𝗝𝗘𝗠: Tell us how you got started in aquatics.
𝗔𝘀𝗵𝗹𝗲𝘆: I first started in aquatics (and JEM) in 2017 at Sandy Beach Waterpark in Georgia. It’s funny because I quit my previous job and was contacted by JEM that very same evening about training still being available for cashiers and lifeguards. I decided on concessions and admissions because I was terrified of someone possibly drowning if I became a lifeguard, and my swimming skills were significantly weak. Along the way, I fell in love with BLS and water safety and knew that the only way to become an instructor was by becoming a lifeguard. I went through the last lifeguard class of the season in 2018. Unfortunately (or fortunately, given how my career turned out), 2018 was the last year JEM operated that facility, which I assumed would be the end of my lifeguarding career. In 2019, I was invited to travel to Soundwaves as a supervisor for what was supposed to be a two-week stint when the outside opened for the very first time. In the process, I fell in love with Soundwaves (after being utterly terrified at the sheer size at first) and ended up staying the entire summer. After returning for a few breaks, I became an instructor in 2020 and made the permanent move to Nashville. From there, I worked my way up from supervisor to management, and it’s been the most rewarding journey.
𝗝𝗘𝗠: What is one of your favorite accomplishments?
𝗔𝘀𝗵𝗹𝗲𝘆: There are so many things that I have learned or been a part of that I’ve genuinely enjoyed! It’s so hard to pick just one! I believe my favorite accomplishment to date would still be becoming an ILTP® Instructor. I’ve learned so much about other people and their differing perspectives and learning styles and how to adapt to those differences. Teaching has expanded my comfort zone beyond what I imagined myself capable of. It truly has come full circle because now I get to witness and guide others through those points as they learn to teach and guide others, and it has been an awesome (and humbling) experience! I led a Halloween IST a few years ago that had a significant staff turnout in addition to guiding/planning stations for each IST leader to run. This year, I announced we would be doing that again, and it has been an absolute blast getting to watch my leadership team (new and older) geek out over plans for their own stations and work together to ensure a fun and educational experience for our guards.
𝗝𝗘𝗠: Who are your mentors, and why?
𝗔𝘀𝗵𝗹𝗲𝘆: I’ve been very fortunate to have multiple mentors in my aquatics journey (we would be here awhile if I named everyone)! Two of whom were Joelle and William, who were my first managers when I started with the company six years ago. They both played a huge role in my development as a lifeguard and leader. When I first began working with JEM, I was incredibly shy and socially awkward (as to whether I still am is debatable haha). Joelle challenged me in a variety of ways to which I was pushed to navigate guest/staff situations, training, and leadership-oriented tasks. Eventually, she was able to get me to step out of my comfort zone and go through the last lifeguard training of the season (and Sandy Beach). Without that nudge, I probably wouldn’t be in aquatics still. I owe most of my development as a teacher to William as he taught me a lot in terms of patience, learning styles, navigating different personalities in all aspects of work, and the importance of never cutting corners or sacrificing safety for convenience. I’m very grateful to both and all the individuals (like our area manager Connor and some of the past SoundWaves/current JEM leaders) who continue(d) to aid in my development as they saw potential in a shy kid and, in doing so, have helped me push others to realize their own potential, and that’s incredibly important to me!
𝗝𝗘𝗠: What do you like to do for fun?
𝗔𝘀𝗵𝗹𝗲𝘆: I’m an incredibly simple person outside of work. I enjoy reading, chasing waterfalls (sorry TLC), and fostering a novice obsession with lighthouses. I enjoy traveling in general, but being in Tennessee especially, there are a lot of places to hike! I try to take advantage of this as much as possible. My go-to current favorite spot is most definitely Fall Creek Falls. Outside of exploring the outdoors, I also like to sketch portraits—or really anything artsy (although painting is definitely not a strength yet!). I also thoroughly enjoy education and learning as I am somewhat of a perfectionist. I currently have my eye on a Master of Business in Professional Leadership Development and a graduate certificate in Disaster and Displacement, so we shall see!
We can’t wait to see what you do next, Ashley! Thank you for all that you do.