This will sound cliche, but I fell in love with being a lifeguard at the age of 9 watching an episode of baywatch. The first episode I watched was the airplane crash when Hobie was on the airplane with his mom and her date at the time. It was exciting seeing beach lifeguards respond in such dramatic fashion to a plane crash. It was also the first time I saw an AED being used on a victim to revive them. Watching and hearing the impact of the shock was scary, yet powerful. I also admired how physically in shape one had to be in order to be a beach lifeguard. Even more so, the opportunity to work by the water. Being by the pool and ocean is all that I know as my summers were always spent by the pools and different beaches. I also loved the adrenaline rush of rescuing someone in need. I started my career in aquatics at 12 years old. I happened to attend an open house at Country Roads Day camp ( I highly recommend their day camp for so many reasons from safety to the friends that many have made over there). One of the highlights from the open tour was a lifeguard in training program. I was sold. When I attended country roads day camp as an LIT/CIT, I looked forward to each day learning from the older and trained lifeguards to see what they do, how they do it, and what they have to do to maintain certification. Along my way of being an apprentice, I know for a fact that I drove the lifeguards nuts. I was trying to hang with them each and everyday because I wanted to be a lifeguard. Country Roads offers at the end of each summer for select few dedicated LIT’s to be certified in CPR and first aid ( AED training was not part of the training until 2007). Finally when I turned 15, Country Roads hired me and paid for my lifeguard training certification which costs hundreds of dollars. Many people do not know how intense the lifeguard training course can be. It is not only physically demanding, it is cognitively challenging as you have to learn rescues and theory in a timeframe and then have to be pass multiple written exams and physical exams. When I passed, I will never forget when my parents bought me my first lifeguard hoodie. I felt on top of the world and like a big shot. I loved lifeguarding so much that I chose to get more experience by working for a commercial pool company Sparkling Pool Services on my weekends. My supervisor at the time was so awesome. He would come by the pool and check on me to make sure that I was okay. My first in-water rescue for SPS was a little boy who couldn’t swim in the deep end. He was trying to grab his toy ball that was thrown in the middle. I remember like it was yesterday , when I looked at the boy and asked him three times if he was okay. I was nervous that I was overthinking the situation at the same time worried about what would happen if I did not respond. Finally, I jumped in and provided an assist. The aunt for this boy did not thank me. Instead, she decided to yell at me for embarrassing her and her nephew. I was shocked, disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed. I called my supervisor as per protocol. He immediately came back to the pool and reassured me that I did the right thing. He spoke to this woman and reminded her of the extensive training that I had gone through to ensure a safe pool. Within a few minutes, the woman came up and apologized. She told me she was embarrassed because she usually complained about other adults not watching their children. I couldn’t believe the hypocracy. Anyway, after three years of being a lifeguard, Sparkling Pools made the first move and offered me a promotion as an assistant staff manager. I was so nervous to take this position as the job required an immense amount of responsibility, training, and dedication. My dad told me that I didn’t have a choice as this was an opportunity worth taking. Boy was he right. Sparkling Pools provided me training in HR staff management that I still use and continue to read about running my business till this day. Sparkling Pools opened doors for me that I never saw myself doing. As much as the staff management position was a great learning opportunity, I missed being in the field. The following summer, sparkling provided another opportunity. They paid for me to become a lifeguard training instructor. Of course I agreed, but really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Speed up to the course at Rutgers University, I had no idea that this instructor level course would make another impact in my life. There were what seemed to be 60+ candidates trying out for a lifeguard instructor certification. In this class I met and had the pleasure of being trained by the best. The best included Kathleen Pearson, Sean Sepala and Kathy Schroder. Candidates were being ejected right and left for not being prepared. The class of 60 turned into 12. I made it through. After completing my trainer’s certification, I began administrating these courses. I fell in love as students would come back and tell me how much I helped them prepare for the challenges they might come face to face with. Within 1 year of teaching, I helped supervise and directed newly certified instructors and rose through the ranks of assistant aquatic supervisor to Aquatic director for various places overseeing hundreds of lifeguards. Through reputation, individuals would ask for me to administer their courses because they knew that I would do the following:
- Follow and comply to all Red Cross course adninistration guidelines.
- Report and conmunucate concerns in a professional manner.
- Provide training that was meaningful, but productive.
- Work and remediate those who learn differently where the course was not altered, only accommodations approved by Red Cross guidelines would be given.
The number of participants grew past the ratio that I could teach alone and I began to ask others who I taught with to help because they too believed in the same teaching philosophies and felt the importance of abiding to the Red Cross’s policies. Some of these instructors are still teaching for me today.
My point is that this field has provided me so much and is still continuing to provide me so much. I am still in love with being a lifeguard and I do not see myself leaving just yet.
Next to blog, I will share with you some of the rescues I have made and what I learned from each experience.