White Water Canyon Water Park/Tinley Park District
Tinley Park, Illinois - U.S.A.
Featured in World Waterpark Magazine
, April 2021
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE?
I studied physical education at Eastern Illinois University. My professional experience in the waterpark industry started 15 years ago when I was 16. I started working at White Water Canyon (WWC) as a deck staff attendant then moved into various roles such as maintenance, guarding, supervisor and eventually assistant manager. I worked at WWC through high school, college and then for 6 years when I became a teacher. In March of 2020 I replaced my mentor for all of those years and switched careers from teaching full time to overseeing our outdoor pool, fitness center, indoor pool and recreation center full time.
WHAT CERTIFICATION OR LICENSING DO YOU HAVE?
I am a Certified Pool Operator, a Certified Food Safety Manager and a Level III Instructor Trainer through StarGuard ELITE. I am also a certified physical education teacher, driver’s education instructor and health education teacher.
WHAT HONORS, AWARDS OR SPECIAL RECOGNITION HAVE YOU ACHIEVED?
Since starting on the management team in 2013, we have not received anything less than a 5-star audit through StarGuard ELITE.
WHAT MADE YOU GO IN TO THIS FIELD
I originally started in the aquatics field because I was just a 16 year old kid that needed a job. After working at White Water Canyon in high school and college, I realized how amazing the aquatics community is for the patrons who come to the facility. I really began to appreciate coming to work and providing quality service for all of our visitors. In 2020 when I applied to switch to this industry full time it was an easy decision. 2020 was a year of a lot ups and downs but I am excited to see where the aquatics industry soars to in the future.
WHAT ASPECT OF THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY DO YOU LIKE BEST?
I like the fast-paced work day, providing a safe environment and training staff. Coming from the education world, I enjoy being an instructor-trainer and training our staff with our other managers and supervisors. I love the fast-paced work day because it’s different every day and never boring. From the past 15 years working at White Water Canyon, I can say with 100 percent confidence I never had two days exactly alike.
WHO HAS MOST INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
Karol Komar, former WWA Public Sector Committee Chair, is the most inspirational individual for my career. For more than 20 years she sat in the position I am in today and taught me the ins and outs of being a quality manager. She showed me that a good manager doesn’t ask anything of their employees that they are not willing to do themselves. Adapting and living by that motto has given me many great opportunities and the ability to walk a day in someone else’s shoes. While Karol no longer permanently lives in Illinois, she still answers my calls and will spend time answering all of my questions, even if it does interrupt her golf.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE IN YOUR WATERPARK CAREER?
This is the cliché answer but the COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest challenge. I was set to leave teaching at the end of March 2020 and begin as Facilities Manager on April 1, 2020. The school district I taught at ended up closing early and I immediately started working at the park district. At that time new information, updates and restrictions were coming out daily and I needed to be there to assist in making the decisions for the park’s future.
HOW DO YOU KEEP FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED?
Switching industries really makes me motivated to learn as much as possible. I try to do research online or read different parks and recreation magazines that I can find. I know I have a lot to learn and I really try to reach out to members of the aquatics community to learn as much as possible.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN WORKING IN THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. The industry is full of different magazines, videos and resources to learn from.
WHAT BOOKS OR PUBLICATIONS DO YOU RELY ON MOST FOR INSPIRATION OR MOTIVATION?
Depending on what I am researching will determine what platform I am going to use. For different maintenance issues, I usually will look at different videos and online resources. For new features, I tend to look at the resources offered through WWA’s Waterparks.org.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB?
Working with our instructors and making sure they know how to communicate to the members in a positive manner really makes it a wonderful occupation. When I see one of our staff members encourage a new swimmer to try going into a little deeper waters and showing that swimmer the confidence needed to have success, I get an awesome feeling.
WHAT CAREER OR BUSINESS WOULD YOU CONSIDER IF YOU WERE STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN?
I started in teaching and did that for 7 years and then switched to the waterpark industry. I don’t think I would change anything if I was able to do it over again.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE WWA?
Karol Komar introduced me to the organization. I was looking forward to my first confer- ence in October 2020 but will need to wait for San Antonio 2021.
WHAT IS SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOU THAT FEW KNOW OR WOULD GUESS?
I love pizza! Especially when watching football on Saturdays and Sundays. Although I am from the Chicagoland area, I prefer thin crust over deep dish.