Separate Outstanding From Adequate

Photos Courtesy of Dru Belli

Photos Courtesy of Dru Belli

When the time comes to hire a new aquatic director for your summer-camp program, or if you are seeking to groom current employees for promotion to an aquatic supervisory position, do you know what you’re looking for? Beyond a comprehensive knowledge of water-safety issues and a strong background in lifeguarding skills, what qualities separate outstanding aquatic director candidates from those who are merely adequate? 

In addition to having the aforementioned knowledge, excellent directors consistently exhibit qualities that fall into seven broad categories. Observe candidates in these areas to see how they measure up. 

1. Experience

Besides being the most obvious consideration in the choice for a new director, having experience as a lifeguard in a variety of locales and situations is an outstanding indicator of a candidate’s leadership potential. Candidates who hop from pool to pool without purpose or who have been let go by previous employers generally aren’t seeking a long-term experience in the aquatic field. But candidates who wish to gain experience through multiple opportunities are more likely to be interested in developing a meaningful working relationship in the field. Leaders don’t wait for opportunities; instead, they seek challenges. 

2. Passion

Piggybacking on the component of experience, the passion an applicant brings is the second greatest indicator of success in a job. While not everyone shows his or her exuberance outwardly, careful observation can reveal an innate desire toward turning a lifeguard job into an aquatic career. Does the candidate enjoy the job for more than receiving a paycheck? Is there an interaction with campers, peers, and administrators from a genuine standpoint or a superficial one? Does the person clock out mentally, or is there an indication that he or she is willing to take the extra steps to ensure programs and routines flow smoothly? 

3. Knowledge

Successful directors in any field have a wealth of skills that, when combined, can be called ”knowledge” but go beyond the typical definition. True, valuable knowledge is a combination of self-assuredness and common-sense behavior that come through when a person is faced with a variety of situations. It is the ability to share that knowledge in a confident, not condescending manner. A candidate’s presentation of knowledge is as important as the knowledge itself. 

4. Work Ethic

This trait is easier to assess in a candidate who is already in an organization. If not, a phone call to the applicant’s previous employer can provide insight. Is the candidate punctual and


prepared? Does the person often call off for vague reasons? Is this someone who can genuinely be counted on to do the job according to the standards campers and parents expect? Another facet to consider is whether the candidate has an honest work ethic, meaning he or she will not be easily swayed when other employees choose behaviors counterproductive to their duties. 

5. Maturity

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