SHERIDAN — Being a lifeguard may look easy, but if you ask Tyler Kaufmann it’s no day at the beach.
Kaufmann is one of 28 lifeguards at the Kendrick Pool and he has done the job for the last three years. He says it is not quite as carefree as it looks.
“People think it is an easy job, just sitting in the sun, but it takes a lot of energy to make sure that all the patrons are safe,” he said. “It is not as easy as everyone thinks it is.”
Lifeguards rotate to different stations at the pool every 15 minutes and diligence is perhaps the most important aspect of the job.
“We rely heavily on the high school population,” said Jamie Ostermyer, who oversees the pool as an aquatics specialist for the Sheridan Recreation District. “We have to make them realize that getting a tan is not the most important thing and they have to get used to scanning their zone with a watchful eye.”
There are typically six lifeguards on duty at one time and Ostermyer said the busiest day thus far this year saw 450 swimmers in the pool. Keeping focus on that many swimmers mostly requires keeping cool according to Kaufmann.
“I try to stay cool, if you get hot and exhausted your mind tends to drift,” he said. “So you use an umbrella, stay in the shade and don’t stare at one area when you are scanning the pool.”
Cassandra Robinson, 16, who is in her first year lifeguarding at the pool and said she keeps a water bottle constantly at hand. She said she has been going to the pool ever since she was a young girl and thought it would be fun to become a lifeguard.
“I like interacting with the young kids and when they ask how things work, it is fun to be able to explain it to them,” she said.
In order to become a lifeguard, training in a six-week course is required. All lifeguards must be older than 15. Participants learn CPR, first aid and a variety of techniques to save swimmers who need aid. The class is offered to potential lifeguards in the spring. Ostermyer said that the majority of those taking the class finish and perseverance is required to take the course.
“Mainly what I am looking for is dedication,” she said.
The skills learned at the class are often practiced throughout the year. Kauffman said he has had to go into the pool to save someone, but wouldn’t say exactly how many times.
More frequent are the whistle blows to make sure that swimmers aren’t running on the pool deck.
“We have to make sure everybody follows the rules,” he said. “Some kids do the same thing if you say stop.”
Robinson said it doesn’t take much for the most part to get pool patrons to toe the line.
“The regulars know (the rules),” she said. “If they do something wrong, I just look at them and they know.”
For those young people who wish to get a taste of what a lifeguard goes through, there is a junior lifeguard course at the Kendrick Pool starting July 22. The cost is $55 and the course is for 11 to-14-year olds.
They do not get certified as a lifeguard due to age requirements, but Ostermyer said the course mimics the actual lifeguard certification course.