IMMERSE : understanding the issue at hand to a greater depth through user/stakeholder interviews, and secondary research.

This week, Team YMCA focused on immersing into the issue of addressing diversity in lifeguard recruitment for the YMCA. We did this through interviewing current and previous lifeguards, lifeguard supervisors, and the aquatic directors at multiple locations, including Houston, Charlotte, and Portland.

Our first interviewee included the Assistant Aquatics Director at the Rice Recreation Center, Jaime Jones. The main insights taken from this interview include the importance and influence of the lifeguard supervisor in obtaining and retaining sufficient lifeguards for the job. In addition, the responsibilities of lifeguarding become intimidating to apathetic teens, who are not used to the less glamorous aspects, such as cleaning bathrooms and reminding patrons of the rules of the pool. In terms of their lifeguard shortage, Jaime felt especially frustrated by the amount of commitments high school students have during the summer and the lack of communication of these schedule conflicts, which is something we had seen across our research.

After our initial discussion with Jaime, with the help of DFA National, we reached out to a few YMCA directors in the cities of Houston, Charlotte, and Portland. We chose these cities because of their demographics, which we wanted to explore to see if the YMCA pools reflected these demographics.

From Greater Houston YMCA, we talked to Candi, an Aquatic Director at YMCA Greater Houston. One of the attempts to increase applicants is a referral program including a $25 giftcard for every person you refer who actually gets hired. Also, $25 giftcard for staying past August or through the pool season. Also, applying within a certain timeframe enters the applicant into a raffle to win a $500 giftcard. Some of the main obstacles in YMCA recruiting included the cost and time of certification, advertising the position, and swimming ability.

Next, we chose to interview Meaghan, the Aquatics Director from Charlotte, North Carolina. Due to the diverse demographics of Charlotte as a city (45% non-hispanic white, 35% black, 13% Hispanic/Latino), we hoped to see that reflected in their aquatics staff and potentially a solution to increase diversity in the lifeguard applicant pool in Houston. According to Meaghan, 95% of YMCA goers in Charlotte are black. In addition, most of their recruitment occurs internally and through word of mouth. Though they struggle with new recruitments, they have had success in retaining their numbers. One thing mentioned was the opportunity to work in departments lifeguards are interested to gain further experience applicable to future jobs.

After gaining some insights from the directors of the aquatic departments at the YMCA locations, we sought out former and current lifeguards to learn more about their experiences and motivations for getting involved in the position. Lynn, a former lifeguard at a Manhattan private rooftop pool and a summer camp in NYC for homeless children, had the background of both affluent and low-income communities. She emphasized the rooftop pool job as not much of a lifeguarding position rather than a service desk and check-in assistant, but with significantly better pay. The homeless children summer camp, on the other hand, was much more high-stress and hands-on, with constantly having to remind children of the rules, handle rough-housing, and saving many adults. Lynn stressed that there are many different aquatic spaces with different levels of difficulty, job duties, and communities that they serve. In addition, many of the duties involved in lifeguarding require a high level of confidence in oneself including your physical strength and comfortability underwater.

From the immerse phase, we gained a solid understanding of the obstacles and logistical details of recruitment, job duties, and emotional/physical requirements of the lifeguard position. Stay tuned for reframe!



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