Lifeguards, for the most part, sit or stand in the same
place for prolonged periods of time, viewing the same view,
having little or no conversation and limited mental
stimuli. Then a sudden, immediate, physically demanding,
mentally focused, rapid- action response is required. To
initiate and sustain appropriate response patterns,
lifeguards must overcome inertia, remember rescue
sequences, engage optimum neuromuscular functioning and
maintain psychological stability — all while
operating in crisis mode.
We can train lifeguards how to sit and what to look for.
We know how to train them in rescue techniques. But how do
we train guards for making that transition between quiet,
contemplative sitting and high-level physical, mental and
Scenario training, as one method of bridging from
individual skill training to actual rescue response, is
well-known in lifeguard training programs. Scenarios are
excellent training techniques, but they’re often
predictable. Factors are controlled, and participants can
stop and ask questions, rest when tired and repeat as
needed. To be totally effective, response training
activities also must contain components that are:
- Unpredictable — a situation that guards
never thought could happen on their watch.
- Unending — an engagement demanding guards
to continue high-level functioning beyond normal
- Unanticipated — a circumstance requiring
variance in technique to meet situational details.
- Unpleasant — a condition or situation that
creates a withdraw, rather than approach,
Additionally, response training should, as closely as
possible, simulate all of the conditions a lifeguard might
face during a rescue. Transitioning from stillness to
action is one of those inherent conditions, as are
unpredictable situations, unending engagement,
unanticipated circumstances and unpleasant conditions.
Train for quick action by making these factors a part of
your in-service training.
Here are two sample activities designed to enhance quick
action response. In Speed Shuttle, participants must
sustain high-level physical response over a prolonged
period of time while performing jump, swim and climb out
— all basic rescue skills (Unending). Continuing
this drill also simulates making repeated rescues in a
short period of time (Unpredictable).
In the No Space activity, lifeguards must perform a
rescue skill in a very close environment where positioning
and comfort during skill execution may not be what they
have experienced in training (Unanticipated).
Maintaining the rescue skill while in an uncomfortable
position, possible in spite of body cramping and/or
bruising, could make participants want to end the activity
more quickly than appropriate (Unpleasant).
Swimmers line up on deck along the deep-end side of the
pool, facing the opposite deep-end side (do not swim toward
the shallow end). After a two-count start, swimmers
stride/jump into the water, approach stroke to the opposite
side, climb out of the pool, and assume a ready position
for another stride/jump.
While swimmers swim, the start leader very loudly counts
five counts. Swimmers must complete the swim and be ready
to jump again in five seconds (time may be adjusted for
larger pools). After the five-second count, the leader
again, without waiting for participants to be ready, gives
a two-count start and swimmers jump and return to their
starting points, again swimming in five seconds, climbing
out and assuming a ready position.
This cycle then repeats. Each time swimmers make it in
five seconds and are ready to jump, they receive one point.
If swimmers are not ready to jump, no point is given and
they must wait on deck at the side where they last climbed
out, until the line of swimmers returns to their side of
the pool. Then they re-enter the game.
Remember, swimmers should not be jumping from both sides
of the pool at the same time. As swimmers tire, they will
miss a round or two. That’s all right. They should
get back into the game as soon as the line comes to their
side of the pool. It’s total points that
For variation, specify the particular stroke used. Add
an additional skill or stunt to the swim pattern. For
example, jump, swim to the second line, feet-first surface
dive and touch bottom, surface, continue to swim, climb
out. Of course, if an additional challenge is added,
counted time must be adjusted. Perform the Speed Shuttle
with rescue tubes. Do the Speed Shuttle wearing
For this activity, you’ll need one CPR manikin
for each participant as well as different types of
furniture, such as a small table, bench, chairs, desks and
the like. No Space is a rescue simulation that takes place
where there is, literally, no space and no practice floor
The CPR manikin is placed in a confined location. This
might be under a table, between a chair and the wall, or
surrounded by furniture. Then enact a scenario involving
the participant responding to that manikin/victim in that
specific confined location.
Examples might include someone who:
- Collapses in the pool office.
- Chokes while eating at a poolside picnic
- Passes out while dressing in the locker room and/or
- Falls while going out to his or her car.
For variation, change the number of by-standers
available to assist so that sometimes it will be possible
to move furniture out of the way and other times it will
not. Vary size of the manikin — adult, child and
infant. Vary the equipment available to the participant.
For example, lifeguards leaving work and finding someone
collapsed and unconscious on the parking lot may not have
their fanny pack with personal protective equipment. How
would they improvise?