Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Parts 7 & 8, The History of Junior Lifeguarding, by Bob Burnside

Here it is! The Final Installment of Bob Burnside's article on the History of Junior Lifeguarding!

Part 7
Canadian Junior Lifeguard Program

Where and when did it begin?

The Junior Lifeguard Club

The Junior Lifeguard Club (JLC) offered serious fun for kids 8 years and up who can swim at least 25m and tread water for 2 minutes. The Jr. Lifeguard Club provides an action-packed challenge for kids who love the water but who want more than "lessons." The Jr. Lifeguard Club is for quick learners, those between levels or programs who thrive in an energetic learning environment.

Personal-best challenges: The JLC focuses on fun and developing skills using personal-bests to determine achievement - you don’t compete against anyone else but yourself. You can get better at your swimming skills, lifesaving skills, fitness, leadership, and teamwork skills. You can also train for competitions, and work on special events.

Lots of recognition: No one "fails" in the Jr. Lifeguard Club. Effort and success are recognized with Recognition Seals when you meet personal goals, and set personal bests. Friends & family members can join together even if they are of different ages and abilities. The Junior Lifeguard Club is designed for a serious purpose but the process is pure fun.

There is no "test sheet" in the Jr. Lifeguard Club. Every club member gets an Official Junior Lifeguard Club Water Log in which to record achievements and keep Recognition and Award Seals. The Canadian junior lifeguard program was piloted in the early 1990’s. It became a formal program throughout Canada in 1995 and remains one of the most successful water safety programs in Canada.

Part 8
Great Britain Nippers

Where and when did it begin?

For Surf Life Saving Great Britain, a junior was defined as anybody under 16. The few junior members were generally the kids of older members who had no choice but to follow their parents down to the beach, but there was little in the way of a structured program for them.

In 1987, for the first time Great Britain put together a structured Youth Competition with age groups for 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17-19. There is now a fully established Youth Championships program using these same age groups. It soon became apparent that Great Britain needed to cater for those aged 12 and under. Consequently in 1991, the National Nipper movement came into being – its logo has always been the dolphin with the word Nipper across it as below.

The Nipper program was launched at Dawlish Warren Beach, in South Devon with around 200 Nippers from clubs all over Great Britain. A local celebrity formally opened the event and 200 kids dressed in green tee-shirts and shorts and wearing green caps paraded around the beach. In the early days, the entire emphasis was based on fun and encouraging kids to participate. There was no formal competition to start with as it was felt important to encourage them to join, rather than put them off by engaging in a level of competition that they could not handle. Furthermore, it was important to manage the aspirations of their parents. This was achieved to some extent by encouraging the parents to join as helpers and support their clubs. Because of this parental involvement, many clubs experienced a significant increase in membership. This was essential to handle the number of Nippers that came to join up. From those early days a structured program of safety awards was developed and the whole concept of Nippers gained a Queen’s award for innovation. Through the Nippers, parents could ensure that their children gained a knowledge of safety at the beach, learned first aid skills and lifesaving skills that they would be able to take through life, and that the life of the beach and the local surf club was far more exciting than just being in a swimming club.

The numbers of Nippers gradually increased, had doubled within two or three years, and now stands at around 1700 Nipper members from age 7 to 12. Soon, the Nippers themselves began to demand a level of competition to keep their interest. Without doubt the emphasis now is fully on competition, which is the activity that does most to draw them into surf clubs in the first instance. However, most Nippers stay in the program. They become Youth members from 13 and generally by the time they are 16 have such a grounding in surf lifesaving that they often go onto become professional lifeguards and strong senior members of their clubs. There are few people who have represented Great Britain in international competition during the last 10 years that did not start their lifesaving career as a Nipper.

Without doubt, Great Britain’s Nippers are their lifeblood. Some clubs did not readily embrace the concept of Nippers, either because they just didn’t feel able to take in younger kids, or because they just could not be bothered. Those clubs struggled and most did not survive. Wherever the Nipper concept was fully embraced, those clubs have gone from strength to strength and in doing so have become an even bigger part of their local community. Nippers were a complete success for Surf Life Saving Great Britain, and had we not taken that step, our organisation would probably not have survived. SLSGB now caters successfully to anybody from 7 to 70 years of age, but without a doubt, the organisation is built upon Nippers.

Final Comments:

Hopefully, every beach water safety program will initiate a Junior Lifeguard Program for their community. Additionally, the success of the Mexican Handicapped Salvavidas, is yet another step for us all to consider, thus giving to the community yet another program for the handicapped.

Special thanks to those that help in the development of this story as follows:
Without their help this material could not have been written.
Chris Serb, Chicago Lifesaving Assn., Chris Brewster, USLA / ILF, Perry Smith, Canada, Victor Zavala, Mexico, Joaquine Venado, Club Tortugas / USLA, Jamie Nilsson, New Zealand, John Martin, Great Britain, Cal Porter, LACO, John Daly, USLA, & Reenie Boyer, USLA.

“Our Family of Lifeguards”
Lifeguards for Life


Bob Burnside

(Photo above, courtesy of Bob, shows him chillin' and relaxing with his off duty facial hair and trademark sun tan. Lookin' good, Chief!)


Thanks Again to Bob Burnside for sharing this great historical storyline and photos regarding the Junior Lifeguard program here and overseas.


Until next time.....

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