“You can do it! kick those feet. You’re good … good job.”
Standing near the water at the Camp Bowie Family Aquatic Center Thursday afternoon, City of Brownwood employees Michael Thomas and Yoena Johnston called out encouragement as Bangs High School student Leisel Spivey swam on her back, clutching a 10-pound brick.
Leisel was one of 11 teenagers seeking American Red Cross certification as lifeguards. Those who achieve certification and pass background tests will be likely be offered jobs as lifeguards to work this summer at either of the city’s two pools — the Family Aquatic Center or Wiggins Pool. Lifeguard applicants who aren’t already certified take a class that lasts three sessions, or possibly four if needed.
During the first session Thursday, applicants were required to swim 20 yards, surface dive 7 to 10 feet, retrieve the 10-pound brick from the pool’s bottom, resurface and swim 20 yards back to the starting point, within a minute and 40 seconds.
Ten of the 11 succeeded. The 11h applicant decided not to try it and will not become certified.
Thomas, who works as the city’s recreation supervisor, and Johnston, who works in the Adams Street Community Center as parks and facilities secretary, recently became certified by the American Red Cross as lifeguard instructors.
Parks and Recreation Director David Withers said 10 experienced lifeguards are returning this summer, and the 10 applicants who are seeking certification will probably be hired. Withers said the city needs at least 26 for the two pools.
Withers said the hope is to have the pools open on May 29 or May 31 and to keep the pools open as far into August as possible. The city typically closes the pools in early August because many of the lifeguards are high school or college athletes who have to leave their jobs then to begin athletic training.
The Brownwood City Council recently approved a pay increase for lifeguards, hoping to attract more applicants  including adults who won’t have to leave their jobs for athletics. Withers said he thinks the move has helped increase the number of lifeguard applicants.
Withers said while the public may look at the lifeguards as “just being teenagers,” they’re young professional lifeguards trained in water rescue.
“We might not have a rescue all season, or have one in the first 30 seconds,” Withers said.
He said he tells lifeguards a story from several years ago at the now-closed Camp Bowie Pool, when a lifeguard jumped into the water to rescue a child just 30 seconds after the pool had opened for the first day of summer.
Johnston, who filled in as a lifeguard toward the end of last summer and will fill in this summer as needed, said a lifeguard is “constantly thinking anything can happen.”
Perquisites for certification, in addition to the dive test with the 10-pound brick, include:
• Minimum age of 15.
• Swim 300 yards continuously — front crawl or breast stroke only.
• Tread water for two minutes, feet only, no hands.
• Participate in entire class (in and out of water).
• Demonstrate competency in all required skills and activities.
• Complete three final skill scenarios with no errors.
 • Score at least 80 percent on three sections of final written exam.
• Earn Lifeguard/FirstAid/CPR/AED certification for two years.