BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – You won’t hear the sounds of summertime splashing seven days a week at two public pools in East Tennessee.
Will Hubbs, the Program Coordinator for the Maryville-Alcoa-Blount County Parks and Recreation Commission, explained what their pool plans have entailed this first half of summer.
“With the lifeguard shortage that’s kind of going on nationwide, we’ve had to close each pool one day a week,” said Hubbs. He went on to state the Springbrook Pool has been closed Mondays for the first half of summer. The John Sevier Pool has been closed Tuesdays.
Hubbs said the staff started out strong with 52 lifeguards headed into opening week. “A week later, we were down to 39,” he said. “Some folks figured out they wanted to work a different job, or maybe they just decided they didn’t want to be a lifeguard, or that their school and athletic schedule was just too busy.”
Many experts on a national scale have stated this lifeguard shortage is pandemic-driven, with past lifeguards not being able to update their certification. Hubbs doesn’t completely agree.
He said people may be making up family vacations or find themselves with more social obligations than they did in the summer of 2020.
As far as certifications go, he said the Maryville-Alcoa-Blount County Parks and Recreation Commission hosted extra lifeguard training courses when they realized they were going to be understaffed.
He also credited his current lifeguards for their recruiting efforts: “That managed to bring in about 10 or 11 more,” Hubbs said.
Hubbs said he knows he is not the only one struggling with this issue. “It’s been a topic of conversation this year, everyone is struggling to find lifeguards,” he said of the conversations had within the Tennessee Recreation of Parks Association.
“Those of us who have instructors, we can throw out classes whenever, but still, just getting people in those classes has been hard,” he said.
He also added that local water parks enticing lifeguards with signing bonuses has made it an even more competitive market.
Moving forward, with the near-dozen lifeguards they’ve been able to gain back over the first half of the summer, the plan is to test out reopening Springbrook Pool in Alcoa for the next two Mondays, July 5 and July 12: “That will give us the perspective of now we have enough guards and we can manage that, or it’s still a few guards short of being able to do that.”
Hubbs said while they are not planning on hosting more lifeguard certification courses this summer, if there are teens who are already certified and looking for work, he’d be more than happy to work them into the rotation.
One new thing he hopes to do next summer is work closely with schools and students who have an interest in the medical field.
Where the pools with closures are located:
John Sevier Pool is Located at 1998 Sequoyah Avenue in Maryville. Springbrook Pool is located at 636 Vose Road in Alcoa.