Aquatic Managers How do you train or select your Head Guards?

Hello Everyone!

I am doing a presentation at a regional aquatics management meeting in Florida and would like some input from others on how you train potential Head Guards, what you look for when selecting these individuals, and how you help them to be successful.  I kow what I do, and what colleagues in my area do, but I would like to have more info from around the country.  Thanks for your help!

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Great topic.  I am in the midst of working our seasonal aquatic supervisor (head guard) selections as we speak.  We hold an initial skill assessment once they have applied, before they are eligible for an interview.  The skill assessment evaluates everything from their teamwork, communication, teaching ability, case study evaluation/self assessment, etc.  Once hired, we enroll all of our seasonal aquatic supervisors in the ARC LGI course as well as put them through the ARC Lifeguard Management course.  Additionally on-site, each seasonal aquatic supervisor is put through a 70 point training-checklist (about 2-3 weeks) before they are able to work in that capacity on their own.  I am always interested in getting the best out of our program and I look forward to hearing others responses.  If you would like additional information, feel free to email me

I would like to have your 70 point check list.  I have great HG's right now...but last year went through a period where no one was capable of being promoted.  Ended up promoting the "potentials" and training them into the position.  It was quite a bit of work on my part, but well worth it.  I saw it coming down the pike, so I was prepared. Any new ideas can be added to my file, in case I need to repeat and improve my training process. 

Send me an email,, and I will forward the checklist to you.



I would very much like a copy of your 70 point training list. Please, e-mail me at

Thank-you, Nancy Arnold

I am in the process of building a legitimate program myself! I've always in the past just appointed Sr. Guards based on work ethic and maturity but at my new facility I am taking my time and making it super legitimate by trying to build it into an Aquatic Manager/Director training program/internship sort of thing. I hope people keep posting what they do!


3 times a yr we have try outs. The position is posted for staff and either leadership approaches staff we would like to try out or we open to door to conversation for any staff considering the position. We will set up an interview with the staff person and have other leadership from other centers sit in on the interview. The interviews are concluded before the try out date itself. during the interview period leading up to the try out staff complete the Sr. LG Written test and seek a letter of reference from another Sr. Staff in the association. On the test day they turn in their written test and letter of reference. We then have them draw numbers to pair up with another candidate and they complete two scenarios. One as first rescuer and one as second. Its scenario based and we have faux trauma kits for staff to use ( mock AED,O2, Incident reports, cpr masks, gloves, towels, etc.)

after the try out we as leadership meet to discuss who should pass and who should not. Sr. Guard is an association position so someone may be a Sr. Guard at their home center of if that center is full they can try out to be a Sr. Guard at another center with an opening.

You know a great way to ask this same question is to ask, How did you become a Head Guard and then onto a manager (or whatever title you had)?

I know too many pool pros that are way to focused on trying to invent something new. I think we have the tools to put together how to develop these people. I am willing to say 100% that we know in our guts who could cut it as a Head Guard and who wouldn't within little time of working with a staffer. While some of these folks will make some mistakes we know who those are that will be able to perform when it counts. I know we all have legal and HR Departments that tell us we need to have a process, but come on we know who is going to be trainable to perform the job and who isn't. You can tell pretty quick those who get it. I think as an industry we sell ourselves short too often and don't trust ourselves. 

Great way to put it and I agree 100%.

... I would tend to avoid the socially popular people.  They tend to prioritize yapping, texting, and screwing around to actual work --generally speaking-- and seem to lack the ability to separate work from personal.

I have a year-round indoor facility and a seasonal outdoor facility, with approximately 30 employees. My Head Guards are hired until they choose to leave, so the process is used when a vacancy exists.  When we first started the Head Guard position (similar to assistant manager of the essence my right hand people) I divided the position into HG: SDT, HG:PSE, and HG:MO.  The codes mean Staff Development and Training (Hiring, screening, in-service, spot checks, remedial work, scheduling of all employees, etc.), Programming and Special Events (lessons, water exercise aka WEX, ongoing, seasonal and community special events), and Maintenance and Operation (signage, all the little things related to operations,  communication with Building Maintenance and Parks Department, facility reports, etc.) 


The employees have changed and they've merged and swapped roles, but the essence of job descriptions has stayed the same.  I had a very wise HR director who said that the HG position should have ALL the job descriptions combined, so that a great candidate could be hired, even if they were not qualified for the "open" spot.  Her wise words have enabled me to ebb and flow with the managers strengths and weaknesses and their personal likes and dislikes.


When a HG position becomes available, I accept formal applications.  All the candidates meet with me for an information meeting where I talk about job descriptions, team needs, manager expectations, managing your peers, time commitment, etc.  Then each candidate goes through a round of interviews with all the HG's plus me (Yep 4 on 1).  First round is oral interviews so I can determine their ability to think on their feet, talk through scenarios, and ask some basic questions.  Immediately following they have 1 hour to complete a written round of questions.  This round is used to see what their written communication is like when they don't have spell / grammar check and they're under a time frame.  It is a hand written document (that I must be able to translate...).  Third round is a take home set of questions that they can research, organize, and present as a completed assignment.  They can phone a friend, ask other managers, even ask me if they want to.  This one lets me know what a "final product" looks like.


Each manager then reviews and score every round.  I create a composite and the lowest score is offered the job.  I did have 1 year where it was head to head b/t 2 people, through all the steps.  We created a round 4 and it didn't help.... At that point I was the dissenting opinion, but went with the decisions of the other managers, b/c ultimately they have to work together. 


Once a new HG is hired, they are trained by their predecessor, with the ability to add, adjust, and make the portion their own.  Of course, I am involved in the day to day operations of my I can be a visible presence and obvious mentor as needed. 

We offer a Management Training to potential managers at the end of each season to prepare for the next season. Those who are interested in attending management training are asked to submit a brief questionnaire to help weed out those who just want the hours and those who are actually interested in learning more about what it takes to be a manager. We also receive feedback from their current management team as to what their work ethic has been. This is really just a get your feet wet course to give them the skills to interview and the knowledge behind what a manager is responsible for. They have to then apply for a management position - once the position is offered they attend the Aquatic Management Academy which is a 3 day course taught by the coordinators and are required to complete a shadow shift checklist where they shadow all aspects of each program at their assigned facility before they are left alone.

I would be interested in hearing how other Pool Managers choose their Head guard.  I look for maturity, positive attitude, positive interaction with the rest of the staff, experience,  willingness to step up when asked to take on additional tasks, leadership.  I let my head guard be in charge of the lifeguards.  I let him or her take care of the rotations, need for extra guards as crowd grows, planning and executing 2 training sessions each month, breaking in new lifeguards and subs, and supervising the cleaning and disinfecting of our locker rooms by staff.  I try not to micro-manage.  If I see a problem with a guard, I will address it with the head guard and let him or her handle it with the guard.  I want my staff to feel they can approach the head guard with any concerns they may have.


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