By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(July 4, 2019) Ocean Pines children can beat the summer heat while learning skills that can help them become a lifeguard with the junior lifeguard patrol program.
Created in 2014, the program run by Operations Director Colby Phillips helps children as young as seven years old learn what they would need to know if they want to become a lifeguard.
“It puts the kids through the skills of what it would be to be an actual lifeguard,” Phillips said. “They learn a lot about water safety skills, education about the pool and water in general.”
In addition to water safety instruction, the Ocean Pines Fire Department will demonstrate what needs to be done in the event of an emergencies. Children also will be taught the basics of CPR and first aid. To join the program they must be able to swim.
The junior lifeguard program has three levels: beginner, crew chief and officer, similar to the Ocean City Beach Patrol hierarchy.
“It’s very similar to the Ocean City Beach Patrol, which is where the idea came from,” Phillips, who used to serve on the Beach Patrol, said. “When I started with Ocean Pines, I had gotten the idea from my 20 years as a sergeant.”
Children can choose either the junior lifeguard or the junior officer program. Once someone has graduated to junior crew chief level, he or she can apply to become an officer.
Officers learn skills similar to Red Cross-certified lifeguards, such as using rescue mannequins, practicing full backboard extraction with head stabilization and assisting with passive victims and other essential skills.
There have been many times that older students who want to do more get directed toward the Beach Patrol, Phillips said.
“A lot of the time, once the kids have gone through all three of our levels, they want to do more,” she said. “Then we let them know about the positions at the Beach Patrol, which is more intense because you are in the ocean.”
Some will even return to work at the Pines when they are old enough.
“It’s also a recruitment for us, because, since 2014, we’ve had numerous kids go through all three stages and when they turn 15, they’ve actually come to work for us,” Phillips said. “We’ve had three of our junior guards become part of our team. It’s really neat to be able to recruit [them] and we benefit by getting to know them before they work for us.”
Most importantly though, the program is about having fun, swimming and learning to respect the water.
“I’m really proud of the program just because the kids really seem to have a lot of fun and it’s educational at the same time,” Phillips said. “Plus, water safety is so important, especially in this area, so we’re teaching them skills while they’re being educated.”
More than 500 children have participated in the program since its inception. Typically, there will be one instructor unless a larger group of students is involved, in which case one or two more helpers are included. The program accepts a maximum of 25 students per three-day course.
Classes take place Tuesdays through Thursdays from July 16-18, July 30 to Aug. 1 and Aug. 13-15. Classes begin on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Sports Core Pool by the Worcester County Veteran’s Memorial Park and from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Oasis Pool located at the Yacht Club on Wednesdays.
Registration costs $75 per person and must be done at the Sports Core Pool on site or over the phone. Fees include a T-shirt, whistle, first aid kit, snacks, drinks and dinner on Wednesday and Thursday.
For more information, call 410-641-5255.