by Jeremy Mortorff, Hampden Township Parks & Recreation Department
When I started my career in aquatics, I wasn’t lifeguard certified. I know, I know, you’re thinking to yourself “How can someone who is ultimately looking out for the safety and well-being of pool-goers not even be a lifeguard?!! Well, what can I say, I was a late bloomer to aquatics.
I remember going through the lifeguard course back in 2010. No surprise - I was the oldest person in the class. Not only that, but talk about humbling when I was rocking the dadbod look among a group of young, chiseled lifelong swimmers.
However, taking the class opened my eyes to how physically and mentally demanding the lifeguard course actually is. Having never previously guarded, I wasn’t aware of the physical toll that the class takes on you. CPR, entries and approaches, shallow water rescues, deep water rescues, backboarding - I was exhausted every day. However, it gave me a much-needed perspective and appreciation for what my guards went through as I prepared for my first season of aquatics management.
So with that groundwork, one would think that I would never let my certification expire, right...RIGHT? Well, having small children can really make you forgetful...throw in COVID-19 and you have the perfect concoction for letting my certification lapse. Yep. Major fail. That means that if I wanted to get my lifeguard certification again, no more 8 hour review course. Nope - I had to complete the real deal - a 20+ hour course. Oh boy. How was I going to do this again? It was 11 years later, I was a lot older (kids tend to do that, TBH), and I was more than a few pounds heavier.
Well, none of that mattered because I needed to get my certification again. I found a class online, registered, and received the necessary pre-course links from the American Red Cross. Blended learning-that wasn’t even an option back in 2010. I completed the pre-course work, made sure that I could still swim the 300, do the brick retrieval, and tread water for the necessary time without using my arms, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I registered for a class that ran all day Saturday and Sunday (with course work on Friday night as well!). I figured there was no way we would have to be there for the entire scheduled time on both days...boy was I wrong. The class in which I was enrolled was the most thorough and comprehensive lifeguard class that I had ever been a part of. I left each day physically and mentally exhausted, but with a deeper appreciation for my lifeguard staff. I was also able to network through the class and make some great connections for the future!
The class was needed. It reinvigorated my passion for aquatics and reminded me of the intense training that my lifeguards go through just to attain their certification. I felt like I had come full circle from the beginning of my career - only this time around I took so much more away. Experiencing the process and putting myself in the shoes of my young team members helps me to be more relatable and ultimately, a better leader.