Program Popular in All Island Municipalities
Young lifeguards pedaling up or down Long Beach Island streets on bicycles with rescue cans strapped across their shoulders are a common sight each summer.
Wait a minute. Are some of those kids old enough to be a lifeguard? They sure do look young – make that very young, middle school or even grade school age young! And the minimum age to be an ocean lifeguard in New Jersey is 16. So what’s up with that?
They’re probably lifeguards in training, also known as LITs.
The beach patrols of all six LBI municipalities have Lifeguard In Training, sometimes also called Junior Lifeguard, programs. Most are open to children 10 to 15 years of age; Beach Haven’s is only for 14- and 15-year-olds.
Some beach patrols require potential LITs to pass swim tests before being allowed to enroll in their programs. Applicants for the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol LIT program, for example, must be able to swim 150 yards in 2½ minutes or less while younger B-LIT (Beginner LIT) applicants must cover that same distance in three minutes. Beach Haven requires only that its LIT applicants “must be able to swim comfortably in the ocean to participate” while Harvey Cedars says a “participant must be able to perform basic exercises and be able to run short distances in the sand” and “must possess some basic swimming techniques.”
The different beach patrols offer different sessions. Ship Bottom will have morning, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and afternoon, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 25 through Aug. 1 for 10- to 12-year-olds and similar morning and afternoon sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from June 24 through Aug. 2 for 13- to 15-year-olds.
Surf City, on the other hand, will have two four-week sessions in 2019, with the first running from June 24 to July 19 and the second from July 22 to Aug. 16. The sessions will both run from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Barnegat Light Beach Patrol, which used to offer two three-week sessions, is going to one five-week session this year, from June 24 through July 26. Kids ages 10 to 12 will meet from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays while 13- to 15-year-olds will gather on those same hours on Mondays and Wednesdays. All participants will meet together on Fridays.
Unlike regular lifeguards, LITs don’t get paid, but instead have to pay to participate in the programs. Fees range from $90 for a 3½-week session in the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol B-LIT Program (ages 10 to 12) to $375 for two sessions of the township’s LIT (ages 13 to 15). The fees for the rest of the Island’s LIT programs run somewhere in between – Harvey Cedars, for example, charges $200 for its June 24 through Aug. 9 sessions regardless of age.
Some programs, such as Long Beach Township’s, require documentation signed by a physician, saying a child “does possess the adequate vision, hearing acuity, physical ability, and stamina” to participate; others require medical forms filled out and signed only by a parent or guardian.
Are you getting confused yet? Yes, there are plenty of differences in the six programs. On the other hand, they all have a few things in common.
Children learn the basics of water safety and rescue in all of the programs. But those programs also stress first aid, physical fitness, the development of swimming skills, teamwork, sportsmanship (there are LIT tournaments held throughout the summer in various locations), self-esteem, responsibility and, of course, fun.
Each municipality’s LIT program is taught by experienced ocean lifeguards, many with impressive credentials. Take Surf City’s instructors – Jenn Welc, Ross Reynolds, Ashley Morris and Laurent Rothstein. They are all college graduates and teachers. Welc, the program director, is also a registered yoga instructor and has competed in marathons and triathlons. Reynolds earned a master’s of science in sports pedagogy and is the head coach for the Southern Regional High School varsity girls soccer team. Morris has coached high school swimming; Rothstein made the dean’s list each semester at The College of New Jersey before graduating with a bachelor’s of science in elementary education and technology. Surely there are some folks who still guard beaches in the summer and are ski instructors in the winter and collect unemployment in between – hey, a great lifestyle as long as it lasts – but you wouldn’t want to compete on “Jeopardy” against quite a few LBI lifeguards.
Many LITs go on to become paid lifeguards, such as the 101 former LITs who worked for the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol in 2018. But LIT training can be useful even if those receiving it never end up sitting wood or haven’t reached the age of 16.
“The value of this training was brought home most emphatically in June of 2009 when two previous participants, who were out surfing, rescued three children in addition to assisting an adult attempting to rescue the children, and brought them all safely to shore,” reads a blurb on the Beach Haven Beach Patrol website. “The heroic young ladies attributed their calmness and success to the training they received in this program.”
Another element all of the LIT programs have in common is that they are in high demand, so kids and parents who want to become involved should act now. “This program is a popular one and fills up quickly; please call to be added to our electronic mailing list,” is the advice given on the Barnegat Light website.
“The final deadline for 2019 LIT application is May 31, 2019,” reads a warning on the Ship Bottom website. “Please note that the program may fill before the deadline and some may be placed on a waiting list.”
So, check out the website of whatever beach patrol you would like to participate with as soon as possible. They all can be easily found by Googling the name of the municipality you’re interested in, followed by the words “beach patrol.” You’ll find session dates, hours, requirements, applications, contact information, etc. and be on your way to a rewarding summer.
— Rick Mellerup