It’s the start of the season. Your guards are ready to go!  Skills are sharp. Attitude is upbeat.

Competency is clearly evident. Fast forward to past mid-season: Anything less than great weather has become a real drag. Patrons are familiar and everyone knows who the “problem” people are.

Mental focus has shifted to moving on after work and/or after the post-season. Your staff is drifting, literally, in a sea of apathy and boredom. What can you do to regain that opening season edge — that high level mental mind-set? Challenge your guards to perform critical skills in new and unique ways.

How do you turn a well-known skill into something new and exciting? Change the performance circumstances. Insert unknown factors. Eliminate the “it can never happen here” mind-set, and think outside the box. Design rescue scenarios that are unusual, creative and thought-provoking. Make your staff training mentally and physically challenging. Give it an “edge.”

Here are two examples of how to put an edge on your in-service training:

The first activity, CPR By Touch, involves changing the sensory input the guard receives during skill performance. Everyone is used to being able to use all of his or her senses when assessing a situation, or performing a skill. Take away one of those senses and the responding guard must put additional reliance onto other factors. That guard must think and respond in new ways, regaining that focus edge. In CPR By Touch, the lifeguard must function without sight to perform the resuscitation. This will force him to have a heightened awareness of touch and hearing, improving focus on correct performance of the skill.

The second activity involves changing the environment where skills will be performed. In No Space, a less than ideal environment is simulated. Space is more limited. Objects are in the way. Some objects will be movable, while others may be permanent, necessitating different positioning of the responding lifeguard. This will force the guard to use a different organizational plan in applying skills, while still accomplishing the rescue task. Flexibility, not only in physical actions but also in mental processing, will sharpen that focus edge.

CPR By Touch

For this activity, a blindfold and a CPR manikin are needed for each rescuer. Begin by blindfolding each participant rescuer. Guide each rescuer participant to his or her manikin. Be sure rescuer/mani pairs are far enough apart so they cannot touch each other. Begin as if it were a regular CPR practice. However, rescuers must perform all skills while blindfolded.

Following performance of skills, have the guards remove their blindfolds and discuss how their focus and concentration were affected by not having sight. On what did the blindfolded rescuers have to concentrate on more deeply? Look for specific aspects of the skill that might need practice reinforcement.

For variation, use paint-smeared goggles instead of blindfolds. This will distort vision rather than occlude it. Perform two person CPR, including changing places, instead of solo. Don’t forget, change of sensory input also can be part of water rescue practice. Having a guard blindfolded during a water rescue will sharpen auditory focus, as well as motor planning. If using blindfolds for water work, be sure to have a safety spotter on deck to alert rescue swimmers to any collision hazards.

No Space

This activity requires one CPR manikin for each participant, as well as different types of furniture, such as a small table, large cafeteria table, chairs, desks and the like.

Participants simulate the rescue of a victim who collapses in an unusually small space. The CPR manikin is placed in a confined location. This might be under a cafeteria table, between a chair and the wall, or surrounded by office furniture. Then enact a scenario involving the participant responding to that manikin/victim in that specific confined spot.

Examples might include someone who:

  •  Collapses in the pool office
  •  Chokes while eating at a poolside picnic table
  •  Falls and slides under a diving platform or springboard stand
  •  Collapses and lands in shrubbery
  •  Collapses while dressing in the locker room and/or lavatory.
  •  Falls while going out to his or her car.

Following performance of the rescue, discuss how the rescue techniques had to be modified in light of the space available. Be sure to differentiate between technique modifications that were appropriate to the confined space and modifications that would have further endangered the victim because the modification compromised appropriate rescue technique standards.

Variations might include changing the number of bystanders available to assist so that sometimes it will be possible to move furniture out of the way and other times it will not. Vary the size of the manikin — adult, child and infant.

Vary the equipment available to the participant. For example, a lifeguard leaving work and finding someone collapsed and unconscious on the parking lot may not have his or her fanny pack with personal protective equipment. How would he or she improvise?

Vary the type of accident scenario. Rather than a CPR rescue, provide a scenario for a spinal injury or a severe bleeding accident. 

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