Lifeguarding trains young men and women to not only save lives but to become leaders, Jackie Morrison of the Clearfield Community Pool says.
Men and women who are trained to save swimmers from drowning receive advanced trained in the latest rescue and first aid techniques — but they also have to be responsible, mature, dependable and good leaders, Morrison said.
“They are the future leaders of the community,” Morrison said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Taylor Luzier, 16, of Curwensville, who is a lifeguard at the Community Pool.
Lifeguards Leif Hoffman and Nick Unch, both 16 and of Clearfield, said they enjoy being lifeguards, making sure people are safe, and spending time at the pool.
Morrison said there is a lot of camaraderie among lifeguards and many at the pool become lifelong friends.
Lifeguarding is a profitable job because they are in such high demand, Morrison said. And although the Community Pool is seasonal, lifeguards can work year-round at indoor pools.
“You will get a job,” Morrison said. “I get requests all the time from organizations and businesses looking for lifeguards.”
Many people who get their start as a lifeguard at the Clearfield Community Pool go on to work as lifeguards when they go to college or at the beach — but working at the shore takes additional certifications, Morrison said.
She said employers like hiring lifeguards because they know they are dependable, professional and responsible.
And because lifeguards are considered professional rescuers, they receive advanced CPR and first aid training, and many lifeguards go on to work in the medical field.
She said rescues don’t always occur in the water — some are on land so they learn many facets of first aid because people can have heart attacks, epileptic seizures, etc. on land.
“Lifeguards have some high level skills,” Morrison said.
For example, Morrison said her first rescue as a 15-year-old lifeguard was administering the Heimlich Maneuver on a child who was choking on some popcorn.
But not all lifeguards go into the medical fields, Community Pool Manager Tristen Buck of Clearfield said. He is a self proclaimed “pool rat.” As a child he was often at the pool and gravitated to become a lifeguard. As a lifeguard he dealt often with children, and he decided to go to college and become a teacher. He is now entering his senior year in college.
Morrison said Clearfield Community Pool is a great place for new lifeguards to start their career because it is a multi-guard facility.
“Someone always has their back and they are never alone,” Morrison said.
She said the biggest hurdle to becoming a lifeguard is the physical requirements. For example, to take the certification class, one has to be able to swim 300 yards freestyle or breast stroke, tread water for two minutes using just their legs, and be able to surface dive, retrieve a brick 10 feet under water and bring it up to the surface.
Once those tests are done they can be admitted to the course. They also have to be 15-years-old by the time they complete the course and there are fees associated with getting certified, but once certified, lifeguards can make that money back quickly, Morrison said. The fees vary depend on who is giving the course, Morrison said.
The class to be certified is about 27 hours long, which is a mix of classroom and pool work. But she said many certification classes now have the classroom work via the internet so they can focus on the pool work. Currently, certification courses have about seven hours of internet classes and about 19 or 20 hours of pool training.
The American Red Cross has a listing of lifeguard certification classes in the region, many of which are in State College. The Clearfield YMCA will have them from time to time. Morrison said the community pool and some other pools in the area hold a certification class in April in DuBois, those interested in taking that course should contact her at the Clearfield Area Jr./Sr. High School.
She said there is a fee but all the instructors are volunteers and all the fee money goes toward purchasing equipment for the course.
Because of the physical requirements and the importance of being a strong swimmer, most lifeguards are on the swim team or are active in other sports, but not all, Morrison said. And new lifeguards tend to be young because of the physical requirements and they have to maintain that level of physical fitness when they are a lifeguard.
But fitness isn’t everything. Lifeguards have to know how to deal with people and be confident leaders.
Luzier said dealing and watching over children is not the most difficult aspect of the job, it’s dealing with adults.
Morrison said, some adults have difficulty taking orders from people much younger than themselves. And she said the children usually idolize the lifeguards and look up to them as role models and will listen to them.
Buck said it is important that lifeguards are respectful and confident leaders and know how to deal with people. Morrison said this is beneficial in any job or profession
These days of COVID-19 has made lifeguarding a little more difficult, for the Community Pool is putting more chlorine in the water than usual to lessen the risk of infection and the lifeguards make sure people don’t congregate in large groups. But Buck said the pool is pretty safe because they are outside in the warm weather in a chlorinated pool.