What could be better than getting paid to spend the days of summer outside at the pool? While we could speculate, we wanted to hear from the source – so we interviewed our teammate, Greta Gustafson, who took Red Cross Lifeguard Training and spent three summers working at a water park in Washington State. We chatted with her about what made this her favorite summer job:
1. What got you interested in lifeguarding?
I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years, so it seemed like a good fit and a good opportunity for a summer job. Many of my swim team friends had become lifeguards, so when the opportunity came around I did the Red Cross training with a couple of friends.
2. What are some things a person should prepare for when they take a lifeguard class?
It’s really important to be a strong swimmer – you definitely don’t need to be a competitive swimmer, but should be comfortable in the water. Be ready to fully immerse yourself in the training, and to learn new skills and techniques, like CPR and first aid.
3. What types of duties did you perform as a lifeguard?
At the water park, we would rotate manning different stations every 30 minutes. These stations varied in duties. At the slides, I’d help kids with their tubes and make sure they got down safely. There was also a hot tub, a more traditional swimming pool, and the dreaded river raft – where we’d stand in small wading pools, even on chilly days. (Remember, this was a water park in Washington State!)
Teamwork is a huge part. You may think of lifeguarding as being alone in a chair, but it’s a lot of interaction with your fellow lifeguards, you have to support each other and be prepared to respond together during an emergency.
4. What’s something that surprised you when you first started this job?
I learned quickly that it’s a balance of keeping people safe and providing good customer service. As a lifeguard you become an authority figure, as you’re the one with the water safety training, but you’ll also find yourself sometimes having to educate parents – on why an age limit applies to certain parts of the park, and, how critical it is to be within arms’ reach of small children or those that are newer swimmers.
5. Tell us a favorite memory from your time lifeguarding.
Throughout those three years it really was the best summer job. I got to be outdoors and I made great friends. We’d have these waterslide nights with other lifeguards, when we’d get the park to ourselves. It was just a fun environment.
6. What’s one piece of advice you’d tell someone who was interested in taking lifeguarding training?
Be prepared for everything. It’s a lot of work, a lot of fun, and it is serious. It’s a great summer, but you are also gaining skills that will help you in future jobs. I learned about customer service, professionalism, being in a leadership role, and being an authority figure.
Our newly revised Lifeguarding program will help train you to act with speed and confidence in emergency situations both in and out of the water. Updates to our program include enhanced team response scenarios to help participants effectively communicate, prioritize care and take action with multiple rescuers. If you’re interested in becoming a lifeguard, search for a course near you on our website.