All about Lifeguarding

A lifeguard. Sometimes called a life-saver. Defined as someone employed by a beach or pool to protect from the risk of drowning. These often silent figures hold one of the most coveted summer jobs available to teenagers. The shiny whistles, the perfect tan…it’s no wonder so many teens look forward to the golden age of sixteen, where they can not only drive but become a certified lifeguard.

But that certification is not exactly an easy task. As junior Will Harrington describes, there are a few steps to becoming certified by Milwaukee County. First, one must take a free class that is usually offered in early spring. “At this class you just show up, learn how to do all of the physical things they require, and then take a test,” says Harrington. During this portion of certification, the test requires you to carry someone who is pretending to be a struggling victim across the length of the pool. In Will’s case, he had to carry a very large woman, “it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he comments. Although that may scare some potential lifesavers off, many experienced lifeguards regard that portion of the test as a fond memory. If you score well, it’s very likely that you will be hired. The next step is taking a First Responder Class which costs a few hundred dollars. The class teaches the proper lifesaving techniques such as rescue breathing, CPR, how to bandage wounds and Will’s personal favorite, how
to deliver a baby. These classes are not difficult, especially if you are a strong swimmer. With this certification, one is able to work outdoors as well as indoors guarding any age groups.

Another way to become a certified lifeguard is through the recreation department, like senior Laura Shively. She is Red Cross certified and can work only in indoor settings which are quite abundant in Wauwatosa. “I’ve worked the recreation’s open swims, WAC, and swim meets,” she shares.

Although both of their certifications and jobs differ, both Shively and Harrington love being a lifeguard. “I love my job! Partly because I’m comfortable in pool areas, as well as it’s a low-key job that’s easy for me to do,” says Shively. For Harrington it’s the knowing that, “you are part of keeping people safe, which, when you save someone, is very, very rewarding.” That experience of saving someone is why most people decide to lifeguard. Shively, being an attentive guard has yet to save anyone while Harrington has quite an interesting story. “She jumps off the diving board and then starts flailing in the water, so I jump in and pull her out. The whole time she’s screaming, “I really can swim!” Well, OBVIOUSLY, ya can’t.” Another pro of the job is that lifeguards get paid significantly above minimum wage. Shively chalks this up to the fact that, “we have a high-risk job.” Lifeguarding is also a job that one can do in their future. Both Shively and Harrington say that they plan on lifeguarding for quite some time. “I’ve contacted my college coach at Ripon and plan on lifeguarding there,” says Shively.

While both like their jobs, there are some cons they shared about being a life saver. According to Harrington, “adult patrons refuse to take us seriously.” He notes that this is usually because most lifeguards at public pools are high school and college students; but, “when they start yelling at us or refuse to do what we ask them, then we get to kick them out, which ROCKS!” While Shively hasn’t had any experiences with authority defying adults she has had an interesting time working the open swims at WAC. “There’s this one girl whose lips get blue every time she takes the swim test and I just won’t pass her! She has blue lips!” She describes that there are others who will not take a swim test or think they can take it multiple times, hoping to pass. “They’re just annoying,” she comments. Lifeguarding also has a strict dress code. An outdoor female life saver must wear a one piece bathing suit in the pool’s color, keep her hair up, wear sunglasses, helmet and whistle at all times, and also wear a t-shirt and shorts over the suit. A outdoor male life saver must wear a suit in the pool’s color, keep his hair short, wear sunglasses, helmet, and whistle at all times, and also wear a t-shirt and shorts over the suit. For indoor lifeguards the guidelines are a little more lenient. One must wear a suit in the pool’s color, carry a first aid kit, whistle, tube, and rescue mask, and also wear a t-shirt and shorts or sweats over the suit.

A lifeguard. Someone who you could be…or who could save you.