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Trainees get a jump-start with Guard Start

Rosette Gonzales

Wet and shivering, the junior lifeguards in training jumped back into

the water for their first game of water polo at McCambridge Pool.

The 11- to 14-year-olds are nearing their final week of Guard


Start, a pre-lifeguard training program. And while water polo might

not seem like lifeguard training, it’s great for physical

conditioning and learning to tread water, senior lifeguard John

Voorhis said.


“It’s more fun than just swimming laps,” said Voorhis, 21. “So

they kind of get a workout without realizing it.”

To take a certified life guarding course at McCambridge Pool,

individuals have to be at least 15 but they can get a head start on

their life saving skills through Guard Start. For four weeks, the

children learn most of what is taught in the lifeguard course,

including first aid, CPR, how to recognize distress signals in water

and how to rescue swimmers with minor or severe injuries.


“If I’m swimming at home and my cousin hits his head and gets

unconscious, I know what to do,” Sabrina Whaley, 13, said.

Jordan Card, 12, took the course because she thought it would be

valuable when she baby-sits someone with a pool at their home.

Some of the children in Guard Start enrolled because they have the

intention of eventually working as a lifeguard at McCambridge Pool

but the Guard Start class is not just for people who want to become

life guards.


Guard Start trainees don’t just learn how to save others but also

how to protect themselves in water.

“We’ve learned if you need help you can do signals,” Kevin

Velasquez, 11, said, naming the “survival float” as a way to conserve

energy if one is struggling in water.

After enduring weeks of various role-playing rescues and steady

conditioning, the pre-teens have a better grasp of the importance of

pool safety, Mola said. The students learn what to do if someone has

a seizure, heart attack or hurts their spine when diving.

“When they first came they just goofed off in class but I set a

serious tone to show life guarding is a lot of responsibility,” he


The next Guard Start class starts July 18 at Verdugo Park Pool,

3201 W. Verdugo Ave.