Lifeguarding teaches a number of useful skills to an impressionable teenager, but for Farhad Madani,it taught him an even bigger skill: English. And with 25 years of experience under his belt, Madani has learned a lot more than just English from his aquatics career.
“Part of the lifeguarding job is communication, and believe it or not, you get forced to communicate,” says Madani, who moved to Austin, Texas, from Tehran, Iran, with his family when he was 14 years old. Being a lifeguard was his first step into the aquatics industry.
But he’s come a long way from those days of barking, “No running!” and “No diving!” Today, 42-year-old Madani is the acting assistant director for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and president-elect for the Aquatic Branch of the National Recreation and Park Association.
Madani’s involvement with NRPA began in 1997 at a conference in Austin. Since then, he has served on the Board for the Aquatic Branch, as National Aquatic Conference Educational Chair and as a speaker in several capacities. He is also involved with the Texas Public Pool Council Conference and the California Aquatic Management School. As president-elect, he plans to work on the branch’s bylaws to make them more consistent with the NRPA governing body.
At work, he focuses on risk management. He enforces several systems of checks and balances with his facilities, beginning with a swimming test for the lifeguards. “We’re not just accepting [applicants] because they have a certified card,” he says. “We check them to make sure they have the skills.”
He also always holds managers accountable because their employees are young adults between the ages of 16 to 22. At the same time, he insists that managers act as role models. “You need to create discipline. This is the first job they’ve ever gotten.”
Madani says the missing piece in the aquatics industry is the accessibility to the latest lifesaving technology, such as automated external defibrillators (AEDs). “The cost is high,” he says. Even with prices dropping on some equipment, the cost still runs up for people in his position who have about 50 facilities to manage. He hopes things might change. “If we’re all here for one reason, which is to save lives, then we should provide this equipment at more reasonable prices.”
In the meantime, he relies on his lifeguards to do a job as good as high-tech equipment.