I teach lessons at a pool that is particularly tough on swim safety rules. There are a lot things you cannot do, such as running and jumping into the water or swimming with noodles. Parental supervision rules are complex and pool freedom is broken down by age and ability; it often reads like a law book.
To a newcomer, at a pool like this you might be feeling like you signed up for the wrong place. Who in the world wants the welcoming wagon to be some 17-year old boy telling you what you cannot do in the pool while looking down at you from his vintage white-rimmed Ray-Bans? But you know what … I get it. The longer I teach and the more drowning data and stories I come across, the more I realize it is absolutely important to be super-conservative around a body of water at all times. From a kiddie pool to a river stream, put safety first.
I know lifeguards can look dopey and young. But if they aren’t giving you slack about something be worried: The tougher the pool policies are, the better trained the lifeguard staff is. And the safer your family will be. Here’s 5 ways to understand where a lifeguard is coming from.
- They don’t want to tell you what to do, but they are forced to. It takes TONS of courage for a teenager to come over and ask you or your child to stop doing something. They are only doing it because their job is on the line if they don’t. If an accident happens, their response behavior will be reviewed. If they are found negligent, depending on the severity of the accident they can be fired, and the person who certified them is also held accountable, along with the pool manager. It’s a chain of people that take the fall.
- They cannot take your word for it if they don’t know you. When it comes to swimming, parents constantly over-estimate their child’s cognitive abilities and under-estimate their physical abilities. Those are the Academy of Pediatrician’s words. Until you get to know the lifeguards on duty — meaning chit-chat, letting them see how your kids swim — they are not going to take your word for it about your kid’s awesome swim ability.
- They only have one set of eyes. Eyes that must scan the entire pool constantly, watching dozens of pool bodies and trying to see below or beyond the splashing. Drownings occur all the time in pools that are under capacity and fully staffed with seasoned professionals. It’s a stressful job to be accountable for all this as well as what you cannot see.
- Their life could be changed forever if something bad happens. I don’t even want to “go there” with how I know a few former colleagues feel about having lost a life while on duty. When I was a lifeguard, an older gentleman had a heart attack at the pool I was guarding. He lived, but I will never, ever forgot how terrifying that was. And I will always feel proud about the time I performed a double-rescue with two kids clinging to one another underwater.
- They are putting themselves on the line to save your life. Every day they come to work they know today could be the day they might have to use CPR. If something bad happens, all eyes are on them to fix the problem. Which is why a lifeguard dedicates so much time to prevention or enforcing safety rules — so they won’t have a problem to fix.