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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Woman reflects on seven years as lifeguard

  • For seven summers, Samantha McSall has been a guardian of young lives and an enforcer of the ‘no running near the pool’ rule.
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  • For seven summers, Samantha McSall has been a guardian of young lives and an enforcer of the ‘no running near the pool’ rule.
    McSall became a pool lifeguard when she was 15 years old, following the example of family members before her.
    “Lifeguarding has been a family job. My mom, sister, cousins — it’s kind of the first job we do,” McSall said.
    McSall has worked at several pools, most recently at the McPherson water park. On days when the pool is open, she is one of 14 lifeguards on duty, looking out for pool safety.
    “I’m looking at the bottom of the pool for any odd stuff, patrons in distress or drowning, and anyone breaking pool rules,” McSall said.
    On days when she works, McSall reports to the pool at 1 p.m. and begins a series of 20-minute shifts. At the end of each shift, a new lifeguard comes to take her place at a particular post, and she relieves another guard at another post. After three shifts, she gets a 20-minute break before heading out to the pool again. This repeats until she leaves at 7 p.m.
    “You can only watch so many people at a time, and its good to have more eyes,” McSall said of the number of guards on-duty at a time. “There’s also a large area to cover.”
    McSall said her favorite spot to guard is near the diving boards.
    “We have a lot of talented kids, and its cool to see them do tricks,” McSall said. “On hot days, if you ask them to splash you, they will.”
    To become certified, potential lifeguards take training courses to learn CPR, first aid and rescue techniques. They also are tested on their swimming ability by performing tasks, such as retrieving a 10-pound brick from the bottom of the pool.
    “The certification lasts for two years, but at every pool I’ve been, they refresh it every year,” McSall said.
    McSall said she remembers feeling excited and nervous on her first day as a lifeguard.
    “I was working with a friend from high school. It was a little intimidating,” she said. “You’re the authority out there, making sure everyone is safe.”
    McSall said the most common problem is people running, and she constantly finds herself reminding people to slow down.
    “Everybody wants to run,” McSall said. “I probably say a thousand times a day, ‘walk, please.’”
    She also said it can be difficult to stay hydrated on hot days. Other than the occasional troublemaker on the diving board, lifeguarding at the McPherson pool is usually uneventful.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Patrons her are pretty good,” McSall said. “I haven't had any major issues.”
    McSall came to the area for school. She is a senior at Bethany College studying athletic training and recently finished an EMT class.
    She said her lifeguard experience has helped her prepare for a future career as an athletic trainer in professional sports.
    “It gives you experience dealing with the public,” she said. “You learn to be respectful and have a calm and level head.”
    She said its also given her experience working as part of a team.
    “You learn to work with others,” McSall said. “We have at least 14 guards on duty, so you’re always working with someone.”
    She said her coworkers have become one of her favorite parts of the job.
    “I’ve always had a lot of fun with other lifeguards,” McSall said. “You have so many inside jokes, and you share a lot of stories.”
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