Training of any kind can be referred to as a necessary evil. Most individuals would love to be proficient at a sport — or any other skill, for that matter — without the hours of training that are required to excel.
Lifeguard in-service training is no different.
While many lifeguards bemoan the fact that they must attend in-service training, I doubt there are many who would question the necessity of it.
The key to how successful your training is depends on the overall tone of the delivery and the structure of the training itself.
At the facilities in Ohio, there are two major seasons. The first is the summer season, Labor Day to Memorial Day. During this time we employ up to 150 aquatics staff members. The second is Memorial Day through Labor Day, employing approximately 40 during the colder months, when the pools are closed. It makes sense in our situation, which I know many share, to have major recertification and orientation in-service coincide with the kick-off just prior to the summer season.
The first key to success is how you present the need to attend the summer kickoff recertification and training. At my facilities, each employee is informed of the requirements for employment, which include in-service training, at the time of hire. It’s also mentioned in our aquatics staff manuals. All employees who sign on for the summer are sent e-mails that list the available dates and times for their in-service training. Reminder fliers are posted in the pool office, urging them to sign up early to get the times they want.
Nearly as important as the information you put in your e-mail and flier is what you don’t put in your flier.
Do not threaten or promote your in-service in a way that makes it sound as appealing as walking the plank. Everyone knows they have to attend. It is your task to sell it in the most positive way. This training is something you are providing to make sure they are prepared for anything they may encounter.
The larger the staff, the more time options you’ll need. We offer summer pre-season in-service training the four weekends prior to Memorial Day and one “unadvertised last chance” the second week in June. This last chance in-service is for those attending college out of state, colleges with late finals and late hires. Each pre-season in-service consists of approximately 12-14 hours total, split between a Saturday and Sunday.
To give further options, the agenda for each day is rotated each weekend. For instance, the information that is offered on Saturday the first weekend is offered on Sunday the next weekend. This allows those who have only Saturday availability to attend two Saturdays and receive all the information.
It is the time of year when proms, spring sports, college finals, Mother’s Day, graduation and many end-of-school year activities occur. That is why you need to offer options. You’re not going to ask someone to miss their prom or qualification for the regional track meet. Make it convenient and easy for everyone to attend.
Every other year, we recertify everyone in American Red Cross Lifeguarding. Everyone is recertified at this time regardless of their expiration date. This puts the whole staff on the same renewal track and avoids challenges throughout the year to renew individual certifications. It is done in four stations, for approximately 30 minutes at each station and is manned by lifeguard instructors on staff. CPR recertifications also are set up in stations.
Depending on your staff size and the number of participants per session, you may need multiple instructors at each station.
Experience has taught me to schedule more time than I’ll most likely need. People are always glad to get out early!
For the years that you do not need to recertify your lifeguards, merely adjust that day’s schedule as needed. Another tip is to use a separate session to go over the manual with new employees; bring the veterans in later in the day to meet them. Veterans don’t need to go over items such as how to clock in and where to park year after year. Bring veterans and rookies together for annual rule and policy reviews, where you can highlight problem areas and policy changes, and use the expertise of seasoned staffers to help educate newcomers.
The last day of each in-service weekend concludes with a slide show of highlights of the previous summer season. We try to take lots of pictures of the staff at work or any other amusing events of the previous year, such as the mallard duck who has a nest every year in the same spot and starts her ducklings on their first swim in the pool. Your current employees will enjoy reminiscing, and this is a chance for your rookies to see just how much fun is in store for them.
Present all your in-services, either summer pre-season or regularly scheduled, in a positive and professional way. You’ll be rewarded with a well-trained staff that takes pride in its skills and appreciates the opportunities that you’ve provided to them.