Celebrating lifeguards, the difference they make in our schools and communities, and the impact they are making in their own lives and careers.

Lifeguards. You see them at the beach, your community pool, and of course, at your local Goldfish Swim School. They have their whistles and their guard packs, and they’re stationed at their post or walking around, carefully keeping a close eye on every swimmer and every inch of the pool.

Despite the misconceptions movies and TV shows of past years may have created, there is so much more happening than making a few dollars while hanging out with friends or worse, working on a tan. Lifeguards are an essential part of any community – specially trained to prioritize safety, jump into sometimes dangerous situations, and literally save lives. And now, as the nation faces a post-pandemic hiring challenge, International Lifeguard Appreciation Day is of even more special importance.

To celebrate International Lifeguard Appreciation Day, we want to shine a light on the life-saving and life-changing role that lifeguards play in our schools and in the lives of our Goldfish Families. Read on to hear how lifeguarding has turned into a life-long passion, commitment and career for 5 real-life water safety heroes!


“As lifeguards, we cannot prevent someone from having a major medical emergency, but we have the power to prevent a drowning incident from occurring. Maintaining vigilance, actively surveying your zone of protection and quickly responding to a guest in distress can be the difference between a minor incident and major, life-changing event that can impact so many individuals.”

Goldfish Swim School employee, Courtney, trains a lifeguard

Courtney Richardson first dipped her toe into lifeguarding at a local waterpark while in high school, thinking that it was a fun way to make some money. She continued lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons at various facilities throughout college, and started to take on more leadership roles as she built up more experience.

It became clear to Courtney early on that the training aspect of her new roles really resonated with her, and that between saving lives, and teaching others how to save lives, she had found her passion!

Her high school job quickly veered her into her career path, becoming an Aquatics Manager at a local theme park before joining the Jeff Ellis & Associates Aquatics Risk Management family (more about them later!) as a Lifeguard Instructor. She then took her wealth of water safety knowledge to a leadership role with Goldfish Swim School – Williamsville in New York, starting first as a General Manager, and now leading three local Goldfish Swim Schools as a Regional Manager, where she trains hundreds of lifeguards, swim instructors and WOW! Customer Service team members how to provide a Golden Experience to their families and guests, while always making safety their #1 priority.

What do you love about being a lifeguard instructor?

Goldfish instructor teaches CPR to other instructors

I have been a lifeguard instructor for six years now, and I have had the pleasure of teaching hundreds of lifeguards. My favorite part about being an instructor is seeing the evolution of our team members from their first day, when many may seem nervous or uncertain of themselves, through the end of the course, watching them confidently and successfully manage an emergency simulation.

I am always so impressed by young people choosing a lifeguarding job. It can be very challenging and places an incredible amount of responsibility on their shoulders – but it’s so rewarding for them – and myself – to see the impact they make, and how much they embrace their role.

Do you have any stories that have played a significant role in your career?

Early on in my lifeguarding career – long before my days at Goldfish – I responded to a man who was in cardiac arrest. At the time, I wasn’t properly prepared to respond to an emergency incident, and looking back, I know I didn’t have the tools, support or assistance I should have had in order to effectively manage the situation. Thankfully, I was able to recall the necessary steps that I needed to take, and there was a successful outcome.

This experience has undoubtedly shaped my leadership and training style. I am truly invested in the success of all of my team members. I work to provide my teams with the knowledge, tools, training and support needed to ensure they are 100% successful in any facet of their job, and beyond our facilities. My team members and trainees are always vigilant, prepared and supported, and understand the essential importance of their role.

What’s the #1 thing you want parents to know about water safety?

Drowning incidents do not look like those depicted on TV and in movies. They are typically silent, and tragically, many individuals who have witnessed a drowning incident have commented that they thought the individual in distress was playing around.


“There are so many opportunities for lifeguards to learn lifelong leadership, emergency management and basic life support skills. We train lifeguards to the standards of a professional rescuer. You truly never know when those skills will come in handy in life. Being a lifeguard can lead you down an incredibly rewarding – and fun! – career path. I love that every day is different, that I get to work alongside a fin-tastic team that’s as committed to safety and helping others as I am.”

Goldfish employee smiles and poses next to Bubbles the mascot

In 1997, Tyler Anderson took his first Lifeguard Training Course, and the exciting introduction to both aquatics and medical emergency response spawned a life-long love of all-things-aquatic, and all-things-lifesaving!

Over the past 24 years, Tyler has held many roles, from lifeguard to supervisor, swim instructor to lifeguard trainer, to dipping his toe into the world of emergency medical services as an EMT, and now back in the water as the Aquatics Manager at Goldfish Swim School in Milford, Massachusetts. It’s as clear as the water in our pools that Tyler has a true passion for helping others. That passion, combined with his hard work, has helped him make waves in his communities, and in his career.

You took a break from aquatics and lifeguarding for a few years. How did lifeguarding play a role in your other career ventures?

While in college, I worked in Emergency Medical Services for various ambulance companies and hospitals. I tell people all the time how much lifeguarding, and all the training I had received in emergency medical care, helped prepare me for my first of the many EMT courses I took in my career. I also worked as a corporate Emergency Response Manager for an airline. Many of the skills I learned as a lifeguard, about leadership and how to quickly prioritize in an emergency situation, were able to be used throughout my roles in safety and emergency management. Today, many of my lifeguard students are now exploring career options, and I always encourage my top performers to pursue careers in aquatics, allied health or healthcare. Lifeguarding has the potential to open many doors, regardless where your life and career take you!

What do you love about being a lifeguard/lifeguard instructor?

Young photo of a lifeguard standing next to a pool

As a lifeguard over the years, I’ve enjoyed being able to help prevent accidents and injuries before they become a more serious problem or drowning. As a lifeguard instructor and aquatics manager, I love being able to share my knowledge and passion with students and team members. On more than one occasion, I have had a student come back and tell me how they used the skills I taught them. One student, many years ago, resuscitated her father at a shopping mall, using the Basic Life Support and Automated External Defibrillator skills she was taught. Those have been some of my most memorable and rewarding days in aquatics.

Any lessons learned at the pool – whether it be from lifeguarding, or a personal experience that has impacted how you view water safety – that you’d like to share?

I am a little embarrassed to admit to this one, but I allowed my daughter to use a U.S. Coast Guard Approved “Puddle Jumper” for a short time. Well, she got so confident, she would jump in the pool without them on and would sink to the bottom. More than once, I had to jump in after her.

Water wings or puddle jumpers provide a false sense of security and hinder swimming development. They condition kids to float vertically as they balance their body in the pool using just their arms, instead of the proper swimming position. Getting my daughter enrolled in swimming lessons earlier would have been a much safer option. You live and you learn as a parent….even ones that are lifeguards. Luckily, my daughter now has solid swimming skills and has built up a love and respect for the water, as a result of her lessons at Goldfish Swim School.

What’s the #1 thing you want parents to know about water safety?

Enrolling your children in swim lessons as soon as possible is critical to help ensure their safety. Our world is over 70% water, and your children are curious. Most drowning accidents happen when children are not expected to be swimming. Let a trusted swim lesson provider who prioritizes essential water safety skills, like Goldfish Swim School, teach your child to swim, and to be safer in and around the water.


“Growing up around sports and pools, and even as a nurse, I never really thought about how truly important an alert lifeguard is…accidents happen faster than a blink of an eye, and the reality is, drowning is certainly not like the movies.”

Tell us how you got into lifeguarding!

I took a less traditional route finding lifeguarding. I went to school and practiced as a Registered Pediatric Nurse for several years, as I’ve always loved helping kids and I’ve always been passionate about safety.

After I had my own children, I took them to swim lessons at a Goldfish Swim School in Michigan, and was immediately impressed with the emphasis they placed on safety, teaching my kids to be safer while helping them become more confident and independent in life.

My husband and our family became so passionate about the mission of helping all children become safer in and around the water, we moved across the country to Arkansas to open our own Goldfish Swim School. That’s when I was first introduced to lifeguarding, and then trained as our school’s lifeguard instructor, as each Goldfish has their own instructor on staff to make sure we can provide lifeguard training to new team members at any time, along with ongoing certifications and continuous training to all team members, as safety is always our #1 priority.

What do you love about being a lifeguard?

Being a lifeguard has opened my eyes to so many safety concerns. Not just at the pool, but even when we are out in public, I am more aware of, and think of safety more than I previously did. I’ve learned life-saving skills that can help people, even when I’m not on duty. I would encourage everyone to consider learning these skills, no matter what your profession.

What’s the #1 thing you want parents to know about water safety?

At Goldfish Swim School, we have lifeguards, teachers and deck supervisors watching the pool – who’s watching your children at home, at a friend’s house or on vacation? Ignore your phone. Keep an eye on your kids. Accidents happen faster than a blink of an eye, and the reality is, drowning is certainly not like the movies! Be aware and be vigilant about watching the water at all times.


“Lifeguarding can often be seen as a “teenage” job. Trust me, it’s insanely fun and rewarding, but our teams go through rigorous training and testing. Our lifeguards are trained to not only rescue swimmers in distress, but they are also trained in full basic life support to include First Aid, CPR, using an AED and utilization of Supplemental Oxygen. We are ready to respond to any swimmer in our pool, or medical emergency that might ensue.”

Goldfish lifeguards pose and hold flotation devices

Nikki Thomas has been a water baby her entire life, starting her love of water in Michigan’s Great Lakes. She became a competitive swimmer, and naturally was compelled to become a lifeguard in high school. Now, with nearly 20 years of aquatics risk management experience under her whistle, she serves as the Training, Development & Safety Manager of the entire Goldfish Swim School Franchise, sharing her wealth of knowledge and love of water safety with owners, managers and team members.

In partnership with Jeff Ellis & Associates, Nikki has educated, trained and certified more than 1,000 lifeguards and lifeguard instructors, who have gone on to teach hundreds, if not thousands, more lifeguards across our system. Nikki loves living out the mission of ZERO DROWNINGS, and is making BIG waves in water safety across North America!

What’s something someone considering dipping their toe into the pool of possibilities that comes with lifeguarding should know?

You don’t have to be a swimmer to be a lifeguard! Some of the best lifeguards I’ve trained and employed over the years had zero swimming background. Lifeguarding is a great opportunity for anyone going into healthcare, education, or who has a passion for people and public service. It’s amazing how many different backgrounds and futures we see, and the personal and professional growth of each individual.

What’s unique about becoming a lifeguard at Goldfish Swim School?

Being lifeguard certified is not a requirement to apply to Goldfish Swim School. Each school has a certified lifeguard instructor on staff, and will properly train team members! ALL deck staff are lifeguard trained, and ALL Goldfish Team Members at each school – deck side or at the front desk – are certified in CPR, First Aid and utilization of an AED. Our pools ALWAYS have a lifeguard overseeing the pool, regardless if there is one swimmer or if the pool is at max bathing capacity – in which case, there will be multiple sets of certified eyes on the water.

Safety is, and always will be, our #1 priority. It’s why we’ve partnered with Jeff Ellis & Associates, as their focus is 100% on aquatics risk management – lifeguarding, life-saving and water safety is ALL they do, just like how teaching children to be safer in and around the water is what Goldfish does.

What’s the #1 thing you want parents to know about water safety?

Please know the lifeguards are there to protect all lives. We encourage all parents, grandparents, babysitters, aunts and uncles to get in the pool with young swimmers, and also to keep their eyes on the water at all times – even when there is a lifeguard on duty. The more eyes we all have on the pool, the safer the water will be. This includes water outside of our schools – always have an alert and undistracted water guardian.


Oh – and she’s a Goldfish Mom too!

“Hearing about a former lifeguard that put their skills into action outside the aquatic environment to save a life is truly moving. E&A lifeguards take their training seriously. Knowing that our programs give individuals the information, education and confidence to “make a save” anywhere is an indescribable blessing.”

Goldfish employee smiles and poses with arms crossed

You’ve taken your first job after high school and turned it into a lifelong career. Tell us how you rode the waves from lifeguarding to your role at E&A today?

My first job after high school was working at a local water park where I grew up. I loved my first summer there, and returned each summer during break from school. The opportunity for growth fell into place for me as I always wanted to work as much as possible, and build up my experience. In the summer, I worked my way to lead supervisor/instructor at the water park; during school I was a lifeguard at my college pool. I also had the opportunity to volunteer for a lakefront girls youth camp.

I became curious about the lifeguard auditing process – in which aquatic risk management organizations such as E&A partake in unannounced check-ins to ensure facilities are meeting and exceeding all emergency response expectations. I reached out to an E&A auditor about a position my last summer at the water park, and I was excited to secure a summer role in 2012 as National Staff Auditor for E&A. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had! I was able to see other aquatic facilities and how they operated. Each different facility was able to meet the same objectives, but it opened up my thought process (along with the intense auditor training!) to be able to look at the bigger picture.

After my summer auditing, I received my first management position at a renowned water park resort. I served in a variety of aquatics management roles there, which helped to prepare me in all aspects of aquatics! I took a brief pause from aquatics as I was preparing to have my second child. After that, I knew that I wanted to be back in the field that I loved, and I accepted a position at the local youth development organization. This was a whole new adventure, as I had never dealt with the programming and other aspects that they traditionally offer. And because they were not an E&A client, I had to apply the knowledge I had learned over the years from being an E&A instructor to make the facility safe. It was a big change from what their staff was used to, but elevated their passion and dedication to safety.

Finally, the opportunity to work at E&A full time presented itself. This had been a dream of mine for several years, as I would joke with the COO about giving me a job each year seeing him at Safety School, but it never worked…until 2019! Now I support our clients from a risk management perspective, helping them look from daily operations to the big picture of safety. Each day, I work with client facilities of all types, and I love every minute-but especially when I take a break from work to go to Goldfish Swim School with my kids!

What is it about Ellis & Associates that you’re so passionate about?

E&A’s innovation, standards of excellence and dedication to safety continues to elevate swimmer safety around the world. Our standards are based on research and innovation, with the goal of providing clients like Goldfish with the confidence they need to succeed.

Our continuing education places our content and learning tools at a higher level, and we have our own CPR, First Aid and AED Programs, allowing our instructors to be more powerful and effective in training team members and lifeguards. We are also the first aquatics risk manager to develop a shallow water lifeguard training – essential to swim school safety! We are committed to Extraordinary Results, just like Goldfish!

Aquatics is clearly your calling in life! What do you love about the different roles you’ve had, from lifeguarding to working with E&A?

I love the growth and development of each different role! Each time I think I know everything, whichever role I’m in, it proves me wrong. The love for growth and development is also applicable to those I mentor, or have worked with. So many of the skills learned in aquatics apply to leadership in any field!

E&A actually developed a leadership program, intended to equip lifeguard supervisors with the inspection, administration, supervision and critical-thinking skills that make them better lifeguards, and better supervisors. These skills transfer to any career and of course, help each of us keep safety as the top priority, regardless of our role. The life lessons and opportunities that arise from being in the aquatics field are endless!

As a mom, and as someone who’s whole world is centered around safety, what do you want parents to know, or wish they knew before they come to the water?

Three things!

  1. While a lifeguard’s responsibility is to be vigilant, it is also a parent’s responsibility. It only takes a second for something to happen!
  2. Teach your kids that if they see something that seems ‘off’, they need to say something. We’ve heard of stories where a child tells their parents about somebody in the pool struggling, and it can be the difference between life and death.
  3. Set and review water safety rules for yourself and your children. Kids are naturally curious and do not know their limits, especially around water.

Anything you’d like to share for those interested in dipping a toe in the world of lifeguarding and aquatics?

Lifeguarding is more than what it seems. It takes dedication and passion, in an ever-changing field, but is one of the most rewarding careers.


Lifeguards stand poolside holding flotation devices

Dip a toe into our pool of possibilities!

If you love making a difference, having fun, making kids smile, feeling like part of a team and helping make our community safer, all while making money AND building up your work experience, you have the potential to make waves at your local Goldfish Swim School! Each school offers competitive pay, best-in-class paid training, flexible schedules, and the opportunity to make a real impact – in your community, and in your career. Get ready to love what you do, and change lives at the pool! Learn more here, or reach out to your local Goldfish Swim School!

Goldfish Families – join us in celebrating International Lifeguard Appreciation Day! While we appreciate our lifeguards every day, Saturday, July 31st is a special day to honor and thank them! Give your lifeguards, deck supervisors and swim instructors a high five, elbow bump or a wave to let them know that you appreciate all they do to keep your families and communities safe! And please give them the greatest gift of all – always play it cool, follow the pool rules!