JUNIOR GUARDS: Lifeguard program builds fitness, confidence in youth

You can’t miss them during a weekday morning in the summertime, boys and girls in red swimsuits and long-sleeve white t-shirts, heading to East Beach on their bikes, on skateboards, on foot or by car.

Team of the Month - Junior Lifeguards

The Team of the Month Series is sponsored by Sansum Clinic of Santa Barbara (Team Photo by Roberts Photography)

The Team of the Month Series spotlights great
examples of teamwork in the local sports community

Once there, they learn about ocean safety and the physical demands of becoming a beach lifeguard. They work hard, compete hard and  always have fun.

And they come away with a feeling of accomplishment.

By the end of the City of Santa Barbara Junior Lifeguard program, kids who started out being afraid to put their faces in the water are swimming from Stearns Wharf to the East Beach Bathhouse.

Seeing kids gain that confidence is a big reason the  junior lifeguard program is one of the most popular summertime activities for youth in the community. Every year, enrollment fills up fast. This summer’s seven-week program has 303 kids enrolled. They range from age 9 to 17.

Presidio Sports is pleased to recognize the Santa Barbara Junior Lifeguard program as its Team of the Month.

Scott Holland, an assistant director of the program, knows first hand the value of the junior guard program. The San Marcos High and UCSB grad has been involved in the program for 11 years, including six years as a junior guard.

“I spent most of my summers here at East Beach,” he said.

Besides the valuable training and knowledge he acquired, Holland said he’s gained lifelong friendships through the program.

“I still have friends I made as a junior lifeguard here as a kid. Other friends I’ve made working here. It’s a pretty tight-knit community. There’s a common bond with others who were junior lifeguards.”

Like Holland, the majority of the instructors are former junior guards. It’s their personal experiences in the program that are key in developing a good rapport with the youngsters.

“At the beginning, some of the kids struggle, but we try to make it as comfortable for them as possible in the water,” Holland said. “Positive reinforcement is so big out there.”

Rich Hanna, the director of aquatics for the City of Santa Barbara, says the program helps kids in so many ways.

“Our Junior Lifeguards participants get to network with local peers in a way that doesn’t often happen during the school year because of the various school districts, and kids come out of the program with newfound friendships and the ability to work well in teams,” he said. “The combination of the physical fitness aspect and the water safety skills they acquire serve them well living here in Santa Barbara, a truly fitness first and aquatic-minded community.”

When he watches kids progress in the program, “it’s pretty cool,” says Holland. “On a larger scale, you see a kid at 9 years old who could barely swim, and by the time they’re 11, 12 or 13 they may be one of the fastest kids in the program and going to the state championships. Beyond that, we see some of those kids become assistants, or their ultimate goal is to become a lifeguard or a junior lifeguard instructor.”

Presidio Sports accepts nominations for its Team of the Month award. Please send nomination and background information on the team to [email protected]