in the United States. Today, there are approximately 900 NSPF-trained Instructors worldwide; more than 100 Instructors are international, delivering training to professionals in English, Spanish, French, and Ukrainian. Dr. Piper continues to lead the Instructor program as Instructor Education Committee Chairman.
Leif Zars, a respected engineer, builder, and pioneer in the swimming pool industry was hired as NSPF Board Chairman. He was responsible for establishing the foundation’s distribution center in San Antonio, Texas.
Les Kowalsky, a prudent American businessman, joined NSPF as Chief Executive Officer. Kowalsky raised the standard of CPO® Certification by requiring pool operator recertification every five years. CPO® Certification gained popularity and credibility throughout the U.S.
The NSPF Board reorganized and selected Board Member Ray Essick as interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), with the goal of relocating the foundation headquarters from Texas (distribution) and New York (headquarters), to beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. Essick formerly served as USA Swimming Executive Director, located in Colorado Springs. During his tenure, the foundation searched for handbook authors and recruited the next chief executive officer.
Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D., was appointed CEO by the NSPF Board of Directors in December. As former Director of Product Development for BioLab, Inc. (a Chemtura Company), Dr. Lachocki’s experience in chemistry, research, education, and business development allowed insight into the issues and opportunities affecting the swimming pool and spa industry.
A History of Education
NSPF Board contracted Ronald Ford, a respected pool professional and NSPF Instructor, to author and update the Pool & Spa Operator™ Handbook. A research grant program was established and has awarded over $4 million since 2003. Through these funded grants, it has been demonstrated that research can guide the growth and significance of the aquatics field.
The new, full-color, indexed, and updated handbook was released. The foundation committed to update the handbook regularly with both practical field information and research-based findings. Regular updates have ensured that CPO® Certification students have access to the latest, unbiased, scientific information. A Scholarship and Fellowship program was established to reinforce NSPF’s commitment to education. The annual World Aquatic Health™ Conference was launched, an unmatched educational and networking event that highlights scientific advances and spotlights issues, emerging trends and opportunities in the aquatics field.
International efforts were expanded with the release of a Spanish Pool & Spa Operator® Handbook, shortly followed by a French Pool & Spa Operator Handbook the next year. During this time of tremendous innovation and growth, the organization reinvested nearly $4 million in research grants to better the industry. Research focused on two things:
- Keeping pools safer and open through research on drownings, illnesses, injuries, and chemical exposures
- Helping the industry flourish by documenting how immersion and water activity can benefit an individual’s health and give justification for the existence of pools and the growth of the industry
The introduction of Pool Operator Primer™ was the first of now over 40 online training courses offered by NSPF. Primer presented a flexible and effective CPO® Certification format, utilizing both online and in-class instruction.
Partnering with the American Red Cross, the Home Pool Essentials online course was launched to help residential pool and spa owners understand water safety and basic maintenance of the pool and spa. The close of the first decade of the new millennium culiminated in the expansion of the NSPF mission statement: To encourage healthier living by increasing aquatic activity through education and research.
To complement the new mission, NSPF initiated Step Into Swim™ a 10-year campaign to create one million more swimmers. The campaign goals were crafted to support the NSPF mission: To reduce drownings, improve public health, and build demand for the industry.
To broadcast the health benefits of aquatics, NSPF began publication of the Aquatic Health Benefits Bulletin. For pool and spa industry influencers who want to help build demand for pools, spas, and aquatic facilities, this bulletin was created to promote the benefits of water immersion and activity.
To further support the mission and meet the educational demand within the industry, NSPF® merged with GENESIS®, the world’s leading university for pool and spa builders, designers, and engineers. Celebrating 20 years in 2018, GENESIS® University trains 1,500 students annually and offers the prestigious Society of Watershpape Designers® Certification.
Utilizing technology to provide efficient and effective training to pool and spa service professionals, NSPF released Advanced Service Technician™. AST Certification® was an industry-first comprehensive blended (online and in-class) training designed to provide service professionals with the knowledge and skills to service residential pools and spas, including equipment installation, maintenance, repair, and service company management.
To meet the need for member representation in the industry, NSPF merged with the California Pool & Spa Association and formed The Alliance, the largest member association in the aquatics industry. The Alliance is the go-to source for effective legislative protection, top-notch education, and innovative programs that promote demand for swimming.
Now, more than ever, as society ages and as we struggle with the health consequences of sedentary lifestyles, aquatic activity in healthy water becomes more and more important. We all have the responsibility to continue to learn and understand the health benefits of aquatics for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world. NSPF remains committed to furthering advances in research to demonstrate how aquatic activity creates healthier lives. We continue to support initiatives that help keep pools safer, keep pools open, and grow the future of aquatics.
Please join us in encouraging healthier living by increasing aquatic activity through education and research. Email our Customer Service team or call 719-540-9119 to learn more about partnership opportunities.