supervision & instruction

Negligence Simplified

March 10, 2015

10. Standard of Care in Recreation

Determining the standard of care is industry specific.  So what does it look like in Recreation?

In keeping with the overall theme of this blog, ‘keep it simple’, I’ve distilled the issues down to the ‘5 Key Risk Areas’:

Supervision & Instruction
Facilities & Equipment
Emergency Response

In this blog we’ll explore ‘Supervision & Instruction’

As somewhat of a disclaimer – remember the title of the blog (Negligence Simplified)! Thus the focus here is on the KEY issues, and not all the issues!

Key Issues in Supervision & Instruction:
1. Quality of supervision
In short: Hire qualified supervisors/ instructors
2. Quantity of supervision
In short: Establish reasonable supervision ratios that are based on activity type, space size, activity risk level, age and number of participants.
3. Lesson plans and progressions
In short: If you are offering higher risk programs which involve instruction, instructors should follow lesson plans (or standard protocols) which document progressive instruction.

In the next blog, we’ll look at the Key Issues in Training.

To follow the blog from the start, go to

Education is the Best Offence!

March 22, 2012

Heather Reynolds
Climbing and Outdoor Rec Program Coordinator
Dalhousie University

It was an overcast early spring day in 1992. My partner and I were on a weekend road trip to White Horse slab and Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire. We’d just completed two full days of climbing and would be soon loading up the car for the twelve hour drive back home. Despite being ardent sport climbers, focusing on routes no higher than fifty feet, we decided to do an easy long multi-pitch route. This means the route would be multiple rope lengths — in the hundreds of feet. I had some experience with this traditional style of climbing, but my partner had none. Off we went. When we had gone about 3 pitches, it started to rain. When it gets wet, a rock face becomes like a skating rink, particularly in climbing shoes. Eventually we decided going up was no longer a safe option, and rappelling down was the only way to go. Our problem was we only had one rope and each anchor point was almost a full rope length away. We could do it with one rope, but it would mean leaving some gear behind. In the end, that didn’t happen since we were not the only climbers in this predicament. We joined up with another group of climbers and used our ropes together to get all five of us off the wall – wet, but safe and sound.

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Double Vision — The Coach as Lifeguard

December 08, 2011

Can a coach safely do double duty?

Jen Knights
Program Coordinator — Aquatics
University of Western Ontario

It sounded like a watermelon hitting the sidewalk. I knew something was wrong before I even looked up. I was on deck in a supervisory role during a diving practice. The Coach was working with his athletes and there was a Lifeguard guarding the pool as well. I remember being at the lifeguard station tidying up and hearing usual pool sounds including the sound of divers rebounding off the end of the springboards. Then — thunk. I began to move towards the diving boards and saw the Coach in the water and the Lifeguard en route. As I approached the scene for a brief moment I was fuming — wondering why the Coach in the water before the Lifeguard. But then I realized the Coach was in the water because it was his athlete he was supervising, and he knew all too well the sound of a diver in trouble.

Lifeguards use all of their senses while on duty — we observe directly with our eyes, use our hearing to listen for the unusual, employ our sense of smell when people decide to toss eucalyptus (or urinate) onto sauna rocks, and our sense of touch when moving across an uneven or slippery pool deck before entering the water to perform a rescue. Following an emergency situation or rescue it is not uncommon for a Lifeguard to vividly remember a specific sight, or smell, or sound — forever. That memory becomes embedded in your brain and gets tucked away for future reference. The diving Coach knew that sound and the Lifeguard did not, but certainly does now.

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The More they Know the More they Grow!

October 11, 2011

Tips on selecting and preparing your undergraduate student employees to work as Facility Supervisors

Kacy Toberg, CRSS
Facilities Coordinator
Georgia State University

About Georgia State University and our Student Recreation Center:
Georgia State University is an urban research institution located in the heart of downtown Atlanta. We have approximately 31, 500 students as of the Fall Semester 2010. The Department of Recreational Services employs around 150 student employees each semester to work in the various activity and program areas of our 161,112 square foot Student Recreation Center. This is a 29.5 million dollar facility with over 1,500 entries per day!

BIG job with BIG responsibilities:
The position of Facility Supervisor is the highest position an undergraduate student employee can obtain in our department. Each semester we have about a dozen Facility Supervisors, with one on duty every hour the Student Recreation Center is open. They are the primary liaison between the professional staff, our student staff and our customers. The Facility Supervisor is responsible for all decisions in lieu of professional staff.
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Swim with a Buddy — Don’t Guard with One

September 28, 2011

Jennifer Knights
Program Coordinator — Aquatics
The University of Western Ontario

Lifeguards are social creatures. Pool decks are warm. Guards are often lulled by the mellow sounds of swimmers rhythmically making their way from one end of the pool to another. Types of swims vary as do the number of swimmers in the pool. The pool deck can be exciting. It can also be considered boring at times. These things combined may lead to situations where lifeguards gravitate towards each other and end up guarding side by side.

The term often used for this type of guarding is “buddy guarding” – although if you ask most aquatic supervisors what they would call it you would probably hear them let out an exasperated cry. It is definitely not something that is taught in lifeguard certification courses, yet most supervisors will tell you they have had to deal with it on at least one occasion — and that is an understatement. Even facilities with the best training, the most comprehensive policy and procedures manual, and the most hands-on aquatic supervisors can experience the buddy guarding phenomenon.

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Climbing Wall Risk Management: Part 1

July 15, 2011

Jason Kurten, M.S.
Outdoor Adventure Coordinator
Director of Indoor Climbing Facility
Texas A&M University, College Station

Josh Norris, M.A.
Climbing and Adventure Education Coordinator
Adventure Leadership Institute
Oregon State University

Climbing Walls. Many, if not most of today’s colleges and university recreation centers feature one of these installations in some form. Whether it is a small bouldering wall tucked away in a corner or a free standing tower rising through the center of your building, these facility features pose an unique issue for managers. Through the 1980’s, the climbing wall industry historically lacked consolidation and standardization. Facilities were built in areas where outdoor climbing was popular and they provided a place where these outdoor adventurers could practice their craft in a controlled environment. Today we see these installations in YMCA’s and university recreation centers, and run as commercial operations – even in areas devoid of any outdoor rock climbing opportunities. This article is the first in a two part series. Part I will focus on physical facilities by covering three topics: Published Guidelines, Documentation, and finally Facility Risks and Inspections. Part II will focus on Employee Training, Climber Instruction and Competency. Read more

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