10th August 2017. Wherever there is a large group of people swimming and enjoying the water, there is sure to be a lifeguard nearby. While not every pool or beach has a lifeguard on duty, many do, and they perform a critical role. It's not just about saving someone who doesn't know how to swim! All kinds of emergencies can arise in the pool. In a crowded public pool, for example, someone may begin having a medical emergency that those in the pool don't notice. It's the lifeguard's job to spot that problem and leap to the rescue. Are you interested in becoming a lifeguard, or do you know a young person who might thrive in the role? It is a potentially rewarding career; even if you don't decide to stick with it long term, you can still gain valuable experience from working from the lifeguard's chair. Not everyone can do it, though, and it isn't the sort of job that you can instantly pick up and begin. Instead, there are many rules in place, and interested parties must demonstrate their skills to certify as a lifeguard. Let's look at how this procedure works, and what you should do if you want to try pursuing a job keeping swimmers safe.


What are the duties of a lifeguard?


We've already mentioned one example and some of the fundamental roles of a lifeguard, but it can be helpful to first look at the big picture before you make any decisions. Being a lifeguard involves more than just saving people from drowning in an emergency. When you think about it, emergency situations like that are relatively rare; so, what does a lifeguard do the rest of the time? The answer varies depending on the type of swimming venue we're discussing, but let's focus on a public swimming pool. Public pools always have rules that accompany their use; you can't simply use the pool as you like without regard for others. Guidelines might restrict diving, the number of people in the pool at once, and what kinds of activities are allowed in the water. For these rules to be effective in any way, it's important to have someone on hand to enforce them. That's the job of the lifeguard. With a good vantage point of the entire pool, your job would be to watch everyone and ensure proper compliance with the rules. In some cases, you might even have the power to kick someone out of the pool for repeated rule-breaking. It might seem like a simple task, but a lot can go on at once in a crowded pool. Proper observation of the rules keeps the environment safe and fun for everyone, though. As an authority around the pool, lifeguards are essential for providing all swimmers with the opportunity to enjoy themselves. These safety considerations and the general supervisory role are similar for lifeguards who work on beaches or other areas with open water.


What skills should a lifeguard have?


If you want to be a lifeguard, you'll need to earn some qualifications proving that you understand the responsibilities. However, before you can get to the point of qualifying, you'll need to demonstrate capability and competence in the water. There are specific milestones you'll need to pass during the qualification tests, but let's think more generally first. What are some of the key traits and skills that any potential lifeguard, young or old, should possess? The first thing to come to mind is, of course, an absolute no-brainer: good swimming skills are essential. If you don't already spend regular time practising your swimming strokes in the pool, now is a good opportunity to begin. One of the testing requirements is the ability to swim 50 metres without stopping and in under 60 seconds. At first, that might not sound like a big challenge. Try it, though, and you'll quickly see that it requires some serious speed in the water. That's to be expected, given the heavy responsibilities lifeguards carry. The ability to remain attentive and engaged, even over extended periods of time, is also important. At the same time, you must be able to tell when someone is in distress or may need help. You will also likely need to carry a CPR certification or demonstrate competency in some form. Resuscitative techniques like CPR are critical in the aftermath of a near-drowning. While youth lifeguards may only learn some of these techniques at first, they're important as a foundation for future learning. So, what do you do once you feel confident enough to try qualifying for a lifeguarding position?


How to qualify to become a lifeguard


Professional qualifications are awarded by the Royal Life Saving Society after the completion of the relevant coursework and a demonstration of your abilities. To take the course, you must be at least 16 years of age; this threshold still ensures there is plenty of opportunity for young people to make full use of lifeguarding's benefits. For those who are younger than 16, there are often junior lifeguard camps and courses available that teach many of the same foundational skills. The RLSS course includes lifeguarding techniques such as how to extract victims from the water and how to perform CPR. There are also more theoretical components covering the boundaries of the law and how to manage the hazards around a pool properly. Other life-saving techniques you will need to learn include how to operate an AED or automatic defibrillator. While it might sound like a lot to take on, remember that you will be responsible for someone's safety. That warrants such extensive training. During your assessment, you will also need to showcase the ability to tread water for half a minute and to swim non-stop for 100 metres. Practice early and often before you sign up for your qualifying test, even if you feel confident with your performance in the overall course. At that point, all that's left is to dive into the pool and show that you have what it takes to save a life. It's an awesome responsibility and not one to be taken lightly once you've qualified. Then you can begin to look for a place to start lifeguarding.


Training and developing the necessary skills


What if you aren't feeling fully confident in your abilities? You could undertake some solo training on your own before you begin working towards your qualification. For young people, school swim teams often present an excellent opportunity to develop some of the skills used in lifeguarding. Otherwise, why not devise your own training regimen to tackle as a part of your regular exercise? Swimming laps and timing yourself should be a major component of your training. Practice with several strokes to find where you are most comfortable in the water. Dedicate a few days of your training to endurance work. Speed will come with time; endurance comes from repeated effort. You never know how much you'll need to exert yourself on a given day of working as a lifeguard. Developing staying power in the water is a solid strategy. Work out outside the pool, too. Lifting weights and doing strength training primes your muscles for more power in the water. As a lifeguard, you may need to haul someone much heavier than yourself out of the water at some point. Preparing for that task with deadlifts and similar exercises will mean you can react with a clear and calm mind even in the face of a difficult emergency. These are just a few ideas for how to approach your training; there are many more you could try as well.


Will you be a lifesaver one day?


Working as a lifeguard is not only an opportunity to develop real skills for use later in life, but it presents a chance to grow as a person through responsibility. Keeping an eye on individuals swimming in a pool or another body of water is not a task to be taken lightly ? but if you've gone through the entire qualification process, you'll already know that well. Even if your swimming skills aren't quite up to par right now, what's stopping you from working on them until they are? If lifeguarding is something that interests you, start taking the first step towards making that dream a reality. Do your homework on what you'll need to demonstrate for a qualification, then find out where you can begin. Every swimmer appreciates having a lifeguard on hand, and that could be you.