”CALL TODAY @800.571.0275
My football playing days ended the same way a lot of other athletes did, with an injury. I sustained a major dislocation of the right knee. That means that the ACL and MCL ligaments were torn. I also ruptured my patella and shredded all of the cartilage. I asked the Doctor when I could play again and his answer was that I might be able to walk without a limp if I worked hard. Not only were my playing days over, so was running. He suggested that I take up swimming or cycling. Physically shot at 19 years of age.
I had aspirations of playing Division One football. Instead I started taking swimming classes while in college. After a couple of different ones I decided to take on the big one and become a WSI, Water Safety Instructor. After this class, I would be able to certify lifeguards. I was a pretty good swimmer, in very good physical condition and have always been willing to push myself, both mentally and physically.
The class Instructor was Coach Jordan. It was two hours per class, two days a week. I had no idea that I was going to swim that much. Most classes were spent swimming the entire two hours. I learned over twenty different strokes. I didn’t even know there were twenty different strokes. It was very physically demanding. A missed class meant 50 laps in the pool. I only missed one class the entire year.
Coach Jordan prepared us to save lives. We practiced techniques over and over. We could spend the entire two hours towing someone. A lot of classes, we were not allowed to touch the side or the bottom during the class. I gained a lot of respect for what had to be done and became rather fearless of water. We also had to become certified in CPR.
The most grueling part was that we had to swim a thousand meters in under 20 minutes, to pass the class. In a 50-meter pool, that is 20 laps. I finished in 18 minutes and 24 seconds. Great, so I am of to conquer the swimming world.
Beach lifeguard sounded great. I applied with the Los Angeles County. To test you have to have a timed effort of less than 18 minutes in the 1000 meter. I had never swam that fast in my life. Then at the first Saturday in April, was the qualifier. Everybody that applied was to report to the lifeguard station in Long Beach. A 500 meter run down the beach, followed by a swim around a buoy 500 meters out in the Pacific Ocean. Finishing with 500 more meters of running. The first 100 finishers were allowed to continue testing.
I applied at a country club instead. They hired me. There had not been a rescue at the Club in the twenty years that the pool was open. It was an insurance requirement to have guards. We did the pool maintenance. We baby sat club members kids. We watched the pool and kept it safe by saying things like “no running”. I did get to sit up in the cool wooden lifeguard tower and wear a whistle. It actually paid well and came with some interesting benefits.
I got hired often to personally lifeguard private parties held at the club and to give private swimming lessons. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. Those gigs were generally very good paying and some of the tips I received were rather interesting. Two young men got out of control at one such private party. They thought it was funny to throw clothed people into the pool and to damage the facilities. I gently intervened. As they were standing next to the edge of the pool, after throwing a person in, I came up behind them. I grabbed both of them around the neck and jumped in the pool. I exhaled all of my air out as to ensure sinking to the bottom with them. Tough guys aren’t so tough when they can’t breath.
When I let them go, they came up sputtering and angry. I asked them to depart from the premises. The two tough guys threatened me. I suggested that we go back in and visit the bottom of the pool again. They left rather hurriedly.
Later in the summer as I was getting off shift, a couple in the pool caught my attention. It was what Coach Jordan explained to be on the lookout for. Impending disaster.
A very out of shape club member, who after drinking for a while, decided to teach his twenty year younger wife how to swim. His plan was simple. The pool had an eleven-foot deep section under the diving board. He was in the middle, directly in front of his wife, who was on the diving board. He was treading water, while trying to talk her into jumping.
I quickly stripped back down to my swimsuit and watched this train wreck.
Wife was afraid to jump and husband was getting tired quickly. “Jump”. “Come on just jump” he kept saying. She finally did. It was perfect. She lands feet first, on his chest. That knocked all of the wind out of him. I thought that this was going to be the first rescue at the club. The wife ended up only about a foot from the edge of the pool. She was facing the other way and didn’t know it was so close. Panic quickly set in.
The husband came up from the depths after being submerged by his wife. I think he drank a lot of pool water. He went to the side and hung on, trying to get his breath back.
The wife started to flail her arms. Just as she started to let out a scream, she hit the side and grabbed on. Disaster averted. The other lifeguard and I just looked at each other and smiled. I was putting my shirt back on when I heard the husband tell his wife, “It’s just like riding a horse”. “You have to get right back on.”
“No, this attempt at drowning is over” I told them in no uncertain terms. They knew I was right and the wife was happy that I intervened.
My next lifeguard job was at the new indoor city pool. I gave a lot of group swimming lessons. Kids of all ages are fun to teach how to swim and more importantly, it saves lives. The senior class that I did for ages 70 and older was a disaster. One woman was on her fifth attempt to learn to swim and she monopolized the entire class time. Mostly by complaining, about everything.
I also had an amazing time coaching Special Olympics. I was asked to do some “one on one” training with an Autistic boy named Robin. I didn’t have any idea what to expect. It took a while to get Robin in the pool. He didn’t like physical contact with me. I worked hard to get him to hold his breath and put his head under water. He would never make eye contact with me. I felt as though I was not making progress with him. I was feeling disappointed with my results until Robin’s Father came up to me after the class.
Robins Father was in tears. I was the first one to get Robin all of the way into the water. It was a milestone to Robins Dad. He hugged me with a big Dad hug. He got to see his boy, being a boy. It was huge to him. I had no idea that I was doing that well.
Two years and two different lifeguard jobs and I had never rescued anyone. I think that was a good thing.
A couple of years after giving up the career as a lifeguard, I was working at a car dealership. My beautiful wife and I took our son Russ to stay at a resort at the beach for the weekend. Dana was up in our room. I was reading the latest Tom Clancy novel poolside, while Russell was swimming. Three kids lined up at the far end of the pool to race across.
As Coach Jordan impressed on me, look at what is happening.
It was two girls and one boy. They were all about twelve or thirteen. The girls were next to each other and the boy was on the right. It was a beautiful resort with a very big swimming pool. Just off to the right was the gazebo with a very fashionable wedding that had just gotten underway. The resort hotel was more than twenty stories high. The three kids were almost half way across the pool and the boy had not yet taken a single breath.
I put my book down. The boy started to veer across in front of the two girls. He than stopped swimming for a moment. Somebody else was watching from above, because I heard a person yell from about ten floors up “Help that guy”. The boy started swimming again, but till had not taken a single breath. I stood up and took off my shoes. The boy had swam almost the entire length of the pool without taking a breath and had almost made it to the end. About five feet from the end he suddenly turned around and started swimming back to the other side.
I new that this was impossible. As he reached the middle of the deepest part of the pool it happened in a way that I did not expect. He just stopped swimming and blew out all of his air and immediately sank to the bottom. Russell watched me as I went into action. I heard that person ten floors up yell loudly “help that guy”.
It was very calm in the water. The boy was motionless on the bottom of the pool. Russell told me that there was a lot of screaming and yelling while I was underwater. I did as Coach Jordan had trained me. I placed my hand under his chin and brought him to the top with one strong lunge from the bottom. I quickly had him at the side of the pool. A few others helped me take him out of the water. I stretched his arms out and pushed once on his chest. A mouth full of pool water came out. He drew his next breath on his own.
During the commotion the wedding had stopped. The Bride was yelling, “give him mouth to mouth, give him mouth to mouth.” Some guy was hyperventilating, because he jumped in the pool and got caught up in all of the excitement. I backed everyone off of the kid to give him room to breath. He was okay, just very embarrassed. Soaking wet, I went back to the room. Dana ask’ “what happened to you?”
I made sure that I went and visited Coach Jordan. Let him know that his training had saved a life.
It was a few years later, at Bob and Deann’s house. This time I have Ryan and Erica with me. It is a simple pool party, with about ten to fifteen kids. There is a couple sitting on the grass facing away from the pool. Their daughter Rachel is next to them. I am standing on the patio having a beer with friends about twenty feet from the pool. In only took a moment of inattentiveness for three-year-old Rachel to walk over to the pool. The little girl just stepped right into the deep end. Deann screams “Rachel is in the pool”.
At the moment of crisis do you look or act? The Dad looked. In fact when he turned to look he spun so hard that his back popped and he was immobilized. I am just wired to act. Upon hearing Deann yell Rachel’s name, I was on the move. I don’t know how I got to her so fast, but I slid on the cement and had my hand on her instantly. She was making eye contact with me the entire time. I didn’t even get in the pool and pulled her out from under water into my arms. Rachel clung to me. I held her for a moment and then handed her over to her parents.
I like the fact that all three of my kids have witnessed me rescuing someone. As General Manager of Sierra Motors, I still think of the lessons learned from Coach Jordan. I don’t jump in and take people to the bottom of the pool anymore, but I still act in times of crisis. Still today, I can picture exactly what that young man looked like at the bottom of the pool and I can still see Rachel’s eyes looking at me. I watch the dealership, still on the lookout.