Through the Eyes of a YMCA Lifeguard

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Special thanks to Kristy Snider, Cleveland Family YMCA Aquatics Director and other Cleveland Family YMCA contributing lifeguards for offering unique perspective in our May Blog. 

Today, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga wraps up Safety Around Water Week, a FREE outreach program that teaches kids the basics of water safety.  Between the hustle and bustle of kids in our pools this week and the warm weather, this week truly felt like Summer was really just around the corner! As you prepare plans for your summer, remember to register your child for Summer Day Camp at your local Y. Not only will they be engaged in crafts, outdoor play, healthy eating, a break from cell phones and iPad, socialization with other children, field trips and more, but they will get DAILY SWIM TIME! 

As we shift gears to a Summer mentality, most of us have dancing thoughts of family vacations, pools, beaches, lakes and relaxing bodies of water -- all accompanied by the sweet sound of our children laughing and splashing about. But it only takes seconds for things to go horribly wrong... Check out below from the perspective of our own lifeguards what they've seen, what goes into their training and what they wish you knew about their crucial roles in protecting children and adults alike.  

30 seconds... It's the amount of time it should take for a lifeguard to recognize and reach a person who needs assistance in the water.

Summertime is fast approaching. That means planning for vacations, enjoying time away from school or work, and preparing for the fun family times to come. We can easily prepare for fun, but do we prepare for potential dangers? 

As a society, we don’t view water safety with the importance it deserves. The people who truly understand water safety to be of vital importance and view water competency as a life skill are lifeguards. They are seen at pools, beaches, lakes, water parks, and more.  Lifeguards are actively pursuing the spread of water safety to the entire community because they know that this knowledge could save a life in the future. They wish that everyone had access to water safety knowledge and for those who do, they wish for them to take full advantage of their knowledge and put it into practice, which could save a life.

What is the perspective YOU have on a lifeguard’s duties? Do you have some misconceptions? What is something that you would want to see in your local lifeguard -- at the YMCA or elsewhere?

The lifeguards we put in our stands understand and train for the REALITY OF THEIR JOBS. They train for the “what-if” scenarios.  
  • Are they someone who watches your child for you, or someone who searches every individual’s face in their zone to make sure they are alright? 
  • Do you see a professional who put in hours of training or a young adult who found an easy summer job? 
  • Someone who is held to a high number of qualifications or someone who has only sought out the bare minimum?

The lifeguards we put in our stands understand and train for the REALITY OF THEIR JOBS. They train for the "what-if" scenarios.  

Some of our lifeguards have experienced tragedy firsthand. It is heartbreaking to be helpless in knowing there was nothing you could do or worrying that you didn’t do enough. 

Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for children under the age of 15 and the number three cause of preventable death in adults. They could have to save a life, and many have. Unfortunately, there are situations where a lifeguard isn’t able to save someone.  But sweeping tragedies under the rug only amplifies the problem. Some of our lifeguards have experienced tragedy firsthand. It is heartbreaking to be helpless in knowing there was nothing you could do or worrying that you didn’t do enough.  Most who have had to implement the skills they diligently practice use those experiences and tragedies to become better lifeguards.  They use their experiences as examples and knowledge to help them prepare other lifeguards for the realities of the job.

Looking from the outside in, you don’t always see the details of the job of a lifeguard. We are there to scan the pool thoroughly and respond to any emergencies, but our job is also largely focused on preventing any emergencies from ever occurring in the first place. We reinforce rules and take extra precautions to make sure everyone entering our water stays as safe as possible, but unfortunately we can’t be everywhere.  Most of those preventable drownings happen at pools that don’t use a lifeguard, including home pools. 

Prevention is key in keeping our kids and families safe. Empower yourself and your family by seeking out water safety and learn to swim programs for your children. Be part of the solution.  

Remember, it takes less than thirty seconds for something to change, and it could lead to something we can’t undo.

In addition to offering Safety Around Water each Spring, the Y offers swim lessons YEAR ROUND. You have invaluable tools and resources through our pools, lifeguards and aquatics programs to equip your children to be in and near bodies of water safely.  Call your local branch, download our new Chattanooga YMCA app or visit our website to learn more about Y programs available to you.