Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Life-Guards as Educators

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Life-Guards as Educators

Article excerpt

We hire them all the time with great expectations -- bronzed, muscular gods and goddesses with sun bleached hair, dark sunglasses, white cream on their noses, and whistles twirling around their fingers.

But what exactly is a lifeguard? The answer depends, of course, on who you ask. A supervisor, a disciplinarian, a public relations person, a maintenance person, a swimming teacher, a baby-sitter, a first-aider, and a swim coach are all acceptable answers depending on the situation. The responsibilities of lifeguards include recognizing hazards, supervising swimmers, minimizing dangers, educating patrons, enforcing rules, giving assistance, preparing records and reports, and performing additional administrative tasks.

The lifeguards of the not-so-distant past were often superb athletes who had many water-related skills and a love of the water. And they completed rigorous in-water training before getting certified in their trade.

However, a major problem with many of these talented lifeguards was that they simply did not watch the water because they were trained specifically to make rescues, not prevent the need for them. The lifeguards of yesteryear were well trained to respond to emergencies, but too often they didn't expect accidents to happen nor did they consider preventing them.

Today's Lifeguard: A New Breed

Today's lifeguard training, fortunately for us, is much different.

Just recently, a new wave of lifeguarding texts and courses have been developed supporting the premise that lifeguarding is a highly specialized profession. It's true that this profession has evolved from that of rescuer to that of a preventer of accidents.

After reviewing these texts, it becomes evident that the lifeguarding profession actually has been elevated from the area of enforcement to that of education. If lifeguards today are going to reduce accidents and make patron visits more enjoyable, they must be trained, recruited, and trained even further as educators. Just consider the curriculum they must master: Dealing with the Public, Americans with Disabilities, Diverse Cultures, Alcohol Education, First Aid and CPR, AIDS, Hepatitis B, Skin Cancer, Dehydration, and more.

Lifeguards are responsible not only for preventing injuries, enforcing rules and regulations, recognizing emergencies, and administering first aid; they also are expected to impart their knowledge of water safety and their particular facility to the public.

Additionally, a recent survey indicated that lifeguards prefer to be active and interactive on duty rather than passive. …

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