A Reflection of my Employment at the ARC (FULL)

TL:DR | Fair warning this is a bit long, 4500 words, but it is the story of my time at the Arc. I had over 9 roles at the Arc, and this is the story for each of them. Also what had happened my 2nd to last day as well!

18 min read
A Reflection of my Employment at the ARC (FULL)

Well this post was bound to happen, and it sort of did with this previous post.

I wanted to take the time and explain how my career progress has gone up to this point, with the mindset of how the Arc impacted my life. The last post was really just about the Pool side of things, but I did much more than that in my time there.

A Reflection of My Employment
During my years as a lifeguard and pool manager, there were many lessons learned. A time that feels like yesterday, but in reality is half a decade ago.

Also my second to last shift something traumatic happened to me, which before I couldn't really talk about. Now I technically can.

Here was my journey over the last ELEVEN years!

Two Weeks before my 17th Birthday

My first job was being a lifeguard. I think that is honestly one of the best first gigs a person could have. The story goes I was a junior in high school, took my swimming for fitness class (I definitely needed it), and the teacher handed out flyers about guarding.

I grabbed one not thinking much of it, but that it sounded cool. I had tried to get a couple retail jobs by this point too. As teenagers do I procrastinated, and didn't really put a lot of effort into applying. Ironically if you did the training, you basically were given the job, which even back then was a good deal. Now especially so!

The training was a week long, and I hadn't turned in my documents. It got to the point were it was the day of the FIRST training, and I thought it was too late. My grandmother however thought it couldn't be, or at least we should try.

We called, and they said if we rushed over I could make it in time for the class (they really needed guards too). We dropped off the paperwork, she paid for the class, and thanks to Joan I was able to get in the class in time.

Tons of work during that training, it was basically all day for a week, and it pushed me to my limits sometimes (like with treading water).

I became a guard, and it was a tough job. I had strict managers, kind ones too, but they made sure you took it seriously. Which you should because people's lives were at stake. You wouldn't think at a shallow pool that it would be dangerous, but tons of things happened there over the years.

A lot of people forget that lifeguards are first responders, and that they are the first ones that will be doing CPR or doing first aid before EMS arrive.

I loved guarding, the commaradery, the team, and it also taught me about focus/interleaving.

An Eagerness to Teach

I'd often guard on the weekends too, during the public swim lessons. It was fun seeing all the happy faces, and the atmosphere. However a nagging part of me wanted to be a part of it.

I had brought it up to the swim lesson coordinator, who knew me as a guard. Back then I was pretty strict with the rules too. He thought I'd be too tough on the kids, which to a degree made sense. I did end up becoming a tough but fair instructor, still am, but I have empathy and I use that in the lessons.

One day he desperately needed instructors, he was about 3 short, and even he had to get into the pool to teach. He had me step in with some middle level kids, and essentially do what I could do.

I had watched carefully how different instructors taught, and even learned the singing games that they used for making the lessons more fun. Just by paying attention.

He saw that I was doing a good job, and let me keep going. Eventually I would become one of his most prolific instructors. Teaching practically every public lesson session I could get my hands on, and started doing private lessons as well.

I would eventually get to the point where I stopped doing public lessons for the most part, only going back to them when the coordinators really needed me. Or stepping in for a sub or two here and there.

It got to the point that whenever I taught any public lesson, even just one day as a sub, that I would get multiple requests for private lessons. I couldn't really handle that many, so I had to stop just for opportunity cost reasons if nothing else. Humble brag I guess, but it was becuase I really tried to teach each kid as much as I could.

I'd keep doing private swim lessons at the arc until about 2020, and even outside of the arc for years before and after 2020. I even taught one this morning, and in fact I'm focusing on them fully this Summer (2023).

I have a feeling that to some degree I'll be teaching swimming all of my life.

A Touch of Assertiveness

While for the first 2 and half years I was just a guard and swim instructor. Part time fitness attendant here and there too.

I wanted to do more, and in fact I thought it was definitely about time that I became a Manager. I had worked at more than one pool at this point, worked continously all of the years (never took off for the winter like many guards did). Not to mention too that I basically knew all that I needed to know already by asking managers before me.

Additionally, I had been guarding more in the mornings at that point, which meant I was there during all of the water aerobics classes. Seeing half a dozen different teachers teach in their own styles. I'd think to myself hmmm if I taught this class, I'd do this, but not that. Take a bit of this, ignore this, etc.

I knew a lot about exercise at this point, as I had been pursuing my own fitness self-development for almost half a decade at this point.

Meaning I wanted to do two things: become a pool manager, and water aerobics instructor.

I went to my bosses and said I wanted to have a simple meeting. We went to my 2nd in command bosses office, where all three of us could talk, and I told them I wanted to do both roles. They told me that they would think about it, and if it fits then we can progress.

Not two days later one of the aerobics instructors called in sick when I was guarding that morning. I called my boss (who was pretty much directly involved with the aerobics instructors), and asked what should we do? Grab the tv or something?

Everyone hated the Tv, the classmates didn't feel like it was a good workout, and the guards hated hearing it while on stand.

My boss told me straight up that "well you can teach it", and I knew in that moment I had a choice. Immediately my nerves got the better of me, and I said give me a second to think about it. I Probably took too long, but she was patient, and I said okay I'll do it.

I got in the water and taught them, much to their surprise, and excitement even too (the 8AM class for ref). I ended up messing up a bit, stretching in the middle of the class, where some of the meat of the exercise would normally be. Although they didn't care, they were kind to me.

From there I would continue managing for a year, until some rugs were swept under me. A shift that I was looking forward to because it was more responsiblity was taken away from me without even me being told. Let alone why.

I had prepared, and asked managers for advice. Tried to be proactive, but alas I was screwed over. Not to mention too some of the managers at the time had a lot less experience than me (same age ones I mean), yet they were given more responsiblity.

While I was frustrated but I kept on going as a manager for about a year total, then my last guarding shift happened.

My Last Guarding Shift

I loved teaching, and I wasn't about to give that up just because I was a manager. Nor should I, as it wasn't like I was reaching full time hours all the time anyways.

However the 2nd in command at the time, who made the schedules then, was giving me a hard time about swim lessons. I was still teaching public lessons on Saturdays, which were about 3 hours.

He told me that if I wanted to continue, that I HAD to guard afterwards. Mind you the guard shift was 7 hours, so I'd be there for 10 hours each Sat (the worst day of the week).

Mind you the cholorine levels for some reason at that time were extra sensitive, and when you were in that fish bowel for extended periods of time; Then you would get what is known as lifeguard cough. Where you could practically feel your lungs crystalizing over from the damn near mustard gas in the air. (Amoenia [pee] and Bleach [chlorine]).

I didn't complain that much about it, but I got to the point where my eyes were swelling up and my eyes were watering. In addition to the cough! I got sent home a couple weekends in a row because I couldn't even watch my water physically speaking, as my eyes were too swollen.

For some reason this didn't really happen until my third year, but it hit me hard.

By the time the third weekend came around I was dying from there being 10 hours, and they wanted me to do the "In-service" training that night too, which would mean 11 hours. By the end of the shift I was dead, could not stay any longer, and when the manager said "hey you know you need to go to inservice?". I stated that I couldn't be there any longer, and I would deal with the consequences later.

Usually there would be two days of the week where you could do that REQUIRED in service training. However the other day would be when I was teaching my aerobics class, so I could never do that one.

That Monday I came in, taught my morning class, and got called into the office. He told me you know you were supposed to go, and I exclaimed that I was dying from the pool. He then stated well now you have to be taken off the schedule. I said yep. He said okay.

Then two days later I handed in my resignation for Guarding and Pool Managing.

The People of Water Aerobics

I kept teaching Water Aerobics from my third year all the way until my 9th year. Which was about 6.5-7 years STRAIGHT.

I taught the 8am class for many many years until I had to give it up. The 10 am move your joints class for about half a decade, and probably my "Main class" that I taught would be the AquaStrength in the evenings.

No one was more important to me, but just that I had full control over how that class operated. Whereas the morning classes I had to stick to a more strict regimen (to a degree).

Honestly I stayed so long purely because of how much I cared about the people. On a few occasions I gave up opportunities for full time jobs because I didn't want to give up the classes.

I taught anywhere from 5 to 13 classes a week for all of those 7 years. It was insane!

Mind you this was in addition to the guarding, managing, personal training, and any other job I would have at a time (usually I held 2-3 employments at a time).

In 2019 I really wanted to quit. I wasn't really enjoying it anymore, and I was needing to make far more income than what I was getting. Although I didn't feel that the classes were ready, and I wanted to get them going more.

Then 2020 happened, the pool shut down for months, and I knew for a fact people were gonna need me to help them get back on track. Hence I stayed for about another year, so that I could help as many of them as I could. Sadly not everyone came back after quarantine, at least not for a while, and that made it harder.

However in Nov 2021, I had put in my final Pool resignation. This is where people though I had left fully before. Although at this point I was still a personal trainer.

The Aqua Polymath

I did more than just teaching swim lessons or basic water aerobics. Over the Summer of 2021 I actually did admin work for my boss too, from doing timesheets to ordering food for all of the pool's concession stands, etc.

I tried doing everything I could in the pool. This wasn't mentioned earlier, but I also taught the "water boot camp" classes as well, which were a harder version of the Aquastrength classes (which were already probably the hardest "aerobics level" classes we offered).

See the thing is with the pool is that cardio is a given, anything you do is going to help your cardiovascular system. However what MOST people needed was to build strength, and to burn off fat from getting into a caloric deficit.

It was ironic because a lot of the people (mainly women a lot of the time), would tell me they wanted to slim down. That was their goal, or to gain balance (which is totally valid goal too). However they would always say to me "I don't want to be 'bulky'!" Which is silly because you wouldn't get bulky from doing strength training.

You get bulky by doing specific power/strength exercises, that take a lot more effort to accomplish. Not to mention too that physiologically speaking women tend to be more lean muscle anyways (generally).

I digress.

From guarding to aerobics, to the admin. I probably could have applied to the second in command role when it opened up. I mean I even knew some of the higher ups downtown as well who would be the ones in charge of it.

However I knew it would lead to burnout, and that was exactly why I left aerobics in the first place. Wouldn't you know that the person who DID take the job, left after a year because of burnout. Poor guy. I really hope the person now doesn't burn out too.

Meaning that I left the pool completely, and only did PT at this time.

A quick word to my Bosses

For most of my time there I had the Aquatics Supervisor, Janel T, as my direct boss. In fact for the first two years there I didn't even really interact with her (cause I was just a guard), but when I became a manager and aerobics instructor I started talking to her a lot more.

When the second in command needed to go on leave for her family, I asked Janel hey do you need me more this Summer? She said yes, and I ended up filling in for some of the admin work. I loved being able to help her, and had she stayed I might've came back to water aerobics for time still. She ended up retiring, which was the right thing to do for her career I think. Super happy for her, and I'm glad I had such a good boss for that time.

My other boss would be Brian H, and he had my back for the longest time as well. I felt that if we ever needed to tell the other person about something (like if I needed to improve); That we could easily do so, and that the communication was strong.

While I didn't work for him as long; Only in two short-ish bursts, as a fitness attendant, and Lead attendant (supervisor).
I still felt like I was appreciated for my work, at least from him, and that I was doing well.

A Start of the Fitness Career

From the age of fifteen I would start doing strength training, and I did my swimming class at 16. That was when I really started seeing progress, and as I got into my early 20's I really started to get stronger.

I really was weak and skinny as a teenager, it made me feel inadequate. I still get the body dysmorphia in the mirror to this day.

Quick Blurb of being a Fitness Attendant

While not something I did for a long time, as it was mainly just for the hours. I did a good job. The role entailed me answering fitness questions, cleaning up the workout areas, and keeping an eye out on the 2nd floor (like if kids were messing around).

I am a speedy guy, and I would get done with most of the cleaning right away (some was at the end of the night). So I would go around the rest of the building and clean that too.

Becoming a Personal Trainer

This was something that was always on my mind, but I didn't have the funds to pay for the official certification.

However after teaching in the pool for nearly a decade, and having taught myself a ton of what you would know as a trainer already. I got a request from one of my pool people, to be their personal trainer. Thank you Michelle!

My boss knew that I had a variety of training knowledge, and that I could handle this. He offered it to me to do, and I started doing PT clients.

I'd have people tell me that because I didn't have the certification, that I wasn't a real trainer. However I did have the ACE and NASM books, and I took a couple tests online. They weren't as fancy, but you could take them before having to pay for them.

There were three levels, beginner trainer, intermediate, and master level trainers. I ended up taking the latter two. On my first try I would get 85% on the master level trainer, which the only thing I was really lacking on would be heartrate related topics. Which honestly I already knew that I knew little on that part of training.

Feeling pretty confident, but always explaining to clients if I didn't know something well. I kept teaching people over the years. I had a teenager who I ended up teaching still even over quarantine. One of my few clients I kept on for a long time.

Eventually I'd get more older people, including one of my mentors from my childhood. One client I had until the end of my tenure at the arc was a young lad who I could mentor as well.

It was a great job, and I hope that one day I'll become a trainer again. Although to work somewhere else I'll probably have to get a certification fully.

One Foot in the Door

The one thing about being a personal trainer is that it left me still employed at the arc. While I went from having three roles (aerobics, MYJ, and PT), down to just the one.

It left me having one foot left in the door, so when opportunity came knocking I'd probably answer.

Becoming a Supervisor

Over the last few years at the Arc I had been asked 2-3 times to work as a building supervisor.

Not really wanting that responsiblity at the time, and I wasn't a 100% sure who I'd be reporting to. Even when my pool boss asked me to do it before she retired, I had said no.

However at the start of 2023 I was recovering financially, and not working many hours. I had around 4 different W2's from the year prior, and I wanted to avoid having a situation like that again this year. So I figured that if I got another role at the arc then it would be under the same W2.

I asked my PT boss if I could do it, and started training a couple weeks later.

I say started training, but they really don't train much for the role. Luckily I had seen around 50 supervisors over the past 10 years. Hell I trained some of them on certain things myself even.

The first shift was enlightening because I had my boss show me around, but I had stepped up when supervisor was called over the radio. To try and prove I could handle it. Well and handle it I will the coming shifts.

The very next shift was Martin Luther King Day, which just so happened to be the BUSIEST day of the year at the Arc. Alas it was my FIRST shift all on my own. I was missing two staff members, one at the front desk, and the other upstairs fitness.

The front desk girl and the guy in the basketball court held the fort down well, but I had to run around like a chicken head cut off to keep everything going. From kids messing around (I guess there was a small fight outside), to one of the shower heads breaking off in the family locker room (some kid hung on it, and there was no maintence there for the holiday), and even the fire alarm going off.

It was a hell of a first day, and quite like the concept of "throwing into the deep end". I handled it as best I could, and from there most shifts were a breeze.

The Fight at the Arc

That is until my SECOND TO LAST DAY. It was going to be my last day, but I wanted a circular ending. I started working on June 15th, and so I wanted to end on June 15th.

I wasn't going to talk about this publically, as I felt that it wasn't really my place to do so. However after seeing that Reddit, Facebook, and the media all gave out tons of false details (there was no stabbing, no employee had a gun, etc). I thought that as someone who was RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of it, that I could shed some light.

Now that I am no longer employed by them either, I can't really get yelled at about talking about it either.

Here is what happened for real:

I was handing a ball to a kid from the front desk, when this young teenager and slightly older teenage girl I think were arguing. The boy had started it and was being the antagonist.

I started to walk over to try and settle things, when he hit her, and she hit back. That was when a cousin (I think of his), and her bf joined in. A moment later her mother stepped in (terrible parent).

They all five were now fighting, annoyingly behind where the camera was, but I was trying to step in an physically get them broken up. We aren't supposed to touch people per se, but if I didn't people were going to get hurt.

The mom stole one of our short brooms and starting hitting with it, and so I quickly grabbed that from her. She looked me in the eye and walked off. I didn't think much of it.

I got a couple kids to step back, but as the last 2-3 were scrapping the mom came back with a gun. Sort of hidden, so I didn't see it until after everyone had yelled it. Had I known sooner I probably would have tackled her to keep people safe, but hindsight is 20/20.

Her, the bf, and the girl chased the boy (mind you who is only a teenager, a kid really). Out through the back door, and at this point people are freaking out. I was trying to do crowd control, with 3 fire alarms going off, and I had to call 911.

Since I now know she has a gun, I couldn't really go back there and try to stop them. I did however stop the cousin from following, and hopefully saved him from getting a similar fate to the poor kid outside.

The assaulters ended up doing some damage to the poor kid, but no shots fired. They ran off to Gerbes, and eventually were arrested. The lifeguards did a great job at responding to the injuries as best they could until EMS could take over, they also called 911 for help too.

That is about it. There wasn't any firing, no stabbings, and no employee had a gun. That was all false info that was spread on reddit and facebook.

In response to the Arc's Response.

I wanted to respond to the comments made about how the Arc handled it. Yes, I should have probably handled the crowd a bit better. The gun was at the back of the building next to the pool, so my logic was let's get everyone to the front of the building. Perhaps the locker rooms would have been better, but IMO not by much.

I want to say something about the guy who was on the news, he said some rather harsh thing about the response. I want to defend what the arc team had done, and that the guy literally had no idea what he was talking about. He was barely there, and wasn't even near what had happened.

I chose to shut down the arc when the police arrived, and I think that was the best call to make.

An End of an Era

I thought my time at the Arc came to an end when I left the pool, to be honest, and a lot of the patrons who knew me did too.

I want to get a full time remote job. Perhaps something in tech, as I have always been at techie.

I love all of the clients I have taught over the years, pool or dry, and I hope you reach out. I am glad I was able to make it a better experience for people over the years!!

A Reflection on my Ten Years at the Pool + Launch of the Swimming Newsletter!!
After a decade of living and breathing pool life, sometimes literally, I have learned a lot. That knowledge has effected me in more ways than I can count.
Career 💼 - PolyInnovator LLC | Official Website for Dustin Miller
In everyone’s life there is a challenge to find what they are good at, and what they are meant to do. Often this comes in the form of their Ikigai, and others it is simply their Ideal Career. Your lifestyle often plays a vital role as well, which is why these two are put together.

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