By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
As children splash and take to the air, showing their best diving board tricks and jumps at the Stillwater Municipal Pool, not more than a few feet away are those charged with their safety.
Hannah Schnelle began lifeguarding this year.
“I was on the swim team when I was younger,” she said. “I always loved to swim so it was kind of a natural progression.”
Like all her co-workers, Schnelle took a lifeguarding certification course, water safety instruction, learning to teach swim lessons, a requirement of the pool, and CPR and first aid.
Despite the time and training, the job is fun, she said.
With temperatures in the 90s, lifeguarding can be challenging not only in keeping a keen eye, but staying cool.
“We have our umbrellas, we try to hydrate as often as possible, suntan lotion, the usual,” Schnelle said.
But with proper precautions, it can be one of the best places to be.
“I guess in the summers, this is my favorite place to be,” said Assistant Manager Darcy Thomas.
Thomas has been swimming since the age of 3 and has been a competitive swimmer from age 5.
“Every summer, we would practice here so our club team and the high school team would rent out the city pool to practice,” she said. “We were here all the time.”
At 16, she became an aid at the pool. At 18, she began lifeguarding.
Thomas agreed with Schnelle about the summer heat.
“It’s hard to even just sit out there,” she said. “Eventually you reach a point in the summer where you don’t sweat anymore.”
Both guards said a common misconception among children is that they are mean and unapproachable.
“When we tell you something, it’s not because we don’t like you, it’s because we want you to stay safe,” Schnelle said.
With more children showing up during the week because of visiting daycares, lifeguards are constantly reminding young patrons to take their time and walk, not run. Guards pass the time by having fun with the necessary step.
“We’ll have contests sometimes to see how many ‘walks’ or ‘don’t runs’ you can get,” Thomas said.
And there’s no shortage of interesting stories. Three years ago, as Thomas explained, a child came up to a guard and told them that a woman was having a seizure.
“She blew her whistle and we got the backboard in and we had gotten her out of the water and they were giving her CPR,” Thomas said.
EMTs arrived, but something was suspicious.
“The EMT or firefighter who was in the lead kind of tapped her with his foot,” she said.
The rescuer asked the woman what she thought. She sat up and said the rescue went well. However, this wasn’t an organized test.
“She apparently fakes seizures all the time, so she is not allowed at our pool anymore,” Thomas said.
But Schnelle and Thomas wouldn’t trade the stories and the scorching heat.
“I just enjoy that it’s a very laid back job and I have really good colleagues and we have a lot of fun doing our job,” Schnelle said.