Tim Bobko

It was a weekday afternoon when the intercom came on. “Kathy, there’s a guy down here in the main pool swimming in a sweat suit. He’s refusing to take it off. We have all spoken to him. He wants to see you.”

I made my way downstairs to the main pool and, sure enough, there he was swimming in lane 2 in a bright red cotton sweat suit. When I got to the pool’s edge, he refused to look up, so I had to take a guard tube and submerge it into his lane to get him to acknowledge me.

“Hi, I’m Kathy Fisher, the aquatic director. I understand the staff has informed you that only swim suits are allowed in the pool?”

“Yes, they have,” he responded.

“So you understand that I have to ask you to remove your sweat suit if you wish to continue doing your laps?”

“I’m not removing my sweats until you produce the rule in writing.” And he swam away.

Now, here’s the problem with that: We couldn’t possibly post every rule we’ve had to implement over the years. We post our top 10 rules, along with the quote “Decision of the Lifeguard is Final.”

This means when it comes to safety, it really doesn’t matter if we happen to have the rule in writing. Any situation that poses a safety hazard to the participant or to others is not only our job, it is our duty to act upon it immediately. As aquatics professionals, we all know that it’s not unusual to have to implement a new rule every day!

In this instance, the member clearly was not a strong swimmer to begin with. It would only be a matter of time before he was unable to maintain the additional weight and drag of a soaked cotton sweat suit. In addition, if a guard did have to make a rescue, it would hamper the rescue process.

Luckily, our management culture is one that recognizes the importance of organizational skills. If we take the time to make a rule, you can bet it’s in writing somewhere. Having just spent several days reviewing a different component of our handbook, I confidently went to retrieve a copy of our policy handbook. We refer to this handbook as a “living document.” We continually review and update it as necessary. Times change, people change and rules change. I was able to easily go to the table of contents and pull out the page that states:

“ONLY BATHING SUITS and aquatic apparel allowed in pool, hot tub and steam room.”

I produced the rule in writing as requested, and the problem was easily rectified. He also went home that day with his own copy of our Pool Rules trifold.