When hiring a lifeguard for a private event or a backyard pool party, it is imperative to consider what exactly you should expect from a good professional lifeguard. Because of the critical importance of keeping your children, your guests and your family safe at the pool, you should never settle for a Lifeguard that doesn’t excel at all of the following seven traits.

Water Rescue Skills

First and foremost, every lifeguard is well trained in a diverse array of water rescue and safety skills. Strict certification guidelines require lifeguards to learn these critical skills. A well trained lifeguard knows how to properly rescue swimmers whether conscious or unconscious, submerged or on the surface.

Lifeguards know how to assess potential spine and/or head injury and rescue such victims accordingly. Furthermore, a good lifeguard knows how to handle a panicked or aggressive victim, and can swim to safety while holding a person, head above water, weighing up to 250 pounds.

CPR & First Aid

From broken bones to bee stings, almost any unexpected injury can happen at the pool. Lifeguards are trained to handle almost any situation as a first responder and provide basic medical attention. In the unlikely event of the worst case scenarios, every lifeguard must also possess CPR certification, enabling them to perform CPR and rescue breathing on a person of any age.

Fitness & Swimming Proficiency

A Lifeguard’s job is physically demanding, and the certification process for Lifeguards requires them to exhibit speed, stamina and a full arsenal of swimming skills. The key components of that arsenal include a strong ‘crawl’ stroke to reach victims quickly, and the side stroke, which is used when carrying a victim to safety. Great lifeguards are also well-versed in a variety of rescue maneuvers and can tread water for extended periods, even while holding non-buoyant weight.


Even with all the fitness, expertise and knowledge a lifeguard can possess, they are only as effective as their attentiveness. Lifeguards must be ever-vigilant and constantly aware of everything going on at the pool – even with the frivolity, chaos and tumult of a raucous party. While your lifeguard will likely take extra care to ensure the safety of your guests – remember that even expert attentiveness can be strained past its limits if your population of poolside patrons gets too high. Consider hiring one lifeguard per every 20 guests at your event.

Enforces Rules Tactfully

Almost everyone knows the familiar warble of the lifeguard’s whistle. This essential tool is the cornerstone of the lifeguard’s rule-enforcing role at the pool. While most of a guard’s duties are reactive in nature, they must also occasionally focus on safety through prevention and the enforcement of rules.

Running around wet surfaces is almost always the cause for a guard’s whistle-blowing, and keeping kids from diving into shallow water is a close second. However, make sure your lifeguard manages the rule-keeping with tact while remaining firm. Kids might cry if a lifeguard puts them in a short “time out” for breaking rules – but you don’t want those tears rolling because the guard is overly angry or belligerent.

Fun and Outgoing

Poolside parties are all about fun – and while the lifeguard’s job is safety first and they have to enforce rules, they can also offer plenty of enthusiasm to the occasion. Because most seasoned lifeguards spend so much time at the pool and watching the kids play, they know quite a few games to suggest, and can usually offer ideas to parents and party hosts for fun ways to enjoy the pool in a group activity. Guards love when groups play games in the pool, as it more easily confines their zone of attention to one place.

Courtesy & Professionalism

It seems like we may be asking a lot of our trusty lifeguards with all of the above traits, but in actuality, there’s still one thing they must bring to the party – a courteous and professional attitude.  Although it’s an entertaining occasion – the lifeguard is there to perform a job – a very important one at that. Don’t settle for a lifeguard that isn’t treating you, your family and your guests with the utmost professional, polite and welcoming demeanor you can expect.

Clay Adams is an Aquatics blogger who writes about Swimming, Lifeguarding and Lifeguard Services