Andy Urista found out quickly that being a lifeguard entails more than sitting on a perch watching kids splash around in the water.
“Yeah, you’re sitting there, but you’re constantly watching and scanning the pool,” said the Burnet High School senior. “You really have to be focused 100 percent all the time.”
Urista looks at his summer job as a lifeguard at the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond in Burnet as a step toward a career in teaching and coaching.
As a member of the Burnet High School swim and cross-country teams, he has the right credentials. Still, he had to earn a lifeguard certificate and complete CPR and first aid training. He also had to spend a week in the classroom and the pool learning his duties and responsibilities.
“We go through a series of test scenarios in the pool,” Urista said. “You learn what to do and how to handle things in and around the pool.”
As a lifeguard, Urista works 3½ hours a day, six days a week. He and his fellow lifeguards could be watching up to 60 kids at a time.
While on duty, Urista is constantly scanning the pool looking for signs of struggle, a duty that requires vigilance and judgment.
“For me, one of the most stressful things is you’re not sure if kids are playing around or really struggling,” he said.
You also have to be patient, Urista said, as not everyone likes to be corrected on their behavior in public, which lifeguards often do.
“You have to be understanding a lot of the time,” he said. “And consistent. You need to be consistent in how you hold up the rules and treat people. Plus, consistent in how you care for yourself in making sure you’re getting enough rest and staying hydrated.”
The best parts of the job, he said, are the people he works with and the kids he is watching over.
“The kids, they’re funny,” Urista said. “It’s fun to watch them just be kids.”
As for how people treat lifeguards, he asks one thing.
“Please be nice to the lifeguards,” Urista said. “We just want to make sure you’re safe.”