Lifeguards come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Once they’re part of your guard group, they may form new relationships, date each other, break up and make up. Group dynamics may vary from camaraderie to open hostility. Yet no
matter what the casual dynamics, once the emergency action plan is
activated, all members of the lifeguard team must function
together. The ability to put aside any personal feelings and work
as members of a highly functioning team is not guaranteed with
lifeguard certification. Group bonding, like any other lifeguard
trait, must be developed.
Effective group bonding means:
• Sharing a physical task, with each member of the group
performing at his or her highest level.
• Providing advice and coaching to other team members to
assist each to reach maximum performance.
• Accepting advice and coaching from other team members to
facilitate the group effort and improve personal knowledge and
• Joining in constructive evaluation of group efforts so
any needed improvement can be made without playing the blame
• Respecting and cooperating with all individuals on the
team, regardless of personal opinions not related to job
To reach a state of bonding, members of any group need to
participate in common tasks. Sharing of challenging experiences
provides common ground from which cooperation and respect
With all the other knowledge and skills you must include in
in-service training, how do you find time for group bonding
activities? Build group bonding into activities involving practice
of rescue skills and application of rescue knowledge. Following are
Four-Man Tube Relay
Divide the group into teams of four participants each. One
rescue tube is needed for each team. Distribute the teams in single
file lines, one team to each lane of the pool. Team members should
be evenly spaced the entire length of the lane.
On a given signal, the last one in each line (Person 1) puts on
the tube strap, straddles the rescue tube and arm-paddles forward
to the next person in line. Person 2 then joins Person l,
straddling the tube, and both paddle forward to the third person.
Person 3 then joins the first two straddling the tube.
The group of three paddles forward to the final team member.
Person 4 joins the other three straddling the tube, and all four
team members turn around and paddle back to the start
Not only does this activity prove that a rescue tube will
support multiple victims, but it also encourages teamwork while
developing fitness. Team members must work together in stroking to
complete the task. Body positioning with close proximity means
taking care not to kick others. Maximum effort contributes to
performance speed. This activity can be performed as a race or a
team accomplishment activity.
To increase the difficulty level, as well as reliance on other
team members, the first three individuals in each line are
blindfolded. Person 4 must give verbal directions to guide the team
throughout the activity. This adds the teamwork factor of
having to listen and follow the directions of another person to
complete the group challenge.
Relays such as the Four-Man Tube Relay are group events that
involve each individual in performing a task so that the group can
complete its challenge. The smaller the individual group or relay
team, the more activity each individual member will have. The
larger the group or relay team, the longer each person will need to
wait for his or her turn, but the more group effort will determine
While a relay can be performed in any depth of water, treading
water during a relay increases the physical demands and helps
improve physical fitness. Typical relay events include:
• Passing objects.
• Carrying objects or towing a victim.
• Traversing a distance.
• Performing a task.
Formations and activities
Typical formations and sample activities include:
• Single line. Pass a brick down a line
of people and back to the start. Make participants keep the brick
above the water to increase difficulty.
• Single line with a change of position.
Pass a brick down a line of people and, when the brick is in the
hands of the last person in line, that person swim-carries the
brick to the head of the line and begins the pass again.
• Single line with traverse of a
distance. A swimmer starts at the head of the line, swims
to a predetermined point, touches the mark, and swims back to tag
the next person in line. As the next person begins to swim, the
first swimmer joins the end of the line.
• Double line shuttle. The relay team is
divided in half, with each half in a single-file line, ends apart
from each other. The first person at the head of one line begins by
swimming across to the first person in the opposite line. Once
there, he or she passes an object or tags that individual, who now
goes across to where the first swimmer started. The first swimmer
goes to the rear of the line that he or she just joined. The second
swimmer passes or tags the person he or she meets at the head of
the line upon arrival. In effect, when each person has had one
turn, the two lines will have exchanged places.
The relay can be doubled by allowing each person a second turn.
This will return the lines to their original configurations.
• Pursuit. Relay team members are
stationed equidistant around the swim area. The last swimmer in
line begins the swim carrying/towing an object or victim.
This swimmer swims to the participant ahead of him or her, and
passes the object to that swimmer. As soon as the second
swimmer has the object in hand he or she swims to the third
swimmer, and passes the object. This continues until the last
person to receive the object swims it back to the start.
Many lifeguarding activities and games can be done as relays.
This is particularly useful with large groups. Relays are good for
developing team spirit because team records can be kept, with
frequent team challenges used to stimulate changing the team
rankings. Mixing team membership will set up situations when
different groups of individuals must work together, regardless of
Training activities described here are from Grosse, S. (2009).
Lifeguard Training Activities and Games. Champaign, IL