Like most parents, mine enrolled me in swimming lessons from the time I was a young kid. I had a great love for water and loved swimming endlessly.
As I moved into high school I tried out for my high school swim team, despite the ridiculously early swim practices (twice a week before school), I excelled and soon had made a bunch of new friends. It was through these friends that I started to pursue swimming as more than just a hobby. I enrolled in Bronze Star training and started my journey towards becoming a lifeguard.
As I moved through the ranks I quickly learned that the Bronze Star, Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross courses are not easy. You definitely need to be a strong swimmer – our warm-up was 25 lengths of a 25-meter pool – and you need to be comfortable in water.
One of my most vivid memories from my training was during a class where the instructor had us all tread water in a dive pool. We were gathered in a circle and the instructor would randomly choose one person to go into the middle of the circle and close their eyes. They would then have another student attack the student in the middle. The person that was being attacked needed to get out of the situation, and gain a safe distance from their assailant.
A sick version of fight club?
While this drill may seem like a sick version of fight club, it had its purpose. Often when someone is in danger in water they panic and will immediately throw themselves at anyone that is coming to rescue them. This can result in both people drowning. We were being taught how to correctly and safely rescue these people. It was scary, but also kind of fun.
Maybe I’m weird.
Once I became a lifeguard I got a job at a local pool, where it was a requirement that you not only lifeguard but also teach swimming lessons. This is NOT the case for all pools, but often the two go hand-in-hand.
This was more difficult for me. I’m not naturally a teacher, so it took a lot of work for me to prepare lessons, and keep grades for young children when I myself was only 17. Eventually the stress of teaching lessons was the reason I stopped working at a pool, but not before I had an amazing year and learned a whole lot about myself.
If life-guarding or becoming a swim instructor is something you would like to consider, here’s what you need to know.
How to become a lifeguard
To become a lifeguard in Alberta and in most provinces and territories across Canada you need to be 16 years or older, have your Bronze Cross Certification as well as Standard First-Aid training. The diagram below shows the progression:
Bronze Star -> Bronze Medallion -> Emergency First-Aid -> Bronze Cross -> Standard First-Aid = Lifeguard
How to become a swim instructor
To be a swim instructor you need to be 15 years old or older, complete the Water Safety Instructor course (WSI) as well as hold one of the following certifications: Red Cross Assistant Lifeguard, Emergency First Aid or equivalent (Bronze Cross certification is the required prerequisite in Quebec).
You should also be comfortable teaching children and adults, including being able to take notes, and keep lesson plans.
Where to find more information
Also, you can contact your local pool and they will have information for you, and likely offer programs.