It’s summer and with the temperatures now reaching triple digits area children flock to the Camp Bowie Family Aquatic Center, which has dozens of lifeguards watching keeping them safe.
Stocked with amenities such as a lazy river, water slides and other fixtures, the Camp Bowie Family Aquatic Center has much to offer but those amenities also add to the complexity of keeping area kids safe.
“We have definitely made adjustments in the past year with where we lay stuff out – out stands,” said fourth-year lifeguard Tyler Thompson, a class of 2016 Early High School graduate who returned home from Texas Tech University this summer. “We’ve done things to take precautions on our slide, like height requirements. We’ve taken a lot of precautions to make sure it’s as easy as it can be for them to do their job. We rotate every 15 minutes and we get a 15-minute break every hour and that keeps us refreshed … There are lots of steps to make sure we keep the kids safe.”
Thompson said the most difficult task is overseeing potentially hundreds of kids, often when daycares bring their children at peak times. He added the influx of children comes with new children and lifeguards often must quickly assess whether the child is old enough, or physically capable enough to handle some of the water elements.
“It’s our job to make sure the little kid that came to the daycare in the little kiddie area isn’t getting sucked into the lazy river, where they can’t touch. A lot of it is keeping your eyes open at all times,” he said.
For first-year lifeguard Rayleigh Martin, the learning curb has been steep. She recently finished her lifeguard certification, which she said was physically and mentally trying.
“It was nerve racking. It was hard,” Martin said. “You had to dive and get someone and that was pretty tough but it was pretty excited. It was a weeklong thing so we really got to practice. It was hard and you just have to set your mind to it.”
Before becoming a lifeguard Martin worked as a babysitter, which she said prepared her for working with children. Although complex at times, she said becoming a lifeguard has not been difficult because when the stakes are high lessons are easy to learn.
“It’s crazy how it all has to go into your brain at once, but once it’s there, it’s there. You never forget it. I like it. I know how children are,” she said.
While Martin continues her education at Early High School, her now former classmate Lydia Aguerro will be moving to Austin this fall to attend the University of Texas. Aguerro enters her third year as a lifeguard and said what brings her back year after year is the relationships she builds with the children whether as a lifeguard or assisting with swim classes.
“I’m going to Austin. It’s scary. I feel like this is the calmest part of my day and not stressing about that stuff,” she said. “It’s fun too. You build relationships with the people who come here and you have responsibility for the kids that come here so it makes you feel important. It makes you feel like you made an impact on someone … Yesterday a kid came back. It was my third year of being here and a he said ‘Hey, I remember you from the last two years.’ He knew my name and everything. That’s the most exciting thing; having people know who you are and remember who you are.”