A Lifeguard’s Purpose

Work sucks, but lifeguarding rocks.

The only enemy in sight is the dark clouds forming in the afternoon, which are bound to bring some lightning.

Regretfully, everyone will pack up and head back home, or into the park to try and wait out the storm so that they can salvage what is left of the hot summer day.

But most of the time, it’s just sun and fun.

The lifeguard’s responsibility is to keep it that way. Lifeguards have always been a majestic icon representing the serenity of summer.

The children watch the lifeguards on the stand and learn from our actions and character, and on a higher level they are provided an environment that harbors cognitive development and positive self-esteem, assets needed to grow into positive adults, which all can be attributed to the character and, more importantly, the training of the lifeguard.

Water Works

The most widely used pool in Denver is Congress Pool. The past year there was a full staff of 15 guards that worked six days a week in the summer season.

Congress Park has a rich and varied history ever since General William Larimer established a town he called Denver after jumping the claim of the St. Charles Town Company.

I won’t get into complicated land law, treaties with the Arapaho and the details of how the park and our pool came to be through the years, but suffice it to say that Congress Park was the site of Denver’s first cemetery and ended up as an awesome park and pool site.

The more recent history of Congress Park and Pool is much less eventful, though we think it’s just as important in its own way. I was a patron of the pool at one time and took swim lessons in the same pool and spent the same summer days envying the lifeguards.

As lifeguards we have the amazing opportunity to help teach children how to swim. This has a profound impact on a child.

The Red Cross program is what we follow at the pool and each teacher is a certified Water Safety Instructor. Lifeguards teach any person of any ability how to swim, improve their technique, or at least be comfortable in the water.

There is parent-tot class with the parent and child in the water while we sing songs and help create comfort in the water. This is a critical point in the child’s life because it allows them to explore the water at an early age in a situation where fun and safety are promoted.

The children and their parents are able to participate in structured activities with other children and the instructor, which make the lessons fun and progressive.

The next levels require the children to be alone in the pool with instructors and other children. The standard structure of a class is to have the children hold on to the wall and move out toward the lifeguard using the skill that is being taught. The children are now able to have confidence in the water and learn skills that help keep them safe.

The lifeguards at Congress are amazing teachers in two ways; they know how to teach well, and they create a fun class that has a positive impact on the children’s self-esteem.

The lifeguards at Congress Pool taught 540 children, not including parent-tot, this past summer. There were 540 children exposed to teaching styles that promote self-esteem on behalf of the Congress lifeguards who used positive criticism, encouragement to succeed, and kind gestures in and out of the class that show they care for their students. If only one child gains a better self image and confidence then it is a victory… but 540 is divine.

We’re trying to build a child’s self-esteem through the same ideas presented by the Caring for Every Child Campaign which are, “Avoiding criticism that takes the form of ridicule or shame; teaching positive self-statements; showing the children that they can laugh at themselves.” These are the techniques that are used by the lifeguards so that we might, as Cayla Chavez-Murphy said, “…influence the children beyond the lesson.”

The children can reciprocate the values and self image they acquire at the pool through the lifeguards to their lives, which will help them grow and develop. Lifeguards are doing what they think would be right, and fun for the children, but are also helping the children in a more profound way.

A Cool Pool

Another important program at the pool is Pool Cool. Its “main objective is to increase awareness, motivation, and sun protection practices among children ages 5-10 who take swimming lessons, their parents, aquatics staff, and other pool users.”

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Related posts:

  1. Are Your Lifeguards Adequately Trained?
  2. Think Ahead
  3. Finding Purpose
  4. For Safety’s Sake
  5. Swim Lessons
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