Ben Schorzman | Content Coordinator, City of Eugene Recreation
The summer of 2016 was a busy one for the Eugene Rec's three pools.
Once the temperature climbed high enough, people flocked to Amazon, Echo Hollow and Sheldon pools by the thousands — 148,787 to be exact. With the daily number of patrons passing through the doors at 1,617, each facility has to be fully prepared.
There's a big need for temporary staff to keep everyone safe, and spring is the time Eugene Rec managers begin culling and training a new class of lifeguards to patrol the pools.
But before they can sit in the chair during a busy summer day at Amazon Pool, potential lifeguards must go through a rigorous training process in a program that goes above and beyond. It's tailored to the City and produces guards that aren't just ready to save lives but also to exceed in their own careers.
"All these skills are so much more and so far beyond what lifeguarding is about," Recreation Program Supervisor Robbie Guthrie says. "That's absolutely why I like this work and why I'm drawn to it."
'A big machine'
Amazon Pool's spacious deck and amenities make it a big draw during the summer for people who are trying to cool off when the temperature soars above 90 degrees. The traffic means Eugene Rec has to be prepared with enough employees. The temporary staff for aquatics swells to 150 during the summer. Last year Eugene Rec hired 51 new lifeguards and will do about the same this spring.
Most of the new guards end up at Amazon Pool, where anywhere from 22 to 30 could be on shift at one time.
"It's a big machine," says Guthrie, who's been with Eugene Rec since 2000. He started out as a lifeguard instructor and has been helping hire new classes of lifeguards for 11 years.
Ken Kenly currently leads the annual lifeguard training classes and helps Guthrie in the hiring process. He began his career with Eugene Rec as a lifeguard and has quickly moved up the ranks in his five years on the job. He says the busy summer months take a lot of work.
"It takes professionalism. It takes commitment by our guards, and it takes flexibility with our staff."
"I love it," Kenly says. "Classes are by far my favorite part of the whole season. I love working with the kids. I love watching them grow and it's a great pleasure for me to be able to train them. ... For a lot of them this is their first job and we're giving them skills to go on with their lives and life goals.
"I'm super excited to be a small part of that."
Aquatics staff have taken other steps to customize the training process and groom potential lifeguards. Eugene Rec offers junior lifeguarding and swim instructor courses during the summer where kids from the ages of 12 to 15 can get a head start on working at the pools. The junior lifeguarding course allows participants to assist and train with current lifeguards. Both classes are essentially job shadow opportunities for high school students who are interested.
"We have such a breadth of experiences as aquatics professionals and service providers, and we took things a step beyond," Guthrie says.