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    Some of the variation exercises require lifeguards to quickly glove up even if “blindfolded” by a team mate.

As we move closer to summer, it’s time to energize the winter staff and get them working as a well-oiled lifeguarding machine. There are several dry-land skills that every lifeguard should be proficient at before transitioning into the water. This article focuses on important dry-land skills.

We’ve all seen it: A lifeguard stops providing care to put their gloves on. They take their time, making sure each finger fits just right while precious seconds tick away. Remind your lifeguards that the goal is not to be slow and methodical; the goal is to be quick, safe and professional. Achieving these goals takes practice. Even though gloving up is a simple task, it is fiendishly hard when it is a timed activity.


Start with all lifeguards lined up, holding their gloves. Have several boxes of gloves available. Objective: Each lifeguard must get their gloves on, with hands in the air. Timing goal: 10 to 15 seconds to complete the objective.

Go through the drill until all guards have passed within the allotted time. Then repeat the drill one more time. This is to verify that team progression is occurring. Then reduce the allotted time to 10 seconds. If gloves become compromised (too much sweating or tearing), get another set. Gloves are not expensive and should be used.

Your staff will quickly realize that snug gloves don’t allow for the quickest response. Provide large and extra-large gloves for this drill.

Taking gloves off and prepping to repeat the drill should take about 10 to 15 seconds; rapid repetition is the key to this drill. Watch that guards properly remove their gloves so that skill is reinforced.

Emphasize that this is training, and in training you’re allowed to make mistakes. That’s why we train, so that in real incidents we are less likely to make mistakes. 

Lifeguards should be proficient with gloving up in 10 seconds before moving to the variations.

Gloving Up Progression Variations

> Add fanny packs with gloves stored inside. Fanny packs should be worn in the correct position as if one were lifeguarding.(Complete within 15 seconds.)

> Glove up progression in the water with wet gloves (20 seconds, then reduce to 15 seconds)

The following variations will be done in pairs. One lifeguard covers the eyes of the lifeguard doing the drill. Drills will thus be done blindfolded:

> Glove up (15 seconds)

> Use fanny pack and glove up (20 seconds)

> Glove up in the water (20 seconds)

> Use fanny pack and glove up in the water (20 seconds)

Before moving on to the next drill, review the following skills:

> Carotid Pulse Check (pulse check is done on the same side as the rescuer)

> Rescuer Position to the victim, lateral and cephalic (important for pocket mask use)

> Head-Tilt/Chin-Lift and Jaw-Thrust with head extension

Three to five minutes should be spent on this review, at most, because there will be the opportunity to utilize these skills in the next drill.


Position each manikin to allow a lifeguard team to work effectively together around it. Teams should consist of two to four lifeguards (similar to staffing levels during lap swim, recreation swim or swim lessons). Fanny packs should be worn in the correct position and stocked with gloves and a pocket mask. NOTE: This drill assumes the victim is dry and found on land.

Objective: Complete the following skills:

> All lifeguards with gloves on

> Check for responsiveness

> Activate EMS

> Look, listen and feel for breathing with a pulse check for 10 seconds

Timing goal: 20 seconds to complete the objective.

Lifeguard teams should start at the same time, 10 to 20 feet away from the manikins. Once all the teams have accomplished the objective within 20 seconds, add two more skills to the progression objective:

> Pocket mask assembled with one-way valve and ready to use

> Rescuers in position to provide care: rescue breathing

The timing goal remains 20 seconds. Once all the teams have accomplished the objective, have lifeguards rotate positions and repeat. Only rotate when all teams have met the objective at the same time. After all lifeguards have played all roles, move into the variations.

Primary Assessment Progression Variations

> Rescuers in position to provide additional care: rescue breathing and CPR (complete in 20 seconds)

> Rescuers in position to provide additional care: rescue breathing with BVM use (25 seconds)

> Rescuers in position to provide additional care: CPR with BVM use (25 seconds)

> Staggered arrival of the lifeguard team: Primary lifeguard arrives; 5 seconds later secondary lifeguards arrive (20 seconds)

> Staggered arrival of the lifeguard team: Primary lifeguard arrives; secondary lifeguards arrive after EMS has been activated. Secondary lifeguard simulates what they’d say to 9-1-1. (20 seconds)

> Repeat initial drill and reduce timing goal to 15 seconds

Important note: Count out loud for all of the drills to establish the cadence and speed that the individual/team needs to work. Verbal counting allows you to change the tempo, make adjustments as needed, and enhances your presence with the staff. Speed up your cadence as you near the end of a drill to build urgency; slow it down if the staff experiences unanticipated difficulties.

The most important goal for all drills is to meet the objective. People have their own way of putting on gloves or stocking their fanny packs.

Remember, being too technical kills creativity, flexibility, adaptability, leadership and teamwork,  all of which are traits that will be needed during an aquatic incident.