Lifeguard Adventure Challenge

Training lifeguards is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

Make your lifeguard training a challenge.

Following the same training procedures year in and year out as outlined by a certification body can be difficult, but there is another effective and responsible way to train staff while simultaneously creating a fun learning environment.

Although today’s standards are worlds apart from those established many years ago, I encourage you to raise the qualifying marks even higher.

At River Way Ranch Camp in Sanger, Calif., qualification procedures require trainees to tread water for a minimum of 20 minutes, and to swim 500 yards in 10 minutes. Although this may seem excessive, it ensures both a rapid and effective response during an actual emergency.

Additionally, there is a great value when camps are able to operate their own lifeguard-training program.

For instance, it allows the teaching of new procedures in a particular camp while training personnel in the global philosophies required of all lifeguards.

In-house training also decreases future in-service training time while increasing the level of knowledge, retention and understanding of the camp’s procedures and policies. And as the number of returning lifeguards increase to assist in training, the ratio of instructors to students rises. In addition to improving the learning curve, this method also prevents the need to contract out services.

When conducting a lifeguard-training program, focus on the areas most important to the camp.

For example, at River Way Ranch Camp, the most important technique is backboarding. A full eight hours is dedicated to acquiring this skill rather than the required two hours — staff members are required to do it blindfolded and in silence (without any verbal communication). To add difficulty for the strongest swimmers, participants are required to perform with one arm tied behind their back. These added challenges apply to both shallow and deep-water spinal situations.

Consider Challenges

Whether conducting your own training program or holding a weekly or monthly in-service training, consider adding these obstacles to improve skill development and enhance the staff’s ability to respond when called upon:

• Use inversion goggles for staff members who are practicing CPR.

• Make drills more difficult by requiring participants to perform a deep-water spinal drill without talking or with one arm tied behind their backs.

• Blindfold two of the three rescuers in a shallow-water spinal situation.

• Require lifeguards to tread water while passing a 10-pound brick, large ball, paddle, orange, apple and lifeguard tube (cannot touch water), book, glass of water (cannot spill), pillow (cannot touch water) or whatever else is available. Allow one item for every person, and then subtract two from the total number of items. For example, for 30 trainees treading water, begin with 10 to 12 objects and slowly add more until the desired number of 28 objects is reached.

• Recite camp waterfront rules while treading water or during various rescue procedures.

• Perform 50-yard sprint drills with baggy sweatpants or baggy sweaters.

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