by Sandy Kellogg
Aquatic Operations Supervisor, Mount Vernon RECenter
Fairfax County Park Authority
VRPS Aquatics Resource Group 2016 Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair
It’s hiring season in the aquatic world. That means explaining to many young people what a W-4 is, how many deductions they should claim, what a deduction is, heck sometimes even what taxes are! Teaching a 15 year old how to plan for their financial future is challenging. Getting parents to let me do that without hovering is almost impossible! Our industry is very strange. In the eyes of the rest of the world, the 15 year old that walked into the pool office is a child. They can’t do anything. No driving license, no cigarettes, no car rental, no drinking, they can’t even stay at work past 7 pm. Children, leaving freshman year at high school, and reporting to work at a pool.
I find this in another area of my life, too. Once a month and one week in the summer I report. No, not the National Guard, I’m a Boy Scout leader. My troop camps once a month and goes to summer camp every summer. We do a huge variety of activities. I have rafted class 3 rapids with a 14 year old steering the boat. I have climbed rock walls with a 13 year old on belay. I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with an 11 year old while we shoot at targets and remind one another to keep guns down range. Most dangerous thing? I’ve eaten food cooked on an open fire by a patrol that had to be shown how to use a can opener.
These things have more in common than you might think. When I go home at night, leaving my facility in the hands of these children, or when I back slowly over that cliff face, I am putting my mental and physical health in their hands. They are adults for me. They are absolutely defined that way in what we do and why we do it. A lifeguard, even at 15, that does not feel the adult burden of the lives at their feet should not be there. A scout, tracking my progress up the cliff that does not understand the serious consequence of being distracted should not be on belay.
The best part about working with these young people is that they can absolutely handle it. They are told so often in their lives that they are too young, not mature enough, and need adults to walk them through things. Parents show up with folders of documents that their children have never seen. Their children sign social security cards that are still in envelopes. Scouts show up with bags that their parents packed, equipment they had never seen before. Fortunately, in both worlds, I can say to parents “You can go now”, and the children step up as adults, keeping swimmers, themselves, their troop and sometimes even me safe. Don’t worry, they got this.