Declining swimming numbers could spell disaster for pool operators. Fortunately, the RLSS UK’s Rookie Lifeguard Programme can help.

Operators can potentially achieve a gross income of £3,000 in a 10-week term.

Working with the industry, the RLSS UK has developed a number of initiatives specifically designed to help operators attract new swimmers and retain existing pool users.

The highly successful Rookie Lifeguard Programme has proved to be a particularly useful tool for retaining younger swimmers, allowing operators to keep children coming to their centres for longer. More than this, operators implementing the nine core awards over one 10-week term can potentially achieve a gross income of £3,000.

Wolverhampton Swimming and Fitness Centre has run the RLSS UK Rookie Lifeguard Programme for more than six years.

Operated by Places for People Leisure in partnership with Wolverhampton City Council, the centre has four swimming pools comprising a 25m main pool, a 15m pool, a toddler pool and a leisure waters pool.

The centre runs a comprehensive programme of swimming lessons accommodating some 3,000 children. Rookie Lifeguard has proved a useful way of retaining children after its learn to swim programmes. Designed for eight to 12 year olds, the nine awards teach a variety of life-saving skills including survival, rescue, life support and water safety. These skills can not only save lives – one girl prevented her baby brother from choking to death by using the techniques she’d learned during Rookie Lifeguard – the programme also allows operators to retain children for an additional three years.

The centre runs five, 30-minute Rookie classes each week, 50 weeks a year.

“Rookie has been very successful for us. It’s not simply an income generator; we retain children in our aquatics programme, and introduce life-saving skills to them. Rookie is viewed as a natural progression from our swimming lessons and we also pick up children from other centres in Wolverhampton that don’t offer the programme,” says Donna Bristoll, operations manager at Places for People Leisure.

The programme also helps to retain staff. Those holding a Level 2 Swimming Teacher qualification and a Lifesaving/Lifeguarding qualification can qualify as a Rookie Lifeguard Instructor.

“Rookie is a great way for our teachers to develop and add another string to their bow. All they have to do is apply for the instructor pack available from Lifesavers Direct (RLSS UK’s online store) and complete the conversion. It’s an easy way to get more skilled and happier staff,” says Bristol.

RLSS UK Rookie Lifeguard Facts

The scheme begins with Stage 1 of the Bronze Award and progresses to Stage 3 of the Gold Award, starting off at an ability level suitable for new swimmers and progressing to the level where Rookie Lifeguards perform life-saving tows.

Rookie Lifeguard is part of the National Plan for Teaching Swimming (NPTS) developed by the Amateur Swimming Association. It can also be run as a stand-alone course by junior lifesaving clubs, leisure centres and swimming schools and as part of school swimming lessons. The Rookie Lifeguard Water Safety Award fulfils all of the Key Stage 2 water safety elements of the National Curriculum.

Many Rookies progress to RLSS UK’s Survive and Save Lifesaving programme and some even continue the pathway to become RLSS UK pool lifeguards, completing the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ).