photo by Sheila Kieser
photo by Sheila Kieser

Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District Aquatics Program

Round Rock, Texas

The Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District Aquatics Program in Round Rock, Texas, chose a personal touch as a key strategy to success. The organization reports a 100% success rate for its lifeguard and water safety instructor training, largely due to its approach of guiding each new lifeguard every step of the way.

“New student lifeguards are ... guided along the way by expert mentors from day one,” said Aquatics Supervisor Sheila Kieser.

Leaders meet one-on-one with lifeguards before they're even hired to assess a trainee's skill level and needs so they can be matched with a well-suited mentor. "I emphasize accountability and responsibility right from the start," Kieser says. "So mentors and mentees aren’t required to hold a set number of meetings. They can meet as often as they like and can determine what works best for their situation.”

To prepare team leaders for their role as mentors, Kieser implemented Head Lifeguard Bootcamp this year. They had held training sessions and created manuals for the facility’s processes, but this year they pulled together all the information and drills into one single event. Head Lifeguard Bootcamp brought the facility’s head guards together to refine their skills, encourage teamwork and get everyone in the mindset for a successful season.

“Some of our lifeguards work only mornings, others only evenings, so holding a full-day bootcamp gives them the opportunity to come together,” Kieser says. “They review the American Red Cross training manual, set goals for the summer, and review what is expected of them as leaders at this facility, of course, but with an added element of a competitive relay.”

Lifeguards are assigned partners and compete against other pairs in a variety of challenges: pump room drills, customer service scenarios, a missing child emergency action plan, and a submerged victim EAP. They then walk the park with their partner and wrap up the day by joining hands and jumping in the water. Head Lifeguard Bootcamp also gives team leaders the opportunity to work on their mentorship skills and prepare to set a good example of work ethic and teamwork.

“With the addition of Head Lifeguard Bootcamp, Brushy Creek MUD’s leadership team dove into summer as a team that communicated well and felt confident in accomplishing the tasks at hand,” Kieser says.

Before the training, Kieser had noticed the staff was prone to argument, critical of one another, and had low morale. Seeing the potential to form an incredible team, she worked with all members to agree upon social expectations.

“Team relationships, like in any medical emergency, are crucial to building trust and camaraderie,” she says. “We discovered that when you set the expectation of teamwork, respect and grace ... team members envelop it. By reviewing and agreeing to social expectations, we were able to squash disagreements, decrease punctuality issues, and create an environment that the team described as a family. This keeps us and our community safe.”