Philly kicks off lifeguard recruitment effort after challenging 2021

Kids swim at the James Finnegan Playground pool

Kids splash around in the pool at James Finnegan Playground in Southwest Philadelphia on June 30, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Lifeguard recruitment season is officially underway in Philadelphia.

The goal? Fill the 400 lifeguard positions needed to open all of the city’s public pools this summer.

The recruitment effort follows a challenging 2021 summer season, which saw fewer than 70% of the city’s roughly 70 outdoor pools open due to a lifeguard shortage.

Parks & Recreation has previously cited the struggle to match hourly rates offered by private swim clubs and water parks, as well as a national trend of lifeguard shortages, as contributing factors to a steady decline in lifeguard numbers over the years. The department last year bumped up lifeguard pay to $15 an hour. Currently, the position pays between $15.25 to $17.24 an hour, which Parks & Rec called competitive.

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Kicking off the city’s recruitment drive, Parks & Rec Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell in a statement called lifeguards “Philly’s hometown heroes.”

“Lifeguards come from all walks of life but have one thing in common,” Lovell said, “a passion for our City and giving our kids the safe summer fun they so deserve.”

All new and returning lifeguards must pass a screening test, which involves swimming 300 meters nonstop, treading water for two minutes, and retrieving a 10-pound brick from the bottom of the deep end.

New lifeguard candidates who pass the screening then move on to a Red Cross certification course. The course is free for candidates ages 16 to 24, but those who are older will need to pay $110 for their Red Cross Lifeguard Certification.

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Those interested can book their training or screening test online.

Barring any further pandemic disruptions, pools are expected to open from mid-to-late June through mid-to-late August.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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