Where Have All The Lifeguards Gone?


I have always had a soft spot for lifeguards. It probably traces all the way back to my very first summer when my mother, a lifeguard at the time, taught me how to swim.

As I got older, lifeguards were my idols. They were the ones in charge at pools, and I daydreamed about one day being cool enough to wear a whistle around my neck and yell at kids who wandered into the deep end.

When I was 11, my love for lifeguards reached a new level. My very first crush was Sean, who worked on the beach in Pensacola, FL. He let me help him set up the chairs and umbrellas on the sand, and I was certain we would be married one day. Of course, he kept calling me Lisa because he couldn’t remember my name, but I did not let that deter me from dreaming.

Over the years as I entered my teens, there were more lifeguards and more crushes during my family’s annual treks to Florida. Of course, at that point, I had given up the fantasy of becoming Mrs. Lifeguard and only worshiped these now god-like creatures from a distance.

Now that I am no longer in the spring or summer of my life, those guardians with whistles just give me the confidence of knowing that if my aging body grows tired while I am swimming, someone will be there to rescue me.

No matter my age, lifeguards have always held a certain mystique to me. They always seem so cool, collected and ready to dive in whenever necessary. While my summer memories may be flooded with lifeguards, these swimsuit-clad would-be heroes are now in short supply.

Newsweek recently reported that the lifeguard shortage could shut down at least a third of the pools across the country this summer, or – at the very least – affect their hours of operation. The director of the American Lifeguard Association told the news magazine that this is going to be the “worst” summer.

As it turns out, fewer teens and young adults are interested in lifeguarding these days. The YMCA USA’s Lindsay Mondick told Bloomberg that young people are more interested in getting internships and doing college prep work than they are in being a lifeguard. The lifeguard shortage was a problem for at least a decade before COVID, but the pandemic canceled many training classes and even shut a lot of pools down, which did not help matters.

To be a lifeguard in Michigan, you must be at least 15 years old and complete more than 25 hours of training. You can get your certification through the American Red Cross; just visit redcross.org/take-a-class/lifeguarding.

Unfortunately, when I searched online, I could not find any upcoming training classes at the Flint YMCA, but there were lifeguard job openings. It’s definitely a rewarding gig! You get a whistle to wear, and the adoration of countless pool and beachgoers.





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