Tim Bobko

Very early on in my career my supervisor took the day off, something she rarely did. I was responsible for holding down the fort, or the pool, as the case may be. When I arrived at work at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, I noticed the windows in the leisure pool were very foggy. When I entered the pool deck it was very hot and humid, much more so than normal. The head lifeguard approached me in a total panic: “It’s been like this since 5:30 a.m. and it’s getting worse! Should we close down the pool? Call 911? The Health Department?”

The head lifeguard’s hysteria made me very nervous. I knew my supervisor would not like a call on her day off. Calling 911 seemed reactionary. And this was my first year as a full-time aquatics professional; this was my first real test. I should be able to handle this without calling her. I mustered up my most authoritative voice and suggested opening the door to the outside to see if that cleared up the problem. I said I would be in my office and not to worry, it would be just fine.

An hour later the problem had gotten worse. Now the air was horribly thick and was smelling strongly of chemicals. The lifeguard staff was complaining of headaches and patrons were starting to ask questions. Still, I felt this did not warrant a call to my supervisor. I found a few fans and plugged them in on the pool deck, making sure to mark them off with cones. I asked the staff to remain calm and told them that it was probably caused by a change in temperature outside and the fans would blow the air out. I went back to my desk.

Less than 30 minutes later my desk phone rang. It was my supervisor. She demanded to know what was going on in the pool. Apparently the staff had taken it upon themselves to call her and report what was going on. Needless to say, I had a lot of explaining to do.

As it turned out, the storm the night before had shorted the HVAC system in the pool area. After my supervisor called the building maintenance department, who sent someone to reset the air system, the pool was back to normal in under an hour. Luckily no one was hurt, but the mistake could have been a costly one.

Lessons Learned
1 Make the phone call. When you are new to aquatics or any field, it is better to ask the question, or call for help if you aren’t sure. It’s better to have your supervisor find out from you as opposed to finding out from your part-time employees. And my supervisor was more angry that I hadn’t called!

2 Learn from your mistakes. It sounds simple enough, but it’s hard to swallow your pride and admit you don’t know for fear of looking unqualified for the job. But take it from someone who has been in the field for a very long time: It takes a stronger person to realize and admit their shortcomings. Plus, you’ll be more knowledgeable in the end.

3 Listen to your employees. If an employee has noticed something getting worse or out of sorts, it probably is. Employees spend more quality time on the pool deck by virtue of their job description. If they verbalize something is off, it probably is.