Now that the 2016 summer season has come and gone, we’d like to take a moment and discuss the often-invisible heroes that give us the ability to have fun in the deep end on a hot Texas day without worrying about the unforeseen accidents that could happen outside of our control. Inspired by our last trip to the community pool in our neighborhood, we’d like to take a moment and discuss why public swimming pool lifeguards and life-guarding in general deserves praise and recognition.
Lifeguards: You Don’t Need Them (Until You Do)
One of the lasting images of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio involved a lifeguard appearing bored, hands on face with elbows resting on his large rescue buoy. Dubbed “the most useless lifeguard in history”, a Brazilian lifeguard went viral in early August when the image circulated of him appearing unenthused as Michael Phelps prepared for a race. Knowing that the odds of having to save the most decorated Olympian in history at his own specialty were slim, the lifeguard was caught in a brief moment of being unaware of his surroundings. What wasn’t covered? There were 7 other lifeguards assigned to swimming events, not including another 68 lifeguards standing watch for other aquatic events during the Games. And those 75 don’t even include the added water patrols for the triathlon, sailing, and marathon swimming!
Should Skilled Olympic Athletes Need Lifeguards? Absolutely.
At first glance, being an Olympian doesn’t guarantee inherent safety – images of Greg Louganis striking his head on the diving board during the 1988 Games in Seoul come to mind – and when unforgiving elements such as deep water, altitude, and other competitors are factored in, safety is an important factor in ensuring the welfare of those in the water.
Take water polo – the rugged physicality of the event can often lead to injuries when multiple swimmers get entangled while going after the ball, often leading to muscle and bodily harm. Surprisingly, another event that can lead to severe cramps and concussions is synchronized swimming. The coordinated movement between numerous teammates can often become a disaster waiting to happen should one or more people lose their placing in the movements, and when worst fears are realized, it is up to the on-site lifeguards to identify, rescue, and resuscitate a fallen swimmer.
Being a Lifeguard Means Being Prepared
According to US Department of Labor statistics, the average wage for a lifeguard in the United States was about $9.85/hr. For a kid looking for a summertime job, this is an excellent wage and a perfect way to make new friends, get some pool time in, and maybe get a nice tan in the process. But the work isn’t all fun and games – to become certified, many states require:
- 300 yard swim qualification PLUS a deep-end dive test involving weight retrieval
- CPR, AED (Automated External Defibrillator), and emergency oxygen administration
- Extensive studying and mastery of techniques involving water entry, back-boarding, and identifying issues during pool hours
Added to those, the pressure of knowing that lives are dependent on their actions can be a burden that those dedicated to ensuring a safe environment may find overwhelming. Pool safety – from keeping the water clean and safe for humans to rescue and preventive actions – is paramount, and while the pay may seem small when you look at the risks, the positions are eagerly filled by many around the world. For some, the work experience and paycheck are ideal. For others, the call to serve in any way to make life better for pleasure-seekers is an attractive and desirable role. Without these public servants, countless lives would be lost every year due to accidents and unforeseen circumstances that could have been easily addressed and resolved.
Thank Your Lifeguard Today!
Platinum Pools agrees that lifeguards are an important part of making sure that public pool safety is never overlooked, and we would like to give thanks to those who serve and have served recreational and competitive aquatic enthusiasts in their lifetimes. Next summer, when you see a local lifeguard manning the lifeguard chair, stop and give thanks for their work and extensive knowledge of pool safety. And if the guard appears to be lazy or not paying attention, by giving the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you can be the reason a young summer employee understands what’s at stake and realizes that the safety of their domain (the pool) is up to their actions and awareness.