A chlorine bond: Aquatics center offers more than just waves

Sophomore public relations major and lifeguard at the aquatics center in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Sophomore public relations major and lifeguard at the aquatics center in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Jamie Brian

Flip flops squeak against the wet tile, carrying you to the edge of the pool where you kick them off, brace yourself for the chill and dive in.

This is a familiar scene, one that has been replayed through the years. Each dive is different. Behind that simple moment is a burst of perception.

“It becomes like a metronome,” said Jess Lyons, lifeguard and senior recreation management major. “Your strokes and your kicks are in rhythm. I almost get in a beat to hear the splashes and the kicks. In the pool, everything’s amplified. I feel how strong my body is moving through the water.”

As a water safety instructor, Lyons teaches a range of ages, from infants to adults, how to swim and perfect their technique. For her, it’s so much more than just another job. 

“We get to see them have fun in the water and overcome fears,” Lyons said. “That’s one of my favorite parts: To have a kid just start and they’re terrified, and by the end of the session, they’re splashing and jumping in.”

Lyons said that when she was 16, being a lifeguard was the summer job to have. From there, her interest grew to emergency response certifications. Lyons said she feels like she can really make a difference by teaching people skills that can save their lives someday. 

But every job has its quirks. 

“I literally smell like chlorine 365 days a year,” Lyons said. “Chlorine is like a perfume at this point. I’ve just accepted it. Whenever we go anywhere, I automatically get into lifeguard safety mode.”

The pool is like a mecca of buzzing activity, from patrons practicing their strokes in the competitive six-lane lap pool to those lounging in the hot tub after a long day.

“Being here reminds me of summertime as a kid,” said Beverly O’Connor, a high school band director from Hudson. “It makes me think of the smell of sunscreen and lifeguards whistling at break. They’re all happy memories of being carefree.”

Freshman fashion design major Miranda Skitzki often goes to the pool when it opens at 6 a.m. to swim in the lap pool. She likes the quiet, and the pool provided a break from the outfit she was sewing for the Rock the Runway fashion show.

“You feel lighter when you’re swimming,” Skitzki said. “It’s smooth and cool on your skin. I kick off the side of the pool and push myself through the water — it’s like flying horizontally.”

There’s something about the bright space and the wide, open windows that makes it feel like a separate world.

“In the morning, it’s so nice,” Lyons said. “I can close my eyes and picture this scene outside of the window in all seasons. Every guard here would probably know the same thing. You don’t really think about it, but you sit here for 30 hours a week and watch people and look out the windows.”

The pool has a character of its own, with the sights and sounds of the people adding to its personality.

“You hear the water slapping against the sides of the pool and people taking big breaths when they come up for air,” Skitzki said. “Sometimes you hear children laughing.”

Contact Jamie Brian at [email protected]