*in this article there will be terminology specifically related to Disney lifeguards; if you are unsure of what these terms mean please refer to the article “Lifeguard 101: how to be fluent in lifeguard lingo”
At this point, you have passed the Ellis training and you are now officially a licensed lifeguard. YAY!
Now what? I’m here to tell you all about what happened next for me.
So everyone’s schedule will look a little different, but mine went in this order:
- Ellis training
- Welcome to ops, recreation core, etc
- First day of OJT (on the job training)
- Location orientation (that’s right, I had my location orientation AFTER I already worked one day at my location)
- Second day of OJT
- KAPA (knowledge assessment performance assessment)
Because I had not had my orientation before starting OJT, that meant I had to figure out how to get my costume all on my own (if you have orientation before OJT they will take you to get your costume as part of your orientation). After asking around, I figured out the location of the Old Key West cast services (aka costuming). I went in the day before my first OJT and picked up everything I needed (except my non-slip shoes because you can only get those at Magic Kingdom cast services).
I showed up super early to my first day of OJT because I had no idea where to park or where to meet up. I ended up getting there WAY too early. I also did not know where to meet up. My schedule said to meet at Community Hall (a room where children’s activities are held), however it was closed because I got there super early. It also turns out we were actually supposed to meet in the break room, so I had to find a leader to show me where to go.
Once it was finally time for my shift to start, I met my trainer. We spent the rest of that first day going over opening procedures, learning the different stands at the pool, learning how to scan in and scan out, learning the bump schedule, reading the rules and regulations in the guidebook, and doing daytime VATS.
This probably sounds like a lot to learn on your first day. It was a lot. Everyone who has ever done OJT knows that your first day is incredibly overwhelming. You are learning SO much new information and you are expected to remember all of it.
For me, the most overwhelming part was the VATs. Every trainer is different, but this was my experience. When I was practicing VATs during OJT, I was told to stand with my back to the pool (so I couldn’t see the water). When my name was called, I had to turn around and scan the entire zone looking for the silhouette. I had to find the silhouette in less than 10 seconds, blow my whistle, and retrieve it in less than 20 seconds. I had to do this several times for each stand. It was difficult and stressful. However, I made it out alive.
After my first day of OJT I had my location orientation aka my “Welcome Home.” This was honestly one of the most fun days I’ve had so far. We got a tour of the entire resort, learned about the theming, and were treated to a few tasty surprises.
The second day of OJT was similar to the first. However, this time I was learning closing procedures. We went through a full rotation of stands, read more from the guidebook, learned EAP, practiced driving the pargos, and practiced night VATs.
This day was once again stressful, however it was slightly less overwhelming. This is most likely because some of the information was review from the day before.
After just two days of OJT, it was time to test out. This is called your KAPA day.
During my KAPA I did a full rotation of stands (at Old Key West this consists of three 45-minute stands). Although there were other more experienced lifeguards on the stand alongside me, I was expected to perform as if I was guarding my zone alone. I was assessed to see if I was maintaining my 10/20 and if anything happened in my water I was expected to react to it.
I also took a written assessment during my KAPA. Luckily this was not a pass or fail test. If there was any questions I got wrong, my trainer just went over the correct answer.
Lastly, I was tested on CPR. It was exactly like how I was tested during the Ellis assessment. Therefore, that was the least stressful part for me considering I had already passed it once a week prior.
For me, the KAPA day was less overwhelming that the first two days of training. Once I finally got a chance to go on stand for a full rotation, I realized watching my water is not has hard as it sounds. As long as I stayed vigilant, I was always able to notice when something unusual happened in my zone. As long as I reacted to that quickly (within 10 seconds or less), I did not have any problems.
In my opinion, I wish we were given more than two days of OJT. During my first few shifts after training, I made plenty of mistakes.
As a new lifeguard, you are not expected to be perfect. However you are expected to guard the lives of everyone in your zone. Being on stand alone and having that responsibility after only two days of OJT was once again overwhelming.
I can tell you that it is not going to be easy. However, I can also tell you that it is not impossible. Every day that you go to work it gets easier. Each day you will get more and more confident in your capabilities. So if you do find yourself overwhelmed, just try your best to remind yourself that it gets better.
It helped me to know that I was not the only one who felt overwhelmed during those first few days. My trainer told me that during her first day on stand she cried. It helped me to know that she felt that way in the beginning, and now she has progressed to the point where she is training the new lifeguards. So I hope that in sharing my experience, I can help you feel reassured just as my trainer helped me.