Philadelphia pools host teen pop-ups to attract future lifeguards

Department of Parks and Recreation

Philadelphia’s public pools are already preparing for next year’s national lifeguard crisis.

In an effort to prevent future shortages, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting swim hours where teenagers will be able to hone their skills and learn about the process of becoming a lifeguard.

Six teen-only Pool Pop-Ups, led by head lifeguard Will Coleman and KYW Newsradio crime reporter Kristen Johanson, are scheduled, with the first coming Thursday at 6 p.m. at Mill Creek Playground in West Philadelphia.

“This is really an effort to help teenagers just get comfortable in the water and hopefully be able to see themselves being a lifeguard next summer, or once they become 16,” Parks and Recreation spokesperson Maita Soukup told Metro.

Though city lifeguards must be at least 16 years old, the pop-ups are open to anyone 13 and older.

Coleman and Johanson will demonstrate the skills necessary to pass the lifeguard screening test — which requires candidates to, among other tasks, swim 300 meters nonstop and retrieve a 10-pound brick from the deep end.

Soukup said the teenagers will be assessed to see how close they are to those targets, and there will also be time for free swim.

Soft pretzels will be available, and all attendees will receive a free duffle bag with a towel, hat and frisbee.

Department of Parks and Recreation

After the Mill Creek session, pop-ups will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center; July 21 at 6 p.m. at McVeigh Rec Center; July 27 at 6 p.m. at Shepard Rec Center; Aug. 6 at 11 a.m. at Francisville Rec Center; and Aug. 13 at 11 a.m. at J. Finnegan Playground.

“We actually chose the locations in the city based on those areas where it was hardest to recruit lifeguards this year,” Soukup said. “We’re being really targeted and intentional about trying to just bring that spirit of excitement about pools and swimming.”

Even after a pay hike and an extensive outreach campaign, Parks and Recreation recruited 300 lifeguards this summer, about 50 fewer than were needed to open all public pools.

City officials have said 50 of Philadelphia’s 63 pools will operate during the hottest months of this year, though some slated to open have not yet and others are running on reduced schedules.

For more information on which pools are open, go to

Lifeguards earn a minimum of $16 an hour, up 76 cents from last year, and work an average of 35 hours a week during the summer, according to the Parks and Recreation website.

After passing the screening test, candidates are signed up for certification courses through the Red Cross. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 24 who plans to work in Philadelphia’s pools can have the class’s $110 cost covered by the city.

Additional details about how to become a city lifeguard are available at


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