Becoming a lifeguard can be a really exciting venture in your teenager’s life. One of the questions we get asked a lot is: does my kid need to complete all 10 Red Cross Swim levels in order to become a lifeguard? Let’s explore that together.
The truth is that your son or daughter need only be 13 years of age to take their Bronze Medallion, the first Lifesaving course on the way to becoming a lifeguard. Finishing all 10 Red Cross Swim levels or the equivalent is only a recommendation. And, becoming a lifeguard does so much more than just teach teens how to perform rescues. It can be a life changing experience. Learn more in our ‘Why become a lifeguard?‘ blog!
But, before you get excited and sign your kid up, there’s a reason the Red Cross recommends finishing up to Swim Kids 10. Bronze Medallion has a few challenging skills that candidates must master in order to obtain their qualification.
For some 13-year-olds, the endurance swim and life saving skills are a piece of cake. For others (especially those without a strong swim background) these skills can be tough.
The most challenging skills required to pass Bronze Medallion are:
1. The endurance swim: Swim 500m in 15 minutes or less.
2. Rescue of a Submerged Victim: Starting in the water, demonstrate 20m head-up approach, surface dive to recover a submerged victim and return to the starting point using a control carry to support and carry the victim. **For this item, the hard part is carrying the victim properly (not dipping them under water) for 25m while treading water for 20m**
3. Spinal Victim: Recover and immobilize a victim with a suspected spinal injury in shallow water. They must also recruit and direct bystanders to assist in the rescue. **The trickiest part is the technique required to immobilize and turn the victim over.**
You can find the full list of Bronze Medallion test items here, as well as those for Bronze Cross (the next step after Bronze Medallion) & The National Lifeguard Certification.
Some other suggestions
Your teen will learn most of these skills from their instructor and practice them during the course. However, for the endurance swim (500m in 15min) I strongly encourage candidates to have attained this fitness level coming into the course. This means practicing the swim several times and having someone time it for them.
An introduction to items #2 & #3 before attempting Bronze Medallion would also give your child a good head start on these skills!
If your teen can’t complete the timed swim right now, don’t sweat it! There are plenty of ways to build to this level of fitness – swim lessons are just one of them. Join a swim team, synchro or water polo team are all effective options as well. Or, The Aqua Life can train them on strokes and pacing.