Aquatic and Recreation Leaders (Directors, Supervisors, Operation managers…whatever the name) must take an active role as a leader. Leaders are seen, not hidden. All levels of management must be engaged with all levels of employees in their organization and have some appearance that they care what goes on in their facilities.

Too often lifeguards fail to see or have any contact with management personnel. Some staff only see senior facility staff when something goes critically wrong. All aquatic facilities / organizations have a common goal that everyone can agree upon; “No one will die in our facility”. Leaders frequently drive the point home to lifeguards that they must “watch their water / supervise patrons”. Leaders often forget a key component in prevention, they must also supervise their staff, including the lifeguards.

How often do we find multi-million dollar attractions / facilities where the only staff in plain view are 15 to 19 year old lifeguards? Would you let these staff “watch” your kids?, Drive your car? Think about it. When things go bad, stuff rolls up hill. “How could such a thing (submersion) have happened?”. Failure to supervise comes to my mind. There was a failure in vigilance from the lifeguard, but management / leadership failed too.

Some organizations have adversarial relationships between staff (unions) and management. Obviously this will contribute greatly to the failure of the organization. Hire the best, expect the best, and work together for your sake and the organizations success. It is unacceptable to have adversarial attitudes between management and staff when peoples lives are at risk.

It is wonderful when you have highly competent and responsible staff, but even the best guards make mistakes. As we all know, mistakes made around the water can be life or death. As such leaders of organizations with aquatic facilities must make their attitudes about safety known to staff regularly. After all, that 19 year old may hold the future of your job and your organization in their hands.

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Comment by Jim Wheeler on March 5, 2011 at 5:14pm
Highly insightful Lelan, exactly why for the last ten or more years we (Total Aquatic Management) have been a leading advocate for active supervision and layered protection as well as management by walking around. Until pool managers and supervisors understand the importance of bing on deck this will always be a problem. We have trained thousands of aquatic personnel about the improtance of being on deck and have many testimonials stating that if their senior staff had not been on deck critical incidents with positive outcomes would not have been successful. Pool Managers and supervisors need to manage the pool not the office.   

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