Guest Column - April 2009
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Aquatic Staffing: In-Service in Real Time

Lifeguard Training Through Daily Relationships

By Richard Rabold

Improved Retention: Routine and frequent training improves retention. On-shift training is constantly occurring, especially from the perspective of the lifeguards as they think every day is potentially a training day.

Cost Savings: Off-shift training involves extra hours for the entire lifeguard staff, approximately three to five times a summer for one or two hours each session. The extra hours required for on-shift training are limited to paying stand-in lifeguards a limited number of days.

No More "Be There or Else": Reduce or eliminate punitive consequences by management for lifeguards not attending traditional off-shift training.

Improved Management Presence: Management is more thoroughly involved in monitoring lifeguards' daily performance, thus continually developing good habits with persistent, encouraging feedback. The real concept that managers should be embracing is that "training" is an ongoing process of continuous education. It is not isolated to special sessions, nor does it have an end or final summit.

Lifeguards want to do their jobs well, and they appreciate training. Putting each and every one of your lifeguards in a better position to receive that training is the focus of this article. It is not my intention to suggest that traditional off-shift training does not have its place. Pre-season orientation for summer operations, group bonding exercises and problem-solving still seem like good off-shift training opportunities. However, as you merge important training into your lifeguards' work schedules, it should turn out to be a preferred educational experience for both management and staff.

Sharing time on deck with the lifeguards improves everyone's experience.

It improves the relationships between management and staff; improves the understanding of performing all of our jobs better; improves consistency and thoroughness; improves the staffs' attitude towards training; improves your patrons' perception of the quality of your staff; improves the delivery and retention of their education; and improves the safety of your aquatic facility.


Richard Rabold is general manager of The Worthington Pools in Worthington, Ohio, and has been a public pool manager for 30 years of seasonal work and seven years full-time. He was also a public school teacher at Worthington City Schools for 30 years.