City of Scottsdale Aquatics
Scottsdale, Ariz.
Category: Training

Not many people see lifeguarding as a viable career, which makes retaining quality staff a challenge for many aquatics organizations.

So the Scottsdale Parks and Recreation Aquatics Division developed a program that incentivizes guards to remain onboard by preparing them for a future in aquatics management.

Through the Head Lifeguard Program, select individuals at the city’s year-round aquatics facilities take a nine-week course to learn the ins and outs of aquatics and management.

Taught by the department’s full-time aquatics staff, the program focuses on lifeguarding and management skills, as well as day-to-day operations. Course materials cover scheduling, report writing, water chemistry and program planning.

Students also learn interpersonal skills and customer service. Guest speakers from other city departments also present topics. The course culminates in a written test and mock interviews to prepare participants for future promotional opportunities.

How it works

In addition to regular in-service training, Head Lifeguard students attend a two-hour class once a week. Activities include lectures, discussions, facility tours, water skills, role play and practice scenarios.

For example, in one exercise, students write a mock email response to an upset customer, where they must choose appropriate language and tone and provide correct information. They also must write an incident report for a simulated rescue emergency.

They role-play difficult conversations between supervisors and lifeguards and practice appropriate dialogue and discipline. One class day is devoted to water and CPR skills.

For homework, students present a safety topic during a staff training at their home pool and run an emergency action plan scenario to practice leading other lifeguards and providing feedback.

They shadow their supervisors when conducting swim lesson and scanning evaluations.

For their final project, students interview a city employee outside of Parks and Recreation to gain a better perspective of the city as a whole and how their job fits into the organizational flowchart.

Of those who successfully completed the course, many have gone on to become head lifeguards, assistant pool managers and full-time aquatics employees, says Katie Bitz, recreation coordinator.

“These employees are better equipped than their peers to take on the challenges of their new positions,” she says.

Broadening their reach

A working team annually reviews the curriculum and makes changes as needed.

Recently, the program was revamped to include all levels of part-time aquatics leadership, such as assistant pool managers. In doing this, management hopes to capture those employees who may have missed the head lifeguard or other opportunities but want to continue in management.