5 Simple Ways to Appreciate and Retain Your Lifeguards

Use these ideas to show your lifeguards gratitude and keep them engaged and returning for years to come.
min read

High-quality lifeguards are essential to any your operations, especially in the summertime. Parks and recreation, summer camp, and aquatics leaders have worked very hard over the offseason to hire, train, and orient lifeguards. But your attention to lifeguards’ experiences doesn’t stop there! In order to keep these important team members not just present but actively engaged in their roles and the overall mission of your organization, you need to take special care to show your appreciation for their hard work and dedication. In this blog post, you will find five simple and low-budget ways to show lifeguards gratitude.

Hydration Station

This is a safety consideration as well! Lifeguards absolutely need to stay hydrated to focus on their jobs. Relying on the drinking fountain or counting on guards to remember to bring enough water for the day is not an ideal setup. As a manager, think of ways that you can make hydration even easier for your guards.

Here’s one easy idea: Set up a drink cooler each morning with tons of ice and sports drink mix. This is a great way to encourage hydration and show your appreciation for the guards’ hard work.

Guard Fridge

Up your game from the 10-gallon cooler with a refrigerator just for your guards. If you can, reserve a section of the fridge for special treats for the team. Classic freeze pops, for example, can go a long way and won’t cost you much money to provide. If you already have a fridge, consider adding an ice maker. For a smaller team, you could even consider an inexpensive countertop version. Being able to add fresh ice to your water bottle is a great way to keep your lifeguards energized and their focus sharp!

Pro tip: If you provide freeze pops, tie a long string to a pair of scissors and attach it to the fridge so they’re always easy to open!

Cooling Towels

Remember the fridge? You don’t just have to use it for food (as long as that is OK with your local health inspector!). Consider utilizing it to help the lifeguards cool down through items like DIY cooling towels. Simply roll up washcloths or rags like jellyrolls and soak them in cool water. Store them in the fridge in a plastic zipper bag. Mid-day, when the sun gets really hot, distribute cooling towels to lifeguards on the stand. They can place the cooling towel on the back of their neck for some relief! Afterward, you can wash them and do this over and over again.

Choosing the Playlist

Many pools or beaches have speakers and play music to enhance the atmosphere. But at your facility, who chooses the music? Often, it’s the manager or someone who has become the self-appointed DJ. However, giving guards the opportunity to choose the playlist can be extremely energizing. Here are a few ways to go about doing this:

  • At a lifeguard in-service training, give each guard the opportunity to submit three songs they would like to see played at your facility. Then, create a playlist including everyone’s songs.
  • If you select a lifeguard of the week, give them a day where they control the playlist.
  • At the start of a shift, draw names for who gets to be in charge of the facility music for the shift.

“Golden Tube”

When you are placing your supply order, you’re likely to order all red rescue tubes. This year, add a gold one. Here’s how the golden tube works: Each day, a different lifeguard gets to use it. But the reason they get to use it is because they have been recognized for a job well done by a fellow staff member. If I am the current holder of the golden tube, I get to pass it to another member of the team at the end of my shift. When I pass the tube, I tell my colleague why I appreciate them. At the end of the day, the holder of the tube can check the schedule to see who is on the opening shift, and leave the golden tube in the locker of a morning colleague with a note. It’s an honor to hold the golden tube and a great way to perpetuate expressions of gratitude throughout the team.

A special thanks to EmJ Juszczyk and Allison Krabill for the great ideas they contributed to this article!

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