It’s not all fun and games for Natatorium lifeguards

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The white, elevated stands the K-State Natatorium lifeguards sit upon puts them in a position of power, and with power comes responsibility. The lifeguards must watch the pool with an attentive eye, ready to be what stands between a swimmer and the Grim Reaper.

In order to fill this role, students must be lifeguard certified and withstand two rounds of interviews; first with the head lifeguard, then with assistant director for facility and aquatics Jason Brungardt. If selected as lifeguards, students must maintain their physical fitness to pass sporadic evaluations. They also need to be recertified annually.

“During in services, we have to do swimming tests to make sure we’re up to date,” Emily Betthauser, junior in family studies and human services, said.

As lifeguards are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of others, it may seem like a daunting job. However, the atmosphere of the Natatorium is very laid back, according to its employees. Its three pools are sectioned off with a lifeguard for each.

“There’s only four of us here at a time,” Betthauser said. “We rotate every 15 minutes. There’s one person on break and three people on stand.”

Betthauser said that during breaks, the lifeguards can work on their homework or eat lunch.

Andrew Knott, senior in finance and entrepreneurship, said he prefers the six- or eight-lane pool spots. He said the lifeguard stands for these pools are right next to each other, which allows those on duty to socialize. The lifeguard in charge of the diving pool, however, is isolated.

“It’s on campus, it’s in between classes, so it’s really convenient to get here,” Knott said.

Furthermore, being a lifeguard comes with its share of perks – besides the salary.

“If they do rentals at the (Chester E. Peters Recreational Complex), we get a small discount,” Knott said.

Knott said that while he enjoys his job, some changes would make it better. The Natatorium is split between three different groups, and the lifeguards only oversee the Rec’s time there.

“Time at the (Natatorium) is short sometimes,” Knott said. “If we could have longer shifts, that’d be cool. If the (Natatorium) could be at the Rec, that’d be cool.”

Betthauser agreed that the pool at the Rec would be ideal.

“I think if we got a nicer facility, then way more people would use it and way more people would know about it,” Betthauser said. “Not many people know about it.”

Brungardt shared some of the long-term plans he has for the pool and said moving the pool to the Rec is the logical next step.

“It is also geared a little bit more for recreational-fitness swimming,” Brungardt said. “I’d like to have a little more of a recreational leisure area. We have a basketball hoop right now, but having more stuff like that – like maybe volleyball. Some schools have a lazy river … some schools even have hot tubs. I think it would be great to ask the students, ‘What do you want?’ so we could incorporate that. They’re the ones who are funding it, and they’re the ones who it would be for.”

For now, however, those plans are just an idea.

“Students would basically have to see this as a need and vote on it,” Brunghardt said.

Even with the way things are now, Brungardt, Betthauser and Knott all said they enjoy their jobs.

“I love the people I work with,” Betthauser said. “Come to the (Natatorium). It’s a good job. It’s laid back, but serious at the same time because it’s lifeguarding.”

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