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Tomorrow's Lifeguards Train Today

Sure, right now it’s all turkey all the time, and soon everything will be turning red, green and Frosty. Which means, of course, that it’s time to start thinking about the beach. And the pool. While you’re at it, you might consider having your teenaged kids (or you, for that matter) take a course in lifeguard training, because this fall and winter the Wilton Family Y is offering classes for qualified swimmers to become next summer’s water sentries.

Baywatch might have made it look glamorous in all its slow motion, sun-drenched splendor, but lifeguards -- and the people who train them -- take the job very seriously. Drew Schoenster, who has been teaching the class since 2004, understands that his students, the lifeguards of tomorrow, will be safeguarding the lives of many. And he cuts no corners when he guides them through his rigorous curriculum. “I ensure that the skills taught in my classes are thoroughly learned via repetition and correction,” he says, adding: “I do tend to make my classes run a little longer than average.”

A Weston resident, Drew teaches the American Red Cross Waterfront Lifeguard Training course, a demanding, month-long curriculum conducted on water and land. Included in its rubric are conscious and unconscious victim rescues, as well as accident prevention and preparedness. There is also a good amount of fitness training (laps and more laps in the pool) and diving. Additionally, there are mock rescues in which Drew himself takes to the water: “I pose as the victim regularly. A good victim is hard to come by… A very limp, or very active victim can help ensure that students can perform the skills."

In order to enroll, students must be at least 14 years old, fit and able enough to dive to the bottom of the pool's 10-foot deep end to retrieve a brick -- or perhaps to retrieve Drew pretending to be a unconscious victim. Additionally, each participant must pass supplemental American Red Course classes in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and standard first aid before becoming lifeguard certified.

Drew has high standards for his students. By no means will he pass everyone through the course just because they're enrolled. Failure to “pass the written examinations, show up for class or to complete the physical portions of the exams,” do not a lifeguard make, at least not in Drew’s pool.

His zeal for making it tough is evident, and worthwhile. "I have taught over a hundred lifeguards and I sincerely hope that at one point or another, a few of them have used those skills to save a life. In the end, that is the point.”

For more information about lifeguard training at the Wilton Y , visit the programs section of their website, or call Sarah Hagan, at 762-8384, extension 211.

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