Monday, May 9, 2016

Notes from the Lifeguard Chair

by Sandy Kellogg

Aquatic Operations Supervisor, Mount Vernon RECenter

Fairfax County Park Authority

VRPS Aquatics Resource Group 2016 Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair

Funny how things look different angles. I spent three years every weekday morning eight feet above a pool deck, watching early patrons swimming back and forth. By midmorning they would switch to older women doing water aerobics, the music taking me back to things my father played on Saturday mornings while Mom was getting groceries. Lunchtime saw the beginning of private lessons, swim instructors coaxing small children into the water while moms or nannies sat nearby. By one-thirty the pool had quieted down again, only a few dedicated retirees with their routines, and it was time for me to go home.

The years I spent on chair were followed by years of management; hiring, training and staffing an aquatic facility. Every once in a while I end up back up there - some crisis with a staff member, unexpected group, or maybe just to reward a lifeguard with an early lunch. When I do, I remember why it is both the hardest and the most boring job we could ever hope to have. At any given second, there is a chance of catastrophe. A guard cannot be ready for disaster without being aware of every pause a swimmer takes, every time a child wanders deeper than they have been before, or a patron that just doesn’t seem like them-self that day. And yet every morning, every shift, every sit, day after day, very little happens.

Mount Vernon RECenter, Fairfax County Park Authority

I have seen a lot of crazy things from up there. After my time as a lifeguard I have taught, demonstrated and explained to a lot of lifeguards what we do and more importantly why we do it. I hope that every minute of every day that my staff is looking at our facility from that angle they remember why they are there, and why they matter.

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