A Day in the Life

by Jeremy Mortorff

Date: Any sweltering day in June, July, or August

Location: Unnamed aquatic facility in Central Pennsylvania

10:15am-Clocking in for the day

Getting in a little early for my shift today. Starting the day with adult fitness hour. Wonder how many fights I’ll have to break-up between the walkers and the lap swimmers? Can’t we all just get along?

10:30am-Grab my tube, hip pack, and head out to the stand

Looks like a pretty large group of patrons today for fitness hour. We have our regular lap swimmers and a few fresh faces. Must be because the local indoor fitness center pool is closed.

11:45am-Summer camp arrives

Ahhh yes, the influx of K-5 aged children. Hoping that the supervision is good today. We have summer camps from around the area that bring their groups to our facility on a weekly basis.

12:30pm-More people, more people

We are definitely reaching capacity today. That line at the admission desk hasn’t let up since we opened. Makes sense since it is the first 90 degree day we’ve had in a week or so. Hoping that the ”on-call” guard actually comes in today when requested…

2pm-I’m going in!!!

I scan my zone, left to right, top to middle, middle to bottom. Everything has gone great so far today. Parents have been really attentive, being right there within arm’s length of their children. Summer camp counselors have been outstanding. Other guards have been awesome too – addressing issues before they become large problems. I continue to scan…that child that just went down the waterslide…they look panicked. Their eyes are bugging out…they’re stuck in the current at the bottom of the slide…TWEET-TWEET-TWEET!!!


One of the responding guards carries a clipboard with a rescue report and we locate the adult responsible for the child. They are shocked that their child required saving. I explain that the current at the bottom of the water slide is very strong and that can sometimes present issues, even for a decent swimmer. We have the adult help us fill out the report. They tell the child they’ll have to skip the slide until they can get out of the current successfully. The adult thanks us for being there to keep their child safe. This makes it worth it!

4pm-People leaving…aka the Mass Exodus

It’s 4pm and a lot of guests are now leaving for the day. Off to get Chick-fil-A for their quick dinner before baseball and softball practice tonight. Summer camps have gone too, so the crowds are much more manageable now. Though it isn’t all sunshine and roses. There is a rowdy group of young men that are continually dismissing the requests of lifeguards and begin mocking them. I’m the lucky target right now…


“Sir, I’m sorry, but you can’t swim in denim pants.” The confused look on his face indicates to me that he doesn’t understand or just doesn’t care. I double tweet to get a manager out to take it from there. The manager comes out and immediately understands my struggle. They calmly explain to the guest the reasons why denim is not an acceptable form of swimming attire. The entire time I’m thinking to myself wet jeans CANNOT be comfortable…

7pm-Swim lessons

This is my favorite time of day. I love teaching our children and youth swimming skills. After all, swimming is a life-skill and everyone can benefit from it! The group of children I have this week are amazing! They are really engaged, listening, and trying all of the skills we present. The safety topic each day is my favorite part!

8pm-Closing time

It’s 8pm and we close the facility for the day. My chore today is the bath house, which is lovely because it usually takes all visitors at least 20 minutes to finish up in there after closing. What exactly are they doing in there???

Anyhow, I take the time to help out with the organizing of the guard office and bag a few rounds of trash. The amount of trash that is made on a busy day at an aquatic facility is mind-blowing.

The last patron exits the bath house and I head in there, gloved up, to assess the damages. Not too bad, amazingly. That means that my fellow guards did a great job when they had their checks throughout the day. It’s just a few paper towels, a diaper (really????), a pair of goggles and a towel.

I check in with the Head Guard and then head to the manager’s office to fill out my timesheet. Today is the end of our pay period, so I take a little extra time to check my math, total my timesheet, sign it, and hand it to the manager on duty.

As I head out to my car, I reflect on the day, especially the rescue that I had. Thank goodness for our in-service training schedule that keeps us sharp and ready to respond to any emergency that could come our way. While I dread the early mornings and late nights when they take place, these are the moments I’m grateful for the thoroughness of our training. 

Here’s to hoping that tomorrow someone doesn’t try to swim in a velour sweatsuit…


Full Circle

by Jeremy Mortorff, Hampden Township Parks & Recreation Department

When I started my career in aquatics, I wasn’t lifeguard certified. I know, I know, you’re thinking to yourself “How can someone who is ultimately looking out for the safety and well-being of pool-goers not even be a lifeguard?!! Well, what can I say, I was a late bloomer to aquatics.

I remember going through the lifeguard course back in 2010. No surprise – I was the oldest person in the class. Not only that, but talk about humbling when I was rocking the dadbod look among a group of young, chiseled lifelong swimmers. 

However, taking the class opened my eyes to how physically and mentally demanding the lifeguard course actually is. Having never previously guarded, I wasn’t aware of the physical toll that the class takes on you. CPR, entries and approaches, shallow water rescues, deep water rescues, backboarding – I was exhausted every day. However, it gave me a much-needed perspective and appreciation for what my guards went through as I prepared for my first season of aquatics management.

So with that groundwork, one would think that I would never let my certification expire, right…RIGHT? Well, having small children can really make you forgetful…throw in COVID-19 and you have the perfect concoction for letting my certification lapse. Yep. Major fail. That means that if I wanted to get my lifeguard certification again, no more 8 hour review course. Nope –  I had to complete the real deal – a 20+ hour course. Oh boy. How was I going to do this again? It was 11 years later, I was a lot older (kids tend to do that, TBH), and I was more than a few pounds heavier.

Well, none of that mattered because I needed to get my certification again. I found a class online, registered, and received the necessary pre-course links from the American Red Cross. Blended learning-that wasn’t even an option back in 2010. I completed the pre-course work, made sure that I could still swim the 300, do the brick retrieval, and tread water for the necessary time without using my arms, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I registered for a class that ran all day Saturday and Sunday (with course work on Friday night as well!).  I figured there was no way we would have to be there for the entire scheduled time on both days…boy was I wrong. The class in which I was enrolled was the most thorough and comprehensive lifeguard class that I had ever been a part of. I left each day physically and mentally exhausted, but with a deeper appreciation for my lifeguard staff. I was also able to network through the class and make some great connections for the future!

The class was needed. It reinvigorated my passion for aquatics and reminded me of the intense training that my lifeguards go through just to attain their certification. I felt like I had come full circle from the beginning of my career – only this time around I took so much more away. Experiencing the process and putting myself in the shoes of my young team members helps me to be more relatable and ultimately, a better leader.

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