Overland Park (Kan.) Parks & Recreation Department | Overland Park, Kan.
Overland Park (Kan.) Parks & Recreation Dept. Overland Park (Kan.) Parks & Recreation Department | Overland Park, Kan.

Goals and challenges

In Overland Park, located in the Kansas City metro area, the challenge of managing lifeguards is a big one.

The city employs more than 300 seasonal pool personnel, 200 of which are lifeguards, across six outdoor pools. The challenge isn’t just overseeing that many lifeguards, but also ensuring that they want to come back and work for the aquatics facilities in following years.

With that in mind, the aquatics department sought to create programs that brought staff together, encouraging and supporting them throughout the season. When employees want to come back and recruit others, it makes life and the job easier and more familial.

How they did it

Only in its second year, Overland Park’s motivational program includes a theme for each season. For 2015 the theme was “World Series” in honor of the 2014 Kansas City Royals making the championship series for the first time since 1985.

The thematic program lasted 10 weeks, ending in July so that college-age kids could fully participate before returning to school in August. Staff members for each of the seven pools — six outdoor and one indoor — competed against each other to win prizes based on each week’s contest.

The concept is to create an environment where staff members are encouraged to have fun with their jobs and each other, while avoiding end-of-season burnout.

Every week prizes are given to the pool staff that scores the most points. Rewards have included drinks from the fast food restaurant Sonic and pizza parties. Free food turned out to be a strong incentive for many employees.

Individuals could win prizes in events such as the Week 2 “Workout Warrior” contest. During that competition, swimmers with the most laps were awarded Splash Cash, an internal currency that they could redeem for cash on their paychecks.

Spirit Week turned out to be an especially popular week.

Themes included:

  • Royals Day, in which staff members wore Kansas City Royals branded attire
  • Crazy Hat Day
  • Hawaiian Day
  • Customer Appreciation Day, for which contests were created for patrons
  • Throwback Thursday
  • Tie-Dye Day
  • America Day

One of the highlights is Week 10, when two events occur. First is “Culinary Week,” where each pool staff creates a dish that is judged by the aquatics supervisor and the lifeguard managers, who then serve lunch to the winners.
Next is the Water Polo tournament, which takes place after hours and closes out the season. A bracket is made and even the supervisor and management play on a team. Pool staffs that win games get points added to their World Series Total Points from the previous nine weeks.

The pool staff with the highest overall score receives prizes and a trophy at the end of the summer. This year, the winning supervisor and head lifeguards won beach towels.

Lifeguards and staff members are very involved in the theme and competitions. Before next year’s season, guards will meet and vote on a new theme.


  • Cheesecake Day, where lifeguards are served free cheesecake by supervisors, is, by far, the most popular among many events in the staff motivational program.
  • During Scavenger Hunt Week, teams of lifeguards completed a pictorial scavenger hunt; one group treated the challenge as though they were on safari (shown in image above).