From the Centre: It takes a special person to be a lifeguard

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Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.

Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.

We just finished a batch of lifeguard interviews, which is a regular occurrence for us this time of year being as many of our summer staff move on to college, university or other fascinating adventures. We also have a few that return to high school (how dare they…), which somewhat hampers their availability during the day. We do get a significant return from the ones off schooling in far away places like Lethbridge, the Lower Mainland or other institutions for the summer, which we appreciate, and I’m sure Mom and Dad enjoy having them back for a defined period despite a spike in the grocery, power and Internet bills.

I enjoy most interviews; we throw some pretty in-depth questions at the applicants to determine some values, work ethics and how they might act in a crisis, among other queries (kind of important for a lifeguard). While you do your best to make them feel at ease so you get the true representation of the person, occasionally you can’t shake the “deer in the headlights” look. Face it, for an entry-level lifeguard, many of them are still in school and this is the first real interview they have faced where it isn’t a friend of Mom and Dad or a buddy that’s gotten you an “in”. Everyone gets scored on their own merit and knowledge, and while you might get the job, as I was told a few decades ago, “this is where you now really start to learn.”

The ace up our sleeve is that the majority of the people that we hire have also done most or all of their training through us so it’s kind of like a teacher that knows a student throughout the year — even though they might bomb the last test, they have a realistic knowledge of that student’s abilities.

We also have some more mature applicants and it is equally refreshing to get viewpoints based upon maybe a couple decades of experience. Don’t kid yourselves: Some older people get just as nervous as younger ones in an interview; in fact, I probably wouldn’t enjoy being on the other side of the interrogation lights (Kidding! We use LEDs to save power). Anyway, the part I find enjoyable is getting to know, even slightly better, these individuals that have enough of a passion to go through considerable expense and some pretty grueling training to become a lifeguard or an instructor in our community.

A recent interviewee excelled at how they would handle a scenario in a question where a child under seven was not within arms reach of an adult because — guess what — it happened to the: that split second where you turn or blink and your toddler, who was just on deck right beside you, has taken a leap of faith, except it’s into the lazy river and they are now leaving you at an alarming rate. There are a couple of good outcomes from the situation — first, the toddler was fine and second, the ability of this person to communicate the importance of this basic pool rule now far exceeds any teaching method to drive the point home.

At this location since the early 1970s, many lifeguards have been trained and have done their due diligence on either the decks of the James Ross Memorial Pool or inside at our present location. It takes a special person to be a guard and most will remember it as a special time in their lives as they move on to other callings.

Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.