Tom Lachocki, CEO of the influential US body, the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), will retire in 2019 after leading the foundation since 2003.
Over the intervening 15 years, Lachocki has become an internationally recognised and respected authority on swimming pools and water immersion in all its various forms, and has been a relentless advocate for swimming and aquatic activity as a pathway to improving the health of populations across a growing number of countries.
Under his leadership, NSPF has grown from offering one product, Certified Pool & Spa Operator Certification, to becoming a market leader, delivering education and promotion to the residential construction, pool service, and commercial pool operation segments via classroom and online learning. In 2018, NSPF and Genesis training programs reached more than 40,000 professionals.
It was Lachocki who envisioned and led the creation of the highly successful educational symposium, the World Aquatic Health Conference (WAHC), which in 2018 celebrated its 15th year of exploring scientific advances and bringing together the leading aquatics thinkers and influencers. A WAHC symposium was also hosted in Australia in 2014 during SPLASH! Week.
Lachocki is in demand as a speaker, advocating to the commercial and residential pool industries the benefits of aquatics, scientific advancement, and reasonable legislation and policies.
Lachocki was also instrumental in founding the Step into Swim campaign (SIS), which serves to create swimmers and reduce drowning, increase healthy activity and build demand for a health-focused aquatic industry. SIS has impacted more than 36,000 families to date and is funded by NSPF and industry partners who provide grants for learn-to-swim programs around the United States.
Prior to leading NSPF, Lachocki had been director of product development at BioLab for six years, following on from being senior a research scientist at the same company and a senior research chemist at the Vista Chemical Company. In 1988 he gained his PhD in organic chemistry from Louisiana State University to add to his bachelor of science from the Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania.
He is a member of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance board of directors, The Pool Spa & Aquatics Alliance and the California Pool & Spa Association board of directors, on the board of trustees of the NESPA Foundation for Advancement of Professionalism and is also on the drowning prevention expert panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rob Butcher, chair of the NSPF board of directors says they have been fortunate for and appreciative of Lachocki’s leadership.
“Tom brought nearly two decades of organisational stability and growth, and most importantly, respect and goodwill toward NSPF,” says Butcher. “Our intent is to select a successor CEO in 2019 to support the transition process, and then allow Tom a much-deserved sabbatical.”
Fifteen years of achievement
Lachocki says he is honoured to have served beside NSPF’s innovative staff and their hundreds of instructors and faculty, whom he credits for the organisation’s success. However, he says it is time to move on and focus on the next stage of his life.
“It’s been fifteen years. I saw some pictures of myself from the early days and thought, holy cow, I was a lot younger then!
“Like anyone, the time comes to connect with your lifetime goals and I feel that the organisation is in a place where it can continue to go forward, and I want to focus on my mind/body/spirit and on where to go next.”
When asked what achievements define his time helming the NSPF he answers pre-eminence and service.
“We wanted to have pre-eminent science-based programs tailored to specific market segments. To be the best,” he says.
“And for service, our mission is to encourage healthier living by increasing aquatic activity through education and research. But we have to recognise that we are not the people who are teaching the people at the pools to keep people safer, or the people who teach how to design, engineer and build better pools, or to service pools and keep them clean – they’re our faculty, our instructors. So service has to be our endgame because we’re helping them become successful by fulfilling our mission.”
NSPF has now trained people in more than 104 countries.
“In the last year alone we trained people in more than 75 countries. When I started we were reaching just over 20,000 individuals every year. In the past 12 months, more than 40,000 people attended one of either the NSPF or Genesis training programs.”
In those 15 years, the NSPF’s mission-based revenue has grown more than fivefold, with most of the revenue coming through their education programs: certification programs and genesis training programs for design, engineering and construction; the World Aquatic Health Conference for people engaged in the public sector; and the advanced service technician courses – which actually satisfy some of the requirements for the Cert III and Cert IV in Australia.
In fact, Lachocki has a long association with the Australasian industry through SPLASH!
“Between myself and my team members, we’ve been to Australia six or seven times. We’ve been happy participants at SPLASH! in Australia a few times, and also in New Zealand and in Singapore.
“I’ve always cherished the relationship with you and Simon and I look forward to seeing Lindsay and Spiros here at Las Vegas at the International Pool & Spa Expo. I think the US and Australia have a similar culture and Australia should be proud with the successes they’ve had with creating consistency throughout the states, and with time we hope to see progress in that direction here.”
Search for a new leader
The board is initiating a search for a new CEO.
“In probably three to six months I’ll move on, exactly when depends on when the board finds the right person – and they seem committed to find the right person,” he says.
“The good news is that when I interact with my board members and staff, the commitment to pre-eminent education remains the same. The commitment to help people have a happy healthy life through this industry, and the commitment to good policy remains the same. I’m sure there are a lot of people who will continue to carry the torch and I encourage them to do so.”
About the potential of him leaving a problematic void at the top of the association, he is philosophical and humble.
“The graveyards are filled with people who were supposedly irreplaceable. I’m confident there are people in our field who will step in and help lead for the next fifteen years.
“You know, it’s hard to change an organisation’s culture. And if you have a poor culture, then that’s bad. But ours is a good culture and the good culture will continue beyond me leaving.”
Lachocki says when he leaves the NSPF he will take a couple of months to do some hiking and get some silence in his life. Beyond that he has no plans.
“Sometimes you need to get some quiet in your life to see a clear picture of where you should be taking your life. It would be a shame to get to the end and think you hadn’t really considered how to spend your precious time on this planet. And that’s not to diminish what we’ve achieved, but to look at where I go next.”