As recreation supervisor I, overseeing aquatics for the Cosumnes Community Services District Parks & Recreation Department in Elk Grove, Calif., Tom Hellmann strives to educate his lifeguards and instill a sense of confidence and professionalism. He is doing much the same thing on a broader level, as the California Park & Recreation Society Aquatic Section president.

“If you don’t get continuing, ongoing education, you’re going to find that you’re quickly behind the curve,” Hellmann says. “It only takes one person who doesn’t have a successful summer, and the entire industry is put under a microscope.”

Hellmann, 35, started swimming competitively at age 6, and later became a lifeguard. Since then, he has held a number of pool management and coaching positions in Northern California.

“I think my experience as a coach prepared me for the transition to mentor,” says Hellmann, who holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation from California State University, Sacramento. “I try to show the staff how lifeguarding skills can transition [into skills for other jobs].”

It was actually an early mentor of Hellmann’s who showed him that he could make a career in aquatics. Hellmann has been involved in CPRS for more than five years and as president within aquatics, one of his missions is to provide education opportunities to professionals who may not be able to afford them. In 2011, he helped coordinate the award of six CPRS scholarships to attend the California Aquatic Management School and six to attend the CPRS State Conference.

Informing aquatics professionals on various industry issues is another responsibility that Hellmann is focused on. He is a regular speaker at industry events, including the Association of Aquatic Professionals’ inaugural conference this month.

For his efforts, last year Hellmann was awarded the CPRS District II J.R. Needy Professional Award, presented annually to a professional who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of Parks and Recreation.