Keeping children engaged in aquatics beyond swimming lessons is an ongoing challenge for the Leisure sector. However, by adding the RLSS UK Rookie Lifeguard programme to a pool timetable, operators can keep youngsters engaged longer while opening new revenue streams. 

Suitable for children aged around 8 to 12 years, the fun lifesaving programme teaches self-rescue, survival, rescue, and lifesaving sport skills.  And crucially, it’s a different activity that parents and children can find appealing after what can be years of swimming instruction.  

Louise Quimby-Wells-Collins, Training Officer and RLSS UK Approved Training Centre (ATC) Coordinator at John Charles Centre for Sport, has successfully engaged youngsters through the Rookie Lifeguard programme for decades.  

“We have run the programme through most of the centres in Active Leeds for many years. It’s an activity, not just a sport and educates in water safety, aquatic rescue skills and first aid. It also builds responsibility, confidence, teamwork, and leadership skills. It ticks all the boxes,” she says. 

Active Leeds has hundreds of youngsters taking part in the Rookie Lifeguard programme, with the number of participants in classes ranging from 12 to 80 at each of the various centres. The programme's popularity is such that many centres now have waiting lists! 

Quick and easy to upskill 

"The key to a successful Rookie Lifeguard programme is the people who deliver it", says Louise. 

"You need enthusiastic, passionate Rookie Lifeguard Instructors and a good structure." 

The great news is that it's quick and easy to upskill staff to deliver the Rookie Lifeguard programme, and likely that for most of your team, there'd be no need to complete any face-to-face training, and you don’t have to be a Swimming Teacher to be a Rookie Lifeguard Instructor! Anyone that is a current member of RLSS UK and holds one of RLSS UK’s Trainer Assessor (TA) or Instructor qualifications can update to deliver the programme online. For other staff, including lifeguards, a one-day course is all it takes to qualify as a Rookie Lifeguard Instructor. You can find your nearest course here. 

This is what Ava McPherson, aged-15, a proud holder of the Rookie Lifeguard Master award, feels about the Rookie Lifeguard programme after achieving the entire suite of Rookie Lifeguard awards when she was younger. 

“It was an incredibly positive experience for me, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. Not only did I learn valuable skills to help others, but I also gained a sense of confidence and responsibility that I didn’t have before. Knowing that I have the skills and knowledge to help people in an emergency is a truly empowering feeling, and I'm thankful for the chance to develop that skill set.” 

In addition to the practical skills that she learned during the programme, Ava says she also gained a great deal of knowledge about water safety and the importance of always being vigilant and aware. 

“This has helped me become a more responsible and aware person overall, and I feel much more prepared to handle unexpected situations that may arise in my daily life. 

“Overall, I can't overstate my gratitude for the experience. The Rookie Lifeguard course programme helped me to grow as a person and gain valuable skills. I encourage anyone who enjoys the water or helping others to join a Rookie Lifeguard class - it truly has the power to change lives.” 

Develop the next generation of lifeguards 

Rookie Lifeguard begins with Stage 1 of the Bronze Award and progresses to Stage 3 of the Gold Award, starting at an ability level suitable for new swimmers and progressing to the level where Rookie Lifeguards perform impressive lifesaving tows. There are also nine bolt-on speciality awards, including two Achievement Awards designed for candidates who are confident in the water but may not necessarily be strong swimmers – something for everyone! 

You could offer Rookie Lifeguard as a stand-alone course or as part of the Learn to Swim Programme. Positioning the lifesaving awards at the latter stages of your swimming lesson programme will help maximise success and retain swimmers from your centre or pool’s learn-to-swim or swimming lesson programme while significantly boosting your bottom line.  

“Use Rookie Lifeguard as an exit route from earlier swimming stages, such as Stages 8-10 on the English Learn to Swim Framework or as part of Swim Skills 4 in Scotland, to grow your lifesaving programme, from Rookie Lifeguard to National Lifesaving Academy (NLA), to the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ),” recommends Louise. 

When firmly embedded in your Aquatic Swim Path, Rookie Lifeguard can keep children returning to your pool longer and even help develop your next generation of lifeguards. Louise confirms: “We don’t struggle to recruit lifeguards in Leeds like other areas do.”   

Regardless of the size of your centre, Rookie Lifeguard offers a wealth of benefits. It can potentially keep youngsters attending your centre for an additional three years and considerably increase your swimming and pool-based income. 

To learn more about the Rookie Lifeguard programme and how RLSS UK can support you start:
Download our handy guide by clicking here.