Remaining on Guard: 5 Biggest Lessons Learned from Pool Season

April 27 is a pivotal mark on the calendar for me: National Pool Opening Day. If you didn’t already know, my time as a competitive swimmer left me constantly around the pool from ages six through 18. But it wasn’t until I was looking for my first job at 16 when I flipped the script. On top of being one of the swimming patrons, I decided to be the person who surveyed the pool: a lifeguard! From 2015 onwards, I have spent my summers guarding and learned some valuable lessons from it (check out this photo of me with my first ever paycheck from the pools five years ago—baby Hannah, visor and all!)


  • Stand your ground.

This one was a bit difficult at first because I struggled with exerting my authority over the pool patrons at such a young age. I felt like it wasn’t in my power to remind people older than me to follow the rules because it seemed like they would just obey them on their own accord… that’s not the case sometimes! People of all ages can slip up about whether or not it’s okay to run on the deck or get a little rowdy in the deep end, and I found my authoritative voice to fulfill the main responsibility of a guard: keeping everyone safe, even if it’s not the most “fun” to obey the rules. Plus, I have undergone a great lifeguard whistle evolution in my time—wimpy whistles no more!


  • Wear sunscreen!

Sure, the perks of being a guard at an outdoor pool come with a nice, bronzy tan, but that can have some wicked after-effects later in life. As much as I enjoy guarding, I wouldn’t want to risk skin cancer for it. Working as a lifeguard keeps me diligent about protecting my skin in the present to avoid consequences in the future.


  • Teamwork makes the dream work.

It would be nearly impossible to fulfill all the duties of a lifeguard by yourself day in and day out. Working as part of a pool staff for the past five years has taught me that the key to having each day be as safe (and fun) as possible is having a good working relationship with your coworkers and recognizing each person’s strengths! When everyone connects in a common goal like that, there’s nothing better.


  • Enjoy the little things!

When I first started guarding, it was a little monotonous—I surveyed the same areas of the pool for the same shifts all day and usually, it was the same patrons. Each day felt like a never-ending cycle. But as I’ve grown up with the same summer job, I’ve come to appreciate the returning patrons and establish a friendship with them. Having a familiar face during a hectic shift can make those summer days in the sun just a little bit brighter and better.


  • Have fun!

Lifeguarding as a summer job comes with a LOT of responsibility, and that is something I have come to terms with from age 16 when I started. But all that pressure comes with a need to let off steam—it is a summer job, so that’s the time in our young lives meant for reprieve and relaxation. I know for me that taking a quick dip off the diving board or even throwing some goggles on and doing a couple of laps is a great way to break up the workflow. Having coworkers you like to do this job with helps too!


Five years ago, I can say my insights on lifeguards was limited at best. I knew they guarded lives (duh), but the years I’ve spent keeping my community safe and having a splishy-splashy-stellar summer in the process is something that makes pool opening day an anticipated event in my life!