RLSS UK Pool Lifeguard Trainer Assessor and member James Rankin talks about being a lifeguard…

What is being a lifeguard all about? This is always one of the first things I ask on my National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) courses. The most common answers I receive are – saving lives, rescuing people and sitting in a chair, however being a lifeguard is so much more than that.

Although these are obviously core components of the job, the role of a lifeguard is very complex but rewarding. Key qualities needed are an ability to be professional, able to deal with all ages and abilities, recognise potential dangers to people and be proactive in dealing with these whilst still allowing people to enjoy and use the water.

Physical fitness is important but so is an active mind. Guidelines and regulations change regularly and part of maintaining standards mean all lifeguards have a responsibility to keep up-to-date with these and to ensure that they make any necessary changes to practice.

Being a lifeguard is not always very social. It often involves undertaking early morning starts or late shifts, but this can be an advantage too. Days off in the week when friends are working their 9-5 office jobs mean shops are quieter, commuting to work is easy and you get to enjoy the sunrises missed by others still in bed. Although lifeguarding can mean long periods of time sitting by a pool, it is a surprisingly varied role. No two days are ever the same when working with the public and you always need to be alert to the unexpected.

I alluded at the beginning that maintaining professional standards is important, as a lifeguard you are accountable for following RLSS UK guidelines and HSE regulations.

Lifeguarding is not just about sitting in a chair, it is a fulfilling, responsible job which can enhance leisure time for a wide variety of clientele, it is about ensuring that water activities are safe, inclusive and it is a career choice which can open doors to extensive opportunities within the leisure industry both here and abroad.