Strong and effective leadership is crucial to maintaining a fun, but safe swim environment. Attitudes and behaviors trickle down from the top to the bottom in organizations and groups of people. There are so many important characteristics that I can speak to from my 25 years of lifeguarding, coaching, and training. Some of the most important qualities are:
- knowledge and experience
- stress management and the ability to stay calm
- high teaching skills
- the ability to anticipate peoples needs
- willingness to work hard side by side your team
- The ability to motivate people
I try to embody all of the above qualities, but there are a few examples that stand out from my past. While being a head lifeguard and managing a team at the Rosebowl I did a huge amount of training and management of inexperienced lifeguards. I gained their trust and respect by doing hands-on-training where I was always on deck or in the water working right beside them. In this way, the trainees could see my knowledge and experience in action. I could also set the pace and the tone for how I would like to see them approach their duties by leading by example, rather than just talking.
I have coached everything from swim to boxing to personal training. In personal training it can be hard to get clients to work as hard as they need to reach their goals. My main strategy has been to work out beside them and ask them to model my efforts and my movements. People find this very motivating and it builds a strong personal connection with the people I work with.
One good example of leading a team is when lead a group of ten instructors while coaching a Special Needs swim team. Special Needs children are very sensitive and orchestrating a team with the help of ten instructs can be a loud and busy event. I had many instances of having to work with instructors to teach them the volume, pace, and patience needed when working with these children. In some cases I would have to change instructors from one position to another in order to match them with a parent and a child that was more responsive to their stern personality. In other cases I would take over instruction of particularly sensitive children at the parents request. Meeting clients needs is a huge part of working with the public. A good leader will be aware of people's personalities while trying to meet everyone's needs and the needs of the organization.
I think it's very important in life to be in a position that inspires you and where you can inspire others. I am excited to use my 25 years experience to mentor younger or less experienced people. I feel really good about this skillset that I have worked hard to build. It meets my need for a sense of purpose and fulfillment when I'm in a position to share. The water is my home and I am extremely confident in this part of my life. However, I am also a very patient teacher and a humble hardworking person. The biggest strength I have to bring to the team is my knowledge and experience and my willingness to work hard beside my teammates.