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Welcome to the mid-season hump. The excitement of the season opening has ended. Now it’s those same kids acting out, those same parents dropping their children off for aqua-babysitting and the same view from the stand. It’s too soon to think about the season end, but not for playing hooky. You know the drill: sudden family travel plans; college start date changes, unscheduled weddings and a host of other activities that crop up as guards lose interest.

Even those who show up have been working with the same group for some time. They know who usually comes in late or is likely to leave early. Friendships have formed, alliances broken. This is the time morale is most likely to slip.

Why should you care? Low morale can lead to low performance. Lethargic lifeguards have a slower response time. They may be more likely to arrive late, or not show at all, leaving your facility understaffed. Boredom can cause guards to lose interest and even abandon the job entirely.

How do you get your lifeguard team over that mid-season hump?

Build fun into your in-service activities. Focus on maintaining a work environment that is exciting, unpredictable and challenging. In-service time might be at a premium. Plus, there are usually critical issues to cover at the mid-season training point. Mid-season is when performance gaps have been identified based on job performance evaluation.

Unused skills may need refreshing.

Take time for the luxury of fun?

Most certainly! Fun doesn’t take very long. Short, challenging, interactive activities can not only lighten the mid-season hump load, but also reinforce teamwork concepts. Here are two interesting and unique activities specifically designed to create a positive mind shift to help get everyone over that mid-season hump. Most important, these activities are FUN!

Knots

No equipment is needed for this simple and short activity, making it easy to incorporate at the beginning or end of any water in-service session.

Standing in waist-deep water, participants form a circle. Their first task is to form a knot. Once the circle is formed, all participants walk into the center of the circle and extend both arms. Next, each person grasps the hands of someone else. An individual should not grasp hands with the person on either side of him or her. An individual should grasp hands with two other people, giving his or her right hand to one person and left hand to a different individual. Once all participants have grasped hands, a knot has been formed.

Then the group task is to untangle that knot, reforming the original circle (but with different individuals to either side).

In untangling the knot, several rules apply:

  • Hands must remain grasped.
  • Hands cannot be let go and then re-grasped to facilitate untangling.
  • Hands may be temporarily released to adjust swimsuits.

To make Knots more challenging, blindfold all water participants and place an additional person on deck giving untangling directions. This activity also can be performed as a team event by dividing the group into two teams. Each team makes a knot, and on a start signal, race to see which group untangles its knot quickest.

Jammer Catch

For this activity, Spin Jammers are needed. A Spin Jammer is a specially designed Frisbee with a central cone on the concave side. It can be spun while held atop one finger. (Spin Jammers are available from US Games, P.O. Box 7726, Dallas, TX 75209; phone, 800.327.0484; Web site, usgames.com.)

Swimmers are randomly spaced, treading in deep water. A swimmer starts the Jammer spinning on one finger. When the disk is spinning, the swimmer finger-tosses Jammer to another swimmer. The receiving swimmer catches the disk on one finger, keeps it spinning and passes it to another swimmer.

For increased challenge and/or greater participation, there are a variety of variations on the basic toss and catch. This makes using the Jammer an excellent way of enhancing conditioning, as well as teamwork.

Give swimmers their own Jammers and ask them to toss and catch, keeping the Jammers spinning on one finger throughout. Count the number of passes (to self or to another swimmer) made without a drop.

For a group drill, count the number of passes that can be made within the group, without a miss. All swimmers must receive and pass once before any can receive a second time. Specify the number of passes in a set amount of time. Continue partner passes while traveling a width/length of the pool.

Training activities described here are from Grosse, S. (2009). Lifeguard Training Activities and Games. Champaign, Ill.