Tips for Lifeguards: How to Handle Disruptive Pool Guests

Disruptive Guests

Summer is supposed to be about sunny days spent lounging and relaxing with friends and family by the pool. But as a lifeguard, you’ll inevitably run into situations when some of your guests are a little less than relaxed — in fact, they’re downright disruptive.

What qualifies as disruptive? Any behavior that makes the pool unsafe or ruins the enjoyment of others. You may encounter guests who don’t listen to rules about running and shouting, guests who are intoxicated, or those who argue loudly among themselves. As a lifeguard, strong communication skills are crucial, particularly when dealing with disruptive guests. So where do you begin?

1. Know the names of your guests.
Being on a first-name basis with your usual patrons is a great way to build relationships. When you and your patrons know and respect each other, it’s a lot easier for them to see you as a real person who is there to help them and not as an anonymous enforcer. Being able to talk to someone on a first-name basis is also helpful when tensions are high because an agitated person is more likely to feel that his or her needs are being met.

2. Keep other pool guests out of it.
You’re bound to have well-meaning guests who want to help out when they see someone being disruptive. However, it’s generally best to ask them to refrain from getting involved. You never know when a situation might escalate, and it’s better for you and the rest of the lifeguard staff to take on these situations yourselves.

3. Make sure you have backup from staff.
If you’re about to engage with a disruptive guest, make sure that other guards are aware of the situation. They can help keep guests away from unsafe areas or help you manage a group. They should also be on alert in case you need help in requesting backup from another staff member, your supervisor, or the police.

4. Stay calm and keep it simple.
When you engage with a disruptive guest, your best tactic is to stay calm, even if the guest escalates his or her bad behavior. Keep your statements neutral and simple and try to assess why the guest is acting that way. Is he angry about a pool rule? Is she reacting to someone else’s antagonistic behavior? Is the guest intoxicated? Depending on what’s motivating the behavior, you may be able to address it right there, or you may just need to find a safe way to get the guest off the property.

5. Don’t confront them or invade personal space.
Part of staying calm is remaining non-confrontational toward the guest. When a person is already acting in a disruptive manner, being confronted only adds fuel to the fire. So it’s your job to approach disruptive guests in a way that they don’t perceive to be threatening. It’s also important to give yourself enough space to remain safe and to make the guest feel his or her space isn’t being invaded.

6. Call the police if necessary.
In situations that are escalating quickly, in which you, other guests, or the disruptive guest himself might be in harm’s way, you are well within reason to call the police, keeping in mind proper 911 protocol.

7. Submit reports as needed.
Your pool likely has a standard procedure for reporting incidents. Depending what happens during your interaction with the disruptive guests, you may need to follow up with your supervisor to fill out a report.

Hopefully your summer as a lifeguard will be a peaceful one, filled with pool guests who are having a good time and following the rules. Just as a good lifeguard never gets wet, you can diffuse many potentially disruptive situations by being proactive and professional. But sometimes even the best guard can’t avoid dealing with a disruptive guest or two. If that happens, you’ll have training and a great team of lifeguards around you to help when you need it.

Have a hard time speaking up and standing firm? Then read our blog post, “4 Tips to Help Shy Lifeguards Speak Up When Needed.”

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