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Holiday In-services: A Spooky Good Time

The holidays can be one of the best times to use festive fun to build stronger connections and encourage critical thinking. While mandatory in-service trainings can be a total bummer for the unwilling lifeguard, they can also present an opportunity to think outside of the box

The holidays can be one of the best times to use festive fun to build stronger connections and encourage critical thinking. While mandatory in-service trainings can be a total bummer for the unwilling lifeguard, they can also present an opportunity to think outside of the box and let your in-service training leaders use their creativity to cultivate unique educational opportunities that can be fun for the entire team! Halloween generally takes the cake for being one of the most fun and creative holidays for a typical lifeguard. With visions of fake blood, gory wounds, and ghastly victims, training can be a playground for testing your staff’s skills and building a stronger comradery.

A Spooky Fun Time

It’s no secret that the holidays can be a stressful time of year for operations for our year-round facilities who diligently work to deliver a safe and fun environment for all who may visit. When it comes to in-service training, aquatic leaders know all too well the old familiar struggle of keeping our teams excited to obtain all mandated in-service hours.

With that being said, the holidays can also be a great opportunity to use essential educational drills to build friendships, draw on creativity, change up routine, and even fuel friendly competition with our staff! For Soundwaves, that holiday comes in the form of Halloween. Though the term ‘mandatory’ can be lackluster, spicing the training up with snacks, competitions, holiday spirit, and prizes are a great way to inspire all staff!

Set Up

At SoundWaves, we like to plan a holiday in-service for 2 hours or 4 hours in length, depending on downtime. To allow everyone to knock out all their hours at once, I like to plan for 4 hours with various activities and resting periods to allow for continued focus. It is best to coordinate with state labor laws when planning times. (For example, 15-year-olds cannot work past 7pm or 3 hours on school days in the state of Tennessee.) With our closed days being throughout the week and most individuals being available on Tuesday, training occurs between 5pm-9pm with 15-year-olds meeting their required 2 hours and leaving at 7pm with the remaining staff staying should they need their hours. To accommodate 15-year-olds, the in-service begins with 15-20 minutes of enjoying refreshments and snacks to allow for team bonding. This also allows for IST leaders to set up their stations and divide attendees into groups. The next hour and a half are dedicated to stations with each group rotating to each station until all groups have completed each station. After each group has completed the stations, there is a 10-minute debriefing to discuss group winners and award prizes.


Refreshments can be tailored for differing holiday themes. A great way to engage the team is to ask snack and drink preferences. My personal favorite cheap and easy snacks are Halloween-themed pretzels, cupcakes, and Rice Krispies!


Stations are a great way to incorporate mini-IST lessons into a competition that also allows for team bonding. To make it workable, 5-6 stations are recommended with each station lasting 20 minutes (5-minute reset and 15-minute activity). Each station will be run by an IST instructor and should have a narrative and a main activity covering material from the ILTP® book. In addition, each station will have a grading sheet that includes 6-7 items that can be utilized to grade each group on their performance. Stations should be planned 2 weeks in advance so that a total budget and adequate set-up planning can be determined and approved. These grading sheets will be used to determine a winner after each group has completed each station. To make things more fun, leaders can dress up according to their station. Past stations have included movie themed stations such as Ghostbusters, Jaws, Friday the 13th, IT, and Psycho. To demonstrate how a station would play out, let’s look at Ghostbusters. For our previous Ghostbusters station, its station leader dressed as a ghostbuster. As you may have guessed already, the objective (so this would be on the grading scale) was to capture the Slimer via an on-land 2-guard rescue while trying to avoid being slimed. Once the slimer was captured, the team would work together with the assistance of leader prompts to perform reverse BLS to bring the slimer back to life. Grading criteria for this station were utilizing the 2-guard rescue, communication, correct CPR and Rescue Breathing procedures, and utilizing the AED (the AED was the lesson plan). As you can imagine, reverse BLS requires a lot of critical thinking and communication between team members and tests the team’s skills.

The Gaylord Rockies is home to Arapahoe Springs. I have been lucky enough to visit this location numerous times and build up a strong relationship with the team there. When working at Arapahoe Springs I was able to guard while overlooking the stunning Colorado Rocky Mountains. In the winter the steam rolls off the outdoor pools’ water surface and adds to the beauty of the facility and the surrounding area. Working at the facility is a blast! The management and staff are A-tier and they are always a massive help whenever I visit. While the altitude can be an adjustment, working with another amazing JEM team makes all the other adjustments easier.


After each group has completed all stations, grading scales can be tallied up for each group (from each station) for a grand total of points. The winning group will receive a prize that incorporates each team member and is tailored for that facility’s budget. This can be gift cards, meal vouchers, or a number of other incentives. One continuously suggested incentive, that everyone loves, is to pie a manager.

After Station Activities

After refreshments, stations, setups, and awarding winners, there will be approximately 2 hours of IST to fill with activities. One activity we will be utilizing this year is EAVS hide ‘n go seek.  This will require EAVS operators and each team member to have a radio. Each team member will hide in a location that is visible to the EAVS operator (or place clues near their respective hiding locations if it isn’t visible to the operator). Once each member is in place, the operator will scan in and radio clues (without naming the location) to the designated seeker until each member is found. Operators can be rotated out should multiple rounds take place. Other activities can be utilized as well such as relay races or a continuation of the holiday theme!

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