Lifeguard training agencies give lifeguards the knowledge and water skills they need to do their jobs effectively.
But there is also a great need for strategies to prevent boredom and keep lifeguards alert, particularly when they are on duty for long periods. Vigilance in general is difficult for all human beings but particularly difficult for teenagers, and most lifeguards in this country are teenagers. Lifeguard surveys continually indicate that boredom is a lifeguard’s primary enemy.
Although lifeguarding is an extremely important job and has many rewards, it can quickly become very tedious depending on the situation. Although crowded days can be stressful for lifeguards, at least their attention typically increases with the size of the crowd. Most lifeguards would agree that slow days are more of a problem, at least from the standpoint of attention and concentration than crowded days. On crowded days, however, more lifeguards are often necessary to visually cover the swimming area adequately.
Invented Hypothesis Since the early 1900s, much has been researched and written about the optimal level of psychological and emotional arousal for physical and mental tasks. In 1908, the first illustrated how different levels of arousal predict performance. Stated, low levels of arousal and high levels of arousal lead to poor performance, while moderate levels of arousal lead to optimal performance in many endeavors. Low levels of arousal lead to poor performance through a lack of awareness and motivation, and high levels of arousal lead to panic and choking due to overloading, with potentially catastrophic results. Many areas including sports and medical training are sometimes referred to as the invented hypothesis. Regardless of the sport or profession, to maximize performance, a little bit of nervousness or arousal is desirable. On the contrary, too much or too little arousal hurts performance. Lifeguards have known this for decades: Slow days and busy days produce either bored or overloaded lifeguards, and moderately busy days are best for attention, concentration, and awareness. Most medical schools use the motto “See one, do one, teach one.” This refers to the competence and confidence levels of physicians performing vitally important medical procedures. Before being competent and confident in doing lifesaving procedures, particularly when time is of the essence, physicians should first see the procedure performed by another physician. Then after being further taught about the procedure, the physician may be ready to attempt the procedure on his own. However, the best medical educators truly believe that doctors become competent and confident in doing a procedure only after teaching it to other potential physicians. Lifeguards should be so lucky. Most often, the one and only time lifeguards perform a water rescue requiring resuscitation is their first and last. Lifeguards are expected, of course, to respond perfectly, professionally, and in a timely fashion, even though they have not had the opportunity to “see one, do one, teach one.”