Lifeguard returns to Oak Brook Aquatic Center
Rob Bast watches as local lifeguards practice CPR on another lifeguard during training. Bast has been lifeguarding for 13 years, and recently begain managing the Aquatic Center in Oak Brook. | Alyssa Schueneman~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Rob Bast
LIFEGUARD TENURE: 13 years
DAY JOB: Special education teacher’s assistant
Updated: August 13, 2012 1:36PM
OAK BROOK — Rob Bast finally said “yes” to Jessica Gray.
Gray, the aquatic center manager for the Oak Brook Park District, previously worked with Bast when he was a lifeguard and assistant manager at the aquatic center from 2004-2008.
Bast left his job in Oak Brook to concentrate on his career as a special education teacher, although he worked as a lifeguard at other places since leaving Oak Brook. But he and Gray never lost touch after he left the aquatic center in 2008.
“I’ve bugged him to come back this whole time,” Gray said. “He’s great for your younger guards. He shows how you can work your way up and works very well with everyone else.”
Laura Reinke is an aquatic supervisor for the park district who trained as a lifeguard with Bast before he left in 2008.
“He’s a really good instructor,” Reinke said. “He’s also a very good manager.”
Reinke said Bast remains a great example of a lifeguard.
“Being attentive and responsible is so important in that job, and he definitely has those characteristics,” Reinke said.
Bast said he is glad to be back working at the aquatic center in Oak Brook. He works during the school year as a teacher’s assistant in special education at a Villa Park middle school.
“I’m more confident now with my teaching, and I wanted to keep busy during the summer,” Bast said. “I feel right at home here. I like being back because the staff and patrons here really are great. There’s an outstanding camaraderie among the staff here.”
Bast first got a job as a lifeguard at the Naperville YMCA when he was 16 years old.
“I wasn’t a swimmer; I played baseball,” he said. “I was looking for a job because I needed money for a trip to France, and they had a position open at the YMCA in Naperville. I asked them if people who are swimmers could do the job, and they said yes.”
That was all the encouragement Bast needed to apply.
“The training was tough,” he said. “I did have second thoughts about it because in the first class I took I was the only completely new person without any experience as a lifeguard.”
Bast said the most difficult challenge for him while training to be a lifeguard was remembering what to do when someone was unconscious.
“That took me a while,” he said. “I used to keep track of how many people I jumped in and saved, but I stopped counting at 50; that was back in 2008.”
Bast said there were happy endings for all of those who needed his help.
“Nobody was unconscious,” he said. “The most important thing about being a lifeguard is to always be alert. You have to be disciplined and understand the ramifications of what you’re doing. That’s what keeps me alert all the time when I’m guarding; someone could need your help at any time.”