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Lifeguarding teaches valuable life lessons

By James Thistle (guest blogger)

With the cold weather Alberta has been experiencing recently, many of us are gazing at the calendar and thinking wistfully about how we should have spent more time outside in the sunshine in the summer (I know I am!). My constant longing for sunshine often leads me to think of my time spent as a lifeguard at a swimming pool during the summertime.

Just like most swimming pools in the summer, my pool was a prime location for families and friends to gather for some fun. However, as a lifeguard, I was responsible for the well-being and safety of these swimmers and spent a lot of time being prepared for my position. Here are some of the most important things that I took away from this job.


If only the weather looked like this now.

Talk (or sign) it out. A pool with 100 people in it is stressful, make no mistake. It was important for me to communicate with the people in the pool, but also with the people working with me. Communication via eye contact, whistles and hand signals cut down greatly on the stress for me and my co-workers. And, of course, hand signals are great, but speaking to one another is better.  Obviously, you can’t chat with your co-workers if they’re on the other side of the pool, so it’s important to be aware of how you can get your message across.

Stay on top of it.  As a lifeguard, people trust you and listen to you. With that trust, they expect that you know what do in the event of an emergency. Thankfully, I had to dive in after a swimmer only twice and neither time was a dire emergency. But emergencies and accidents happen all the time! Keep your training and knowledge current so that you are able to react properly in the event of an emergency or other unexpected event.

Know your limits.  There were a few times at the pool where I had to call the front desk and ask that they stop letting people into the pool because there were just too many to look after comfortably. If you’re not comfortable with your workload or you’re feeling the stress, make sure to speak up! I’m sure there were some disappointed kids when they were turned away from the pool, but it kept me and the other lifeguards able to do our jobs, which meant we all went home safe at the end of the day.

After spending a couple of summers staring down little kids running on the deck, I realized just how important safety is, at work and while playing at the pool.  My experience as a life guard was a bit different than the average job, but I think these tips can be applied anywhere—in the pool or at the office.

Although my lifeguarding days are over, I’ve still got quite a few working days (more like years) left in me. I know I’ll be keeping my head up at work, and I hope you do too!

Want more on water safety? Check out Melissa’s blog from the summer or tweet us your water safety stories and tips @HeadsUpAB!

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