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Conducting Effective Activities

Susan Grosse

Many excellent activities have gone unappreciated by participants because of boredom, low morale, lack of understanding of goals, or a general negative atmosphere. The aquatic leader, head lifeguard, or program manager must ensure that each participant gets maximum benefit for the time and effort spent in the activity. Here are some suggestions that can help you get the best results from any activity or game:

* Vary the type of equipment used. Although it may be necessary to repeat an activity, varying the equipment adds additional challenges and keeps repetition from becoming boring.
* Vary the number of pieces of equipment used in an activity or game. Having one piece of equipment moving at a time is the easiest. The more equipment moving at one time, the more difficult the task.
* Alter the degree of competition. Keeping track of winners and losers may or may not be part of the activity. Most strong swimmers enjoy the intrinsic challenge of the game itself. Let the mood of the group determine whether or not a score is kept.

* Stress the cooperative nature of activities. The goal is to enhance the abilities of everyone in the group. Lifeguards work as a team, so they need everyone on the team to be strong and capable. Emphasize how an activity benefits everyone.
* Keep the focus on positives. Emphasize the number of successful repetitions, as opposed to misses. Emphasize the time sustained, as opposed to time missed. Keep participants moving forward and feeling successful. Avoid focusing on negatives and making participants feel like failures.
* If an activity requires repetitions, start with a low number of reps, and gradually increase the reps. An alternative to increased repetitions is to reduce the time allotted for completion of a task.
* Tell participants the purpose of the activity. Part of being a successful lifeguard is being able to maintain fitness after certification. Understanding the purpose of an activity helps lifeguards build a repertoire of ways to maintain their own personal fitness level.

* Maintain an atmosphere of play. These activities should be fun. Lifeguards must be serious about many things. Maintaining personal fitness, sharpening response time, and honing skills are critical. How this is accomplished does not have to be totally serious. Keep the fun in difficult and challenging tasks, and lifeguards are more likely to engage in those tasks frequently.
* Remember that even an excellent activity can go wrong, no matter how well implemented the activity or how enthusiastic the participants. If a negative situation occurs, you should use debriefing. Through your modeling of the debriefing process, your lifeguards will learn a valuable tool for resolving negative situations. At the same time, you will be able to defuse a negative situation and restore a positive training environment.
* Be sure your activities and games are as well planned as every other aspect of your lifeguarding program. Proper planning tells your lifeguards how much value you place on the activity. This should include taking the time to plan ahead, having equipment organized ahead of time, providing a sound explanation of the activity and why participation is important, monitoring the execution of the activity, and, finally, analyzing with your lifeguards how performance in the activity or game went. If you complete these planning tasks, your lifeguards will benefit more from their participation, and they will also be much more likely to replicate the activity for their own conditioning or practice.


This is an excerpt from Lifeguard Training Activities and Games.

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