As many operators quickly learn, in-service training sessions can be difficult. Sometimes the staff is not paying attention or is not too thrilled to be there. The best way to fight this attitude, I’ve found, is with fun and games. I know in-service training time is meant to be about practicing and perfecting the skills necessary to save lives. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

That’s where the Lifeguard Olympics comes in. If you haven’t heard of it, this competition pits lifeguard teams against each other to see who can perform the skills most correctly and quickly.

After learning about this competition, the lifeguard trainer and I decided to come up with an Olympics of our own.

Almost any rescue skill is something you can put into a scenario or challenge for this competition. Look at your facility and choose the skills that are necessary for the rescues, then incorporate them into the Olympics. Here are some of the skills and scenarios that we decided to incorporate.

  • 4x4 Relay Race

This relay race is made up of four different activities inside the waterpark. It starts off with the first person in the race at the top of the wave pool, performing a run and swim entry. At the back of the wave pool is a passive drowning victim whom contestants must reach. Once there, they must perform the appropriate rescue skills and bring them back to the zero-depth-entry point.
From that spot, the next racer heads into the wave pool and into the river. This person must go upstream to the next person. This leg serves two purposes: First is conditioning; second is teaching guards to head upstream for victims when necessary.

Once the second lifeguard has made it to the third, they do a slide climb. This is a good skill to practice for any facility with water slides. If victims get stuck in the slide, guards must climb up the slide to reach them. (Depending on how steep your slides are, it would be a good idea to send a rope halfway down the slide for the staff to use to help the rest of the way up.)

The final person in the relay starts at the water slide and must swim with the current of the river into the wave pool and end at the zero-depth-entry point.

  • Back-Boarding Scenario

This scenario starts out with a spinal injury at the back of the wave pool. Rescuers must perform the appropriate entry into the wave pool and head into the appropriate rescue skill. From there, they bring the victim to the zero-depth entry of the wave pool.
They must then back-board victims and remove them from the water. Once the victim is out of the water, we immediately go into the primary survey.

From there, we run through unconscious victim lifesaving skills. When doing the lifesaving skills, make sure you lead from one situation into the next. For example, start out with the victim choking and move into CPR. Then bring in the AED and practice those skills.

  • 4x4 River Race

This race covers a passive drowning victim rescue. Everyone starts at the same point and heads to the passive victim. From there, they perform the appropriate rescue. They must finish by going all the way around the river to the starting point, with the current, for the next lifeguard to start.
Those are three basic scenarios we’ve incorporated into our Lifeguard Olympics. As you will notice, we have included skills and rescues that are necessary for our type of facility. We split our Lifeguard Olympics into a two-day event. You can create an Olympics that fits with your own facility.

But regardless of the shape your Olympics takes, I’d recommend our final competition. At the end of each event, the winning team gets to compete against the supervisors and manager. For our facility, we choose teams of four because we have two supervisors, one lifeguard trainer and one manager. This competition is something I find really important to do with the staff. As a manager, it allows me to show my staff that I’m still capable of performing the skills required of guards. That’s why I participate in the in-service even though I have a lifeguard instructor.

I always go by the motto “Teamwork builds confidence.” Remember, the manager is part of the team and needs to participate in all activities required of the lifeguards. Showing the staff that you’re still capable of performing rescue skills goes a long way toward building a good relationship and team.