Coolest job of the summer? Lifeguard, of course!
Growing up, I always thought the kids that got to be lifeguards were the ones that applied first or knew someone who gave them the job. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.
My son recently applied for his first summer job. He mentioned at his interview that his goal was to be a lifeguard. As he would turn 16 (legal age) halfway through the summer, his future employer was most positive and said, “Well, why don’t you pick up your lifeguard certification now and you can help out the lifeguards and get a feel for things while you’re 15 and at 16, you’ll be set and we’ll use you as a lifeguard.”
Take note of those words up there……….”pick up”….right…”Picking up” your certification isn’t quite that easy we soon found out!
First, despite living in a community that is ON LAKE ERIE with no less than 11 beaches just in the state park area, an indoor waterpark that is open year-round, a summertime amusement park that has a huge waterpark, and a million and one pools and clubs where lifeguards are needed, there are no classes for lifeguarding! We had to do quite a bit of looking on the Internet and calling around to find a YMCA 45 minutes away that offered the American Red Cross Lifeguarding course that would certify him before summer. Son’s swim coach told him he was actually lucky to find this class as kids here sometimes end up driving to Cleveland, Ohio (almost 2 hours away) to get their certifications!
We were also lucky because this YMCA was beginning their class in 2 days. So with visions of Baywatch, a great tan, cool sunglasses, and girls fawning over him in his head, my son paid the $165.00 and signed on. Yes, that’s right….he paid money so he could earn money. Not your typical summer job, huh?
Classes were held over 2 weekends:
Fridays 6.00p to 10.00p
Saturday 3.00p to 10.00p
and Sundays 12.00p to 7.00p
In case it’s not immediately clear to you, that’s 36 hours!
‘Tis true, this class had an add-on module included for waterfront lifeguarding that added an extra 5.4 hours to the class, but even without that, normal lifeguarding courses give you over 30 hours of instruction.
Anyway, being signed up, we figured we were good to go. Not the case. In order to even be admitted to the class, you have to pass a swimming pre-test. During that test, my son had to:
• Swim 550 yards continuously, using both breaststroke and front crawl
• Tread water for 3 minutes using only the legs
• Retrieve 3 rings placed 5 yards apart on bottom of pool.
• Complete the following timed event within 1 minute, 40 seconds (no goggles allowed):
—Starting in the water, swim 20 yards
—Surface dive to a depth of 7 to 10 feet to retrieve a 10-pound brick
—Return to the surface and swim on his back with 10-pound brick on his chest (no underwater swimming) and return to the starting point
—Get himself and his 10-pound brick out of the water without using a ladder or
My son made it through. Others, however, did not. They were eliminated from the class.
After that, the real fun began…A 300-page manual with online assessments at the end of each chapter that had to be taken at home during the week. (Yes, that’s right! They were expected to study during the week as well!) Once the coursework from the manual was taught during class there were 2 written tests to be taken in class. Both had to be passed.
And, of course, each day there was swimming with various drowning/injury scenarios acted out and the appropriate responses gone over both in and out of the water. Backboards were used and each student had a turn at playing both the victim and the rescuer. The worst part sometimes, my son said, was lying soaking wet and shivering with chattering teeth on a board in the cool air for an hour waiting for the “rescuers” to figure out how to get the victim out of the water and onto the “shore.”
At the end of this training, three rescue scenarios were given PER STUDENT and the student had to carry out the appropriate response each time. If he was unable to do this, he would not be certified.
A whole day and then some was spent on getting the students certified in CPR and instructing them in the use of an AED. They had to learn appropriate methods for both adults and children.
And that extra module I mentioned before about waterfront lifeguarding? That not only added time to the class, but also culminated in yet another written test at the end.
Hence, not so much Baywatch and pretty girls, but instead a lot of hard physical training, being taught to try and anticipate every disaster imaginable, tons of cramming through coursework to pass the assessments, followed up with promises of how lifeguards get sued when things go wrong.
Surprisingly, I’m quite pleased with the differences this training has made in my son already. He’s looking ahead and taking initiative. He carries himself differently – It’s given him a veneer of confidence that wasn’t there before and built up his pride in himself and he hasn’t even started his job yet. Oh, I’m sure there’s still this wishful picture in his head…..
But our son told us after his first day in class, he’ll never look at a pool in the same way again. He said he never realized how dangerous pools could be! Me? I’ve also found a new respect. I’ll never again look at a lifeguard and think they’re just the favoured/lucky kids. Lifeguards are really put through their paces to get that coveted position up in the chair. As far as I’m concerned, they earn every single bit of their income before they ever hang that whistle around their neck.