Lifeguarding Teaches Life Skills

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Provided by Prince William County Parks & Recreation

Every summer, Prince William County Parks and Recreation is tasked with hiring approximately 430 lifeguards to open each of its six pools and two water parks. While many think being a good swimmer is the only skill you need to become a lifeguard, those who work as one or help train them will tell you it is so much more.

“Lifeguarding is a very responsible job to have. It is hard being out in the sun all day with a lot of people, but it is so rewarding,” says Kathryn Nestler, aquatics manager for Prince William County Parks and Recreation.

Each person that applies to become a lifeguard with Prince William County must first pass a swim test which entails swimming 100 yards; treading water for one minute without use of arms or hands; and retrieving a 10-pound brick from at least 10 feet of water—a lifeguard must be able to retrieve the brick from the deepest part of the pool at the location where they will be working. If they pass the swim test, they then must attend a lifeguard training program. In these training classes they learn active and passive rescues; how to get an unconscious person out of the water; CPR; rescue breathing; the use of oxygen and an AED; first aid; and how to rescue a guest with a suspected spinal injury. They also learn the steps of drowning, how to properly scan their zone of water and what a person in distress looks like.

For lifeguard Selena Mohammed, being a lifeguard is more than just a job.

“I love the weight of responsibility that comes with keeping others safe. It’s truly a fulfilling privilege to be entrusted with peoples’ lives, and it drives me to be the best team member I can be,” says Mohammed, who has been working as a lifeguard for almost two years.

Once an applicant passes the lifeguard training program, they must attend four hours of paid in-service training every month.  In these trainings they will practice their rescue skills to ensure they are prepared in the event of an emergency.

Lifeguard Sidnie Duncan, who has been working as a lifeguard for four years, appreciates not only the technical water safety skills that being a lifeguard has given her but also the “life skills.”

“The thing I enjoy most about being a lifeguard is being equipped with the knowledge to save someone’s life. We’re trained by the best staff in how to render first aid if something were to go wrong in a situation. I can take the skills I’ve learned while being a lifeguard and apply them for the rest of my life,” says Duncan. “Not only do I enjoy being equipped with the knowledge to help others, but I also enjoy the community that being a lifeguard brings. The people you work with become your best friends and you meet people from all walks of life!”

Like Duncan, Mohammed has similar sentiments when it comes to working as a lifeguard.

“I am part of such an amazing community that encourages me to grow. The job is dynamic, challenging, and rewarding; leading me to discover strengths and skills I am grateful to develop each time I work,” says Mohammed.

In addition to watching “their water,” a typical day for lifeguards like Duncan and Mohammed might include getting the pool or park ready to open for the day, hosing the deck and cleaning the pool in addition to other duties.

Some skills and qualities that Prince William County Aquatics Manager Kathryn Nestler says would be valuable to have to work as a lifeguard are “being a team player, punctual, responsible and also being someone who likes to help people.”

Any individual age 15 or older can apply to become a lifeguard (must be 15 by June 15, 2024).

Mohammed and Duncan also offer some advice to anyone considering becoming a lifeguard.

“If you’re even considering becoming a lifeguard, I recommend at least trying it out,” says Mohammed. “You’ll learn information and skills that are invaluable. You’ll be entrusted to save lives, be proactive and maintain safety. If that interests you, becoming a lifeguard is an excellent opportunity.”

She adds, “you’ll be part of an enriching community that will help you be the best you can be. The sense of fulfillment is beyond rewarding—you’ll be saving lives!”

Duncan’s advice: “I encourage anyone and everyone to apply to be a lifeguard because it’s a welcoming workplace, teaches you life skills and is the perfect first job! Being a lifeguard means you will learn something new every day and you truly become a more confident person because you gain knowledge on such impactful skills.”

Duncan says that becoming a lifeguard was the best decision she made at age 15 and is so thankful she did it.

“I truly love the management and staff within Prince William Parks and Recreation aquatics and I’m so thankful to be a part of such a professional and passionate community.”

If you or someone you know would like to become a lifeguard, please click here to view the full job listing and apply. PWC Parks & Rec is actively recruiting lifeguards for SplashDown Waterpark. They offer free training to get you certified, a flexible schedule and a summer of fun working at the pool!

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