The Story of Backyard Lifeguards
Why Backyard Lifeguards?
The United States Lifesaving Association found that of the total drowning deaths per year, those that occur under lifeguard supervision account for less than 1%. Finding lifeguard services has been a challenge for home pool owners and race organizers. Trusted agencies like the American Red Cross, YMCA, parks and recreation departments, and pool management companies can offer little help. For legitimate reasons, these groups will not send their staff to a site they have never seen, on property they don’t own, among people they don’t know and whose behaviors they may not be able to control. Some won’t even allow advertising the need for a lifeguard to their staff.
As part of their training, lifeguards are educated about the individual liability they take on when they work outside their established place of employment. Many choose not to incur that risk to themselves or their families. This has left homeowners and event coordinators with few choices for hiring a lifeguard. In many cases, they hire lifeguards they know indirectly, and because of the limited options, do not ask for certificates, check skills in advance, require that lifesaving equipment be provided, or factor in important variables like age and experience.
Backyard Lifeguards from the Beginning
In May of 2009, a highly publicized backyard pool drowning and subsequent lawsuit drew attention to the safety needs of residential pools. There is a clear distinction between a community pool and a private pool. Backyard pools don’t usually have modern rescue equipment, depth markings, or substantial diving envelopes. They don’t have emergency action plans, posted policies, or any of the things required of community pools to ensure public health and safety. And above all, they don’t have a certified and attentive lifeguard.
With input from many colleagues, owner Stephé McCormick began work on a plan to provide water safety services to residential pools. The result is Backyard Lifeguards, a fully equipped and insured portable professional lifeguard service that also offers site-specific water safety training. The goal is to reduce the dramatic rate of drowning at historically under-supervised locations and events. One of only a few in the country whose primary business is supplying private lifeguard services, the company’s has earned mentions from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sauce magazine, Today in St. Louis, and Great Day St. Louis.
In response to increased demand for supervision at adult events, Stephé formalized BYLG Sport, now the competition services division of Backyard Lifeguards, and co-wrote Open Water Swimming: Tips, Hints & Expert Advice, a safety briefing and success guide distributed to all athletes in BYLG-supervised races. BYLG Sport’s water safety plans incorporate supervision strategies from races around the country in which Stephé competes or lifeguards. In 2011, Stephé was selected as one of twelve rescue swimmers for the Nautica New York City Triathlon. She has been invited to lifeguard the Miami Ironman, and completed the United States Lifesaving Association’s Surf Rescue Training Officer Academy in December 2012.
About The Owner
Stephané Rebeck McCormick began her aquatic career in 1985. A native of New Jersey, she spent 12 years as a swim instructor with the YWCA of Princeton, worked as an oceanfront lifeguard with the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol on Long Beach Island, and managed the Brooktree Swim and Tennis Club. As Aquatic Program Manager with Clayton Parks & Recreation for seven years, she set regional enrollment records and earned her department the prestigious Best in Aquatics award from Aquatics International.
A 2007 American Red Cross Community Lifesaver, Stephé is a certified Lifeguarding Instructor and Water Safety Instructor Trainer who holds a Masters degree in Education from Columbia University. She has been an adjunct instructor of physical education and serves as chair of the W-Club Alumni Athlete Association at Washington University. Her professional achievements have been noted in Southern Voice, The Sandpaper, and Suburban Journal, and she was a featured expert in aquatic program management in Aqua’Zine.
Through the St. Louis Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, Stephé works part-time as an Aquatic Examiner of community and municipal pools, mentors Instructor Trainer candidates, and volunteers at Aquatic Safety Schools. She is a merit badge counselor in swimming and lifesaving with the Boy Scouts of America. Stephé is active with the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association and St. Louis Aquatic Professionals, and she presents on a variety of topics related to aquatic supervision, programming, and management at industry conferences. She is passionate about promoting open-water swimming as a way to generate interest in environmental issues and support for clean water initiatives.