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South Valley Journal

Water rescues to take center stage at Lifeguard Games

Aug 02, 2019 02:17PM ● By Greg James

Several lifeguard teams will converge on Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center (KOPFC) to compete in the lifeguard games Aug. 3. (Pixabay)

By Greg James | [email protected]

A swimmer steps to the edge of the pool and jumps in. Seconds later, he realizes the water is deeper than he anticipated, and he cannot reach the bottom. Panic sets in, and a lifeguard jumps into action.

“We have an incident a few times a day,” Kearns Oquirrh Park Aquatics Manager Brad Peercy said. “We are proud of those rescues. They can happen, and obviously we never want anything bad to happen, but our employees become better lifeguards after they have their first rescue. This stuff is totally precautionary, but it is good they are there doing their job.”

Lifeguards will converge on Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center Saturday, Aug. 3 at 7 a.m. to practice and demonstrate their skills at the Utah Aquatics Lifeguard Games. The competition will be judged by the American Red Cross and is open to spectators. 

The event is run by the Utah Recreation and Parks Association and has been hosted by the fitness center for several years. Approximately 25 teams from all over the state and from Wyoming and Idaho are scheduled to participate, including a team from the West Valley Fitness Center and several teams representing Salt Lake Parks and Recreation pools.

Each team consists of six lifeguards (four participants and two alternates). They will participate in several types of rescue events. Rescue races, relay swimming events and backboard rescues are all part of the competition. They will use CPR skills and other equipment to show their abilities. The winning team takes home a traveling trophy that has been shared for about 25 years.

“The competition is great experience, and winning it doesn’t mean you have good guards or bad guards,” Peercy said. “It is a good opportunity for them to become better guards and not just at the event. They practice on their own to get ready, and that makes them better. They have people watching them, and they want to do well. It is also a chance to showcase what lifeguards do. This shows how hard they work, and even though the majority of them are 17 to 19 years old, they have a lot of responsibility.” 

Lifeguards supervise the safety of swimmers and other water sport participants. Each facility has different types of rescue skills necessary to be efficient at the job. Many pools offer diving platforms and slides, whereas others only have small pools. The guards must be proficient in the skills to best meet the needs of the facility they are employed at.

 Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center, JL Sorenson and West Valley Fitness Center offer indoor recreation pools, a water slide and 50-meter pools. The pools serve multiple purposes throughout the year, including year-round access to lap swimming, open plunges, water polo leagues and swim meets.

“We employ about 125 lifeguards in the summer months,” Peercy said. “They range in age from 15 years old to about 22. They are all certified through the American Red Cross. We also have additional training for our employees from our facility.”

Lifeguard certification involves a 30-hour class. It includes water skills, a written test, rescue breathing, CPR and general first aid. Ongoing training is also recommended by the state. The Kearns center holds four-hour in-service trainings and individual audits on each lifeguard.

“We use a silhouette to simulate a body on the bottom of the pool called a drop drill,” Peercy said. “We have someone sneak it in to the bottom of the pool. That can be part of our audit. We have them rescue the silhouette just as if it was a real rescue. Then we can sit down a discuss how each lifeguard is doing.” 

“Regardless of what pool you swim at, everyone wants you to be safe,” Peercy said.