As the end of summer approached, the prospect of filling
the indoor pool weekday lifeguard shifts from 5 a.m until 4 p.m.
loomed like a harbinger of doom.
Those weekday daytime hours seemed impossible to fill. I needed
competent, smiling and reliable lifeguards, but after exhaustive
advertising and recruiting efforts, I had no good prospects.
My solution was to run a lifeguarding class at the beginning of
September. Rather than holding it on weekends, I would schedule the
class for weekdays, 8 a.m. to noon, for two weeks. This, in
essence, gave me a 40-hour interview to select the best recruits.
More importantly, it gave me the opportunity to train those guards
my way, and include the little intricacies germane to my
My thinking was, if they can show up to the course for two weeks,
they’ll be able to guard during those hours — and I was
going to train them like I’d never trained any other group of
guards. Needless to say, I had my own expectations for profiles of
the prospective guards I would be teaching. Stay-at-home parents,
and youngish retirees came to mind.
When the first day of the course arrived and I surveyed my charges,
I was surprised to see all teenagers. This puzzled me. Why
weren’t they in school? So after an initial pause, I had the
prospective guards tell me about themselves and why they wanted to
be lifeguards. I found that two of them were recent high school
graduates who were not going on to college and had no desire to
flip burgers. Bingo! Two kids who could help fill my daytime
guarding wasteland. The other three really surprised me: They were
all home-schooled kids, and the guarding class could do double duty
for them by filling required physical education credits. Double
jackpot! Three kids with totally flexible school
These kids were all motivated. They all wanted jobs. They all
wanted to impress me, and they worked their butts off to do
it. With a little extra time built into the course, I was not
only able to meet and exceed the Red Cross lifeguarding course objectives, but I
also began to give them practical training in the way my facility
operated. They learned to check chemicals, perform secondary
cleaning duties and role-play how to handle difficult customers. We
even had a quick session on how to clock in and out when coming to
This turned out to be the best experience I have ever had as an
instructor. These kids wanted jobs and would have tried to rescue a
rhinoceros if I could have found one and coaxed it into the
I was so impressed, I ended up hiring all five of my guarding
students, and they performed well for years to come. A couple of
them went on to work up 20 to 30 guarding hours a week. Others
worked a couple of shifts per week, but they all did very well.
As the new guards worked into the schedule, I began to notice
something very special about the home-schooled kids. Whenever I
came on deck during a home-schooled guard shift I saw that the pool
deck was immaculate. The chemical checks had been done, and they
scanned diligently and continuously. Not to mention that as a
whole, they were the most courteous, respectful and responsible
group of teens I have ever worked with.