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Louisville’s public pools need more lifeguards ahead of summer break

A lifeguarding course underway at the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center.
Divya Karthikeyan
A lifeguarding course underway at the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center.

Public pools across the U.S. are short of lifeguards, including in Louisville. The shortage makes pools unsafe and prone to regular closures.

At the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic center, people across age groups are getting a 3-day intensive lifeguard training.

18-year-old Hayden Kennedy dove into the pool to demonstrate how to get a person out of the water, while a second lifeguard stood at the edge of the to help Kennedy move the person onto a rescue board.

Kennedy is getting recertified as a lifeguard. He is heading to college to study nursing, and said lifeguarding has taught him skills that will help his career.

“It involves a lot of leadership, because you have to be able to make sacrifices in order to get someone out of the pool, and I just think having that responsibility is kinda empowering, and it just makes me feel good,” he said.

Amid a national lifeguard shortage and two temporary pool closures this year, the city has been trying to hire and keep more lifeguards at its public pools ahead of summer break by offering training, higher wages and incentives to work at the pools.

He’s aware of the shortage of lifeguards, and has been trying to get his friends and his younger brother to sign up.

“It’s a fun job, it’s an easy job, but you also get to have the responsibility to take care of people and make sure people are okay,” he said. “And in my opinion that makes me feel so much more morally good inside.”

The city-run training is free for participants if they choose to work at the city’s public pools, and $200 if participants work at other pools.

This year, two public pools - Algonquin and Camp Taylor - are closed for renovations.

Aside from Mary T. Meagher Aquatic center, only two public pools will be open this summer – Fairdale at the Nelson Hornbeck Park, and Sun Valley at the Sun Valley Park.

Scott Risinger, Aquatic Division Manager for Louisville Metro Parks, said there are fewer lifeguards every year. He said the lifeguard shortage in public pools could have to do with more community centers and private complexes building their own pools and needed lifeguards.

“There's been several times where a lot of [city] pools did not open because there was a lack of lifeguards, and they wouldn't be able to accommodate that,” he said.

But now, the job pays better. The city increased wages in light of the lifeguard shortage in 2022 from a $10.50 hourly wage to $15.65 an hour. Now, lifeguards at public pools can earn $16.65 an hour, Risinger said.

Risinger said they’re trying to sweeten the pot by offering the free training course and free uniform when lifeguards come work at city pools.

“So, if you have a kid out there that wants to do something in the summertime, and he's 15, they can come out and work for Metro Parks or any other community pool they live nearby,” he said.

Lifeguard classes

Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center

The last 3-day training this year is coming up: May 18, 19 and 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lifeguard training is $200, free of charge if participants choose to work at the city’s public pools. Participants must be at least 15 years old.

Blairwood/Kentuckiana Pool Management

Lifeguarding course for new lifeguards is available as well as recertification for people who need to renew their certification.

Training is $225, but if a participant chooses to work for Blairwood, they get a full rebate (excludes the $50 administrative fee). Participants must be at least 16 years old.

YMCA of Louisville

Lifeguard training is offered at Floyd County, Northeast, Norton Commons, Oldham County, and Southwest YMCA locations.

Prices vary according to location, but start at $175 for facility members and $225 for program members.

Participants must be at least 16 years old.

Trager Family Jewish Community Center

He center offers bothlifeguard training and recertification courses. The next recertification course is on May 21-22, and a lifeguard training course runs from June 3-7.

For JCC members, the training course is $225, and $275 for non-members. The recertification course for members is $125, and $175 for non-members.

100% of the course fee will be refunded to participants if they choose to work at the JCC pool. Participants must be at least 15 years old.

News Race & EquityCommunityYouth Reporting
Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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