Lifeguarding is a valuable and rewarding job filled with awesome opportunities and memories worth making. But it's also filled with emergencies that can happen at any moment that you must be prepared for. It's a job that requires attention and skills for the proper certification so that no matter what, people are safe in your care.
Despite all the things that can go wrong, lifeguard to lifeguard, we all know what slides and what doesn't. We also know the benefits that you really can't find anywhere else.
1. Kids are annoying AF.
Kids are probably one of the worst problems for summer lifeguards. They come with numerous problems such as always running on the pool deck, eating on the pool deck, roughhousing on the pool deck. Basically doing everything they KNOW they're not supposed to but think they can get away with.
Even when you explain to them why something as simple as running could hurt them, they still do it or try to do it in a "sneaky" way. It never works and takes unnecessary time away from the lifeguards. By the end of the summer, you can be assured that having kids is not a priority in life at all.
2. Bodily fluids/objects result in longer break-times.
Although pooping in the pool may not happen very often, it all depends on the age group of kids coming to your pool. But usually, if it's kids anywhere in elementary school, be prepared. While it might not be every kid's intention to do so, it happens. When it does, we lifeguards usually refer to this as "code brown."
During this time of "code brown," everyone is asked to evacuate the pool and it's usually shut down for about 12 hours. But the length of a shutdown also depends on how big or small the bodily object is. Gross, I know.
Another gross part is identifying the object in the first place. Either we see it first, or it's brought to our attention by a swimmer. Either way, identifying and making sure it is what we think it is requires some type of examination and eventually removal.
In the pool I worked at, there was someone called in during code browns to asses the situation and adjust the chemicals correctly, which usually allows a long term shift break for the rest of the lifeguard team. While code browns aren't ideal, they do help with our workload.
3. Falling asleep while on guard happens.
It's not that we get bored of doing our jobs, it's just that we've been working in the sun all day for the past few days. Being a lifeguard is physically draining, especially in the summer. I'm a lifeguard and a swim instructor, which mean I'm actively watching swimmers and working with them during the times I'm not on guard. This takes a lot of energy and while I don't condone falling asleep on a job that's important to the safety of others, I am at fault for this.
4. The "No Flips Off The Diving Board" rule will always have to be enforced.
One of the most annoying problems of being a summer lifeguard is enforcing rules more than twice. This problem usually surrounds kids, but that was a given, right? While flipping off the diving board seems like a fun activity (and it is), it's prohibited at a majority of pools because people can get seriously injured.
Enforcing this rule verbally to swimmers is one thing. Pointing it out on the readable, large-formatted poster at almost every pool is another thing. But having to blow your whistle, address the same kid who's been "secretly" trying to flip without not actually flipping for the fourth time is the absolute worst.
I'm not cut out to be a bad guy or villain. I'm a people pleaser and I want to make a kid's time at the pool enjoyable and safe. But when rules are disobeyed multiple times, I can't overlook it and not say anything.
5. Co-worker lifeguards become great friends.
Depending on where you work, you will meet lifeguards who are either in their 40-50s or people the same age as you. Either way, you end of making valuable and memorable relationships. Maybe not for life, but even if it's just for the summer, it's worth it.
Some of the people I ended up working with over multiple summers became some great friends. You learn a lot about different people and have interesting conversations, since the only thing to talk about is yourself. This opens you up to other perspectives, debates, and topics you might not usually have/discuss with your own friends.
6. Lunch time is for ordering your heart's desire.
The best thing about working as a summer lifeguard is ordering food during lunch breaks. There is so much freedom to this, and you don't have to worry about money because you're literally getting paid while you indulge!
My coworkers and I had a dedicated day set to order food for lunch and it was an awesome time of grubbing and bonding. Our orders consisted of pizza/friend snacks, sushi and Chinese food, and even barbeque. Not only that, but we also dedicated Fridays as dessert Fridays and would splurge on Rita's, ice cream, or everyone bringing in their favorite dessert. The awesome meals we shared every week resulted in a greater motivation to do our jobs.
7. Slow days are for training... and tanning.
When there are gaps in scheduling or days where the pool is empty, there are usually two options available. The first occurs when a slow day falls on a training day. In this case, lifeguards know that going over rescuing techniques and protocol are on the agenda. This is a great way to refresh your mind on what to do in certain emergencies.
The other option requires sunscreen, a towel, and a great nap. The convenience in being a lifeguard is that not only do you tan while you work, but it's a nice pastime during breaks. Tanning is basically taking a nice, warm nap outside. Sounds great to me!
8. You have a love -hate relationship with teaching swim lessons.
Not all lifeguards teach swim lessons, but when you work at a camp like as I did, swim lessons are a part of the job. I taught kids from ages 3-10 how to swim.
The main problem with swim lessons for older kids is running out of ideas and games to play with them. Usually, these kids already know how to swim but need to work on their stamina and form, which means repetition is key.
For younger kids, hands-on teaching is extremely necessary and requires a lot of patience and leadership. Kids at this stage need constant reassurance and motivation. Rewarding them with pool toys and allowing them to show off their skills is a great way to help them learn.
While I love seeing the progress of swimming in the kids I teach, there are always some who don't like to listen. Teaching can also be draining, depending on what age group you have and can tolerate. However, I love this part of the job because swimming is an extremely important skill to learn in order to stay safe in the water.