No longer in the days of ‘Baywatch:’ local aquatic centers struggle to staff new lifeguards

Staffing struggles have hit many industries across the U.S. — including community pools, which are scrambling to hire lifeguards for the summer season.

The American Lifeguard Association, which is based in Vienna, Virginia, says about half of the nation’s 309,000 public pools will be forced to close their doors or reduce hours if more lifeguards aren’t hired and trained this summer. But the pool season has already begun.

Cynthia Brown, the aquatic coordinator of the Greenbelt Aquatic Center, told WTOP that, in addition to young adults, she is also reaching out to people who used to be lifeguards and those that have applied in the past and may still be interested.

“It’s been very tough. It’s just not a job that people are looking for anymore,” she said. “When we were younger, children looked up to being the lifeguard. We had TV shows; we had ‘Baywatch.’ We had all of these TV shows that made us look like the real hero. And it’s not like that anymore.”

She emphasizes you don’t have to be a perfect swimmer, just have the desire to learn and help others.

“Anybody else who is interested in becoming a lifeguard, we definitely will train you. You don’t have to know how to swim perfectly. Just know we will train you to do whatever it is that you … need to do,” she said.

The Greenbelt facility is keeping its hours stable and has even extended them later, but recruiting is now its top priority. They’re expanding their search far beyond high school and college-aged candidates, but it’s hard to give a more lucrative, financial incentive.

“If anybody wants to come on out and give it a try, I will make sure that we give them what they need,” she said.

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Dan Ronan

Weekend anchor Dan Ronan is an award-winning journalist with a specialty in business and finance reporting.

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