MISSOULA — Splash Montana is less than three weeks from opening for the 2021 season, and they’re already facing a major hurdle -- a lifeguard shortage.
“Splash Montana takes a ton of staff to run it. We like to have 50 lifeguards on staff and 12 aquatic facility leaders," Missoula Parks and Recreation Aquatic Manager Eric Seagrave explained.
Up until a few summers ago, Splash Montana would run with 60-to-65 lifeguards but those numbers have been dwindling in recent years and Seagrave says, so far, this year’s numbers are sparser than ever.
“We have had 19 applicants, with 19 plus our 25 that we keep year-round, we still need about 20 to 25," he told MTN News.
It’s not just Missoula Parks and Rec that is dealing with the shortage.
Missoula YMCA Aquatic Director Rose Kahane says their numbers are also way down, "we’re just struggling to get people to apply and to stick with us, you know.”
She says administration is having to step in to fill time slots which impacts other jobs that need to be done.
Seagrave says Parks and Rec is now at the point of having to consider reducing summer hours if the lifeguard spots aren’t filled.
“We can’t sacrifice safety, right? So when we’re open, we need to have the staff on that we need to have to ensure that safety," he said.
Both Kahane and Seagrave say there are short-term and long-term benefits to becoming a lifeguard and they are hoping young and old will consider lifeguarding at one of the four public pools -- which include the YMCA, Splash Montana, Currents, and UM.
“Having the lifeguard on your resume points to you as a person who’s ready to step in, take control, be a leader," Seagrave said.
“You get to work with and meet people from all backgrounds, all ages, and yeah when it comes to being a guard it’s not something just for a certain age group of people, it’s for all ages," Kahane added.
Those who are interested in becoming a lifeguard or are just interested in finding out more about what the job entails can go to the YMCA online, Missoula Parks and Recreation online and the University of Montana online to find out more.