Lions Park Pool lifeguard receives exclusive award
Peter Richard, a seven-year lifeguard at the Lions Park Pool, keeps an eye on the swimmers. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:13AM
CLARENDON HILLS — For seven years Peter Richard has been a lifeguard at the Clarendon Hills Park District’s Lions Park Pool, meaning not only does he have a fair amount of training and experience but also has seen his fair share of shenanigans.
“You think we can’t see you, but we know what you’re doing,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot at the pool that we can’t see.”
Who watches the lifeguards? The answer is that Jeff Ellis & Associates, an international aquatic safety and risk management group which conducts safety audits at pools, watches them.
This year, after its June audit of the Lions Park Pool, the group awarded Richard (whose surname is pronounced ri-shard) a Golden Guard award for excellence. Jeff Ellis & Associates grants the Golden Guard sparingly and carefully to, “someone who epitomizes the perfect guard — a guard who is so good that an auditor watches and says, ‘Wow!—that guard is the greatest,’” according to the website. At the same time Jeff Ellis & Associates recognized Richard, it gave the Lions Park Pool team an Exceeds Standards rating, the highest possible.
The people who work with Richard were not surprised.
“In my experience, Pete is very, very professional. He is one the best lifeguards we have here,” said Beth Martens, the Clarendon Hills Park District’s aquatics manager.
Martens said when hiring, she looks for guards who are extremely responsible, who embody leadership and will enforce pool rules as well as have a passion for their work.
Richard’s manager isn’t the only one who recognizes his work. The Lions Park Pool staff conducts an annual in-house survey to come up with its own version of the Golden Guard award, and Richard has earned that award from his pool peers for the past several years. According to Alison Briespansky, an assistant aquatic manager who has worked with Richard the past seven years, he has great energy, is extremely punctual and willing to help in any way possible.
“He’s always enriching himself,” said Briespansky, referring not just to Richard’s approach to the pool and its in-service training but to just about everything else that interests him.
Richard had taken Hinsdale Central’s lifeguarding Physical Education course and started lifeguarding between his sophomore and junior years. Several reasons keep him coming back, include the training (first aid techniques have changed and developed over those seven years) and watching the kids grow up.
“I like the people I work with,” he added.
While in high school, Richard’s primary sport was long distance running with the cross country and track teams.
“I enjoy the team aspect of it,” he said.
He continued this pursuit while a student at DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana, where he majored in French and Spanish and graduated this past May.
Now he is running with the Hinsdale Central Cross Country team as a volunteer assistant coach. He typically runs as many as 11 miles a day, spending more than an hour at it each morning. It’s a discipline and a habit that has become a huge stress reliever and source of enjoyment.
In September, he will hang up his lifeguard suit and head to South Korea where he will spend the next 12 months teaching English as a Second Language for a private language academy. He believes he will be teaching pre-teens and teens in an English-language immersion situation, though he is not certain. He will be teaching mostly in afternoons and evenings, leaving his mornings free to train for the Seoul Marathon, which is held in March.
Richard spent a semester of his college years studying in Madrid, Spain, and that wanderlust has not left him.
“I kind of want to see a different part of the world,” he said, “especially after studying abroad in Spain.”