YMCA Lifeguard Leadership Academy

New Summer 2023! The YMCA Lifeguard Leadership Academy opening within Centre Branch YMCA. This training academy is to grow our new leaders with independence and opportunities to learn & use their skills. We have dedicated classrooms and pool set ups to help our candidates and leaders have an exceptional experience geared for them and their success.

Find a Course

Getting certified is the first step towards working as an aquatics leader. After you have finished your courses, you will be qualified to work at the YMCA (and many other organizations that recognize our Lifesaving Society credentials). Throughout the aquatic leadership courses, you will receive the knowledge you need to guard or teach effectively and you will also have opportunities to increase your leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.

Don’t forget, Leadership classes are INCLUDED with a YMCA Everything Membership!

Lifesaving Society is the national governing organization for lifeguard standards. The YMCA conducts their courses to certify candidates to be ready to work confidently as a lifeguard. Below is the order the courses must* be taken to gain the foundational knowledge before moving onto advanced rescue techniques.

*Standard First Aid & CPR-C (SFA) can be taken before any course, and a prerequisite for National Lifeguard. Some courses may be combined for timing or pool space availability.

Lifeguards standing at pool
Bronze Medallion
This program teaches an understanding of the lifesaving principles embodied in the four components of water-rescue education: judgment, knowledge, skill, and fitness. Rescuers learn tows and carries, defense methods, and releases in preparation for challenging rescues of increased risk. Lifesavers develop stroke efficiency and endurance in a 400m timed swim.
Prerequisite: Participants must be a minimum of 13 years of age by end of course OR have Bronze Star certification.
Bronze Cross
This program starts the transition from lifesaving to lifeguarding and prepares candidates for responsibilities as an assistant Lifeguard.  Candidates will strengthen and expand their lifesaving skills and begin to apply the principles and techniques of active surveillance in aquatic facilities.  Bronze Cross emphasizes the importance of teamwork and communication in preventing and responding to aquatic emergencies.  
Prerequisite is Bronze Medallion and Emergency First Aid with CPR-B or Standard First Aid with CPR-C (need not be current).
Standard First Aid
Standard First Aid provides comprehensive training covering all aspects of first aid and CPR.  Standard First Aid incorporates all of Emergency First Aid and is designed for those who require a more in-depth understanding of first aid including: legal implications of first aid treatment, spinal injuries, heat or cold injuries, bone and joint injuries, chest injuries, and medical emergencies.  Includes CPR-C Certification.
National Lifeguard
This course is required to become a certified lifeguard. You learn various lifesaving techniques and take part in practical situations.
This certification is current for 2 years and is recertified by completing a National Lifeguard Recertification Exam.
Prerequisite: Bronze Cross, Current Standard First Aid with CPR 'C', 15 years of age and older. Please note there is an additional charge for the manual.
Swim Instructor
The Lifesaving Society Swim Instructor course prepares the instructor to teach and evaluate the swimming strokes and related skills found in the Lifesaving Society Swim for Life program.  Candidates acquire proven teaching methods, planning skills, and a variety of stroke development drills and correction techniques.
Required References: Swim Instructor Pack (includes Instructor Manual, Swim for Life Award Guide, Teaching Swim for Life and Leadership Binder)
Prerequisites: 15 years of age by the end of the course, Bronze Cross (need not be current)
Lifesaving Instructor
The Lifesaving Instructor course prepared instructors to teach the Lifesaving Society’s Canadian Swim Patrol Program, Bronze Star, Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross, Lifesaving Fitness, Distinction, CPR-A, CPR-B, CPR-C, Basic and Emergency First Aid.
Required References: Lifesaving Instructor Pack (includes Instructor Manual, Swim Patrol Award Guide, Bronze Medals Award Guide, First Aid Award Guide, Leadership Binder)
  • 100% attendance is required at all courses to be a successful candidate
  • Must provide proof of prerequisites on the first day of class
  • Candidates are to conduct themselves using YMCA values
  • Curriculum for each course can be found here under Test Sheets

Lending Library

The YMCA Lifeguard Leadership Academy offers a lending library for most manuals required in courses. This means no extra cost for our participants! *some resources require purchase at higher qualifications* For advanced leadership courses manuals will require purchase example: Lifesaving Instructors will require the purchase of the Bronze and First Aid Award Guides, but all other supporting manuals at this level will be available through the lending library.


Parking is available on site.


Frequently Asked Questions

Candidates can start the courses when they are 13 years old but must be 15 years old by the last day of the National Lifeguard course to qualify. 

Legally, as of June 2023 Ontario requires Lifeguards and Swim Instructors to be 15 years old to work. The YMCA of Southwestern Ontario’s employment policy in June 2023 is a minimum of 16 years old to be an employee. Applicants are welcome to apply within 2 months of their 16th birthday.

Prerequisites for the Swim Instructor courses are Bronze Cross (need not be current) AND, Standard First Aid with CPR-C AND minimum 15 years old by or on the last day of the course. (See course order above for the steps to complete prerequisites.)
Although Bronze Cross need not be current to take the course, to work the candidate must have a current Bronze Cross OR National Lifeguard certificate.

There are 2 Swim Programs running within the Southwestern Ontario region – 
Lifesaving Society’s (LSS) Swim for Life and YMCA’s Learn to Swim.

It would be ideal to be certified in both programs by taking both the YMCA and Lifesaving Society swim instructor courses. There are 2 YMCA of Southwestern Ontario branches that run the LSS swim program – Stoney Creek (North London) and Startech.com (SW London). All other branches run the YMCA swim program. Depending on where the candidate would work is which swim instructor course they should aim to do.

All YMCA of SWO branches will accept Lifesaving Society’s Swim Instructor certificate.

Click the ‘Register Today’ button above to see what is being offered.

You can phone your local branch by finding their contact information here

The YMCA offers member** & non-member fees for courses, PLUS volunteers get a 100% discount on courses.
**Members at the Everything Membership category, have leadership courses included with their membership.

Financial assistance is available; inquire with your local branch’s Aquatics supervisor.
Some of these courses also require manuals that range from $40-$95; some manuals can be borrowed from the YMCA instead of purchased.

CourseYMCA Membership – Everything CategoryYMCA Membership – Essential or EnhancedNot a member of the YMCA
Bronze Medallion & Emergency First AidIncluded$120$150
Bronze CrossIncluded$100$120
Standard First Aid & CPR-CIncluded$80$100
National LifeguardIncluded$220$250
YMCA Swim InstructorIncluded$100$150
Lifesaving Society Swim Instructor & Lifesaving InstructorIncluded$228$285

*All prices do not include HST; prices as at January 2023
[Courses may be offered in various combinations, i.e. LSS Swim & Lifesaving Instructor, which will affect the price at registration.]

The National Lifeguard certificate is valid for 2 years, and Standard First Aid is valid for 3 years from the dates of completion. If you are a YMCA employee when recertification is required, we will cover the cost of the certification as well as pay you your time to take the recertification. The course must be with a YMCA branch to cover that cost.

Becoming a volunteer at the YMCA is a great preparation for job seeking in the future! You start by filling out the application form here.

Once contacted by the “hiring” manager, you will have an interview and the manager will check 3 references. Once “on-boarded” you will get complete building orientation, volunteer job description, and start in your volunteer role. 

We ask that volunteers commit to 2 hours a week. Volunteers are eligible for a free YMCA membership after 3 months.

Aquatic volunteers should have their Bronze Cross (may accept medallion) and must be 14 years old; most volunteers are guaranteed a position with us once they are old enough and certified. It is a great way to get high school volunteer hours and looks great on a resume!

Here is a general idea of what to expect in each course. All courses have more than what is listed here.

Bronze Medallion13 years old by the last day of the course.Head up Swimming
25m carrying victim
400 m swim in 12 minutes
The Lifesaving Society
Drowning Chain of Survival
Cold Water
Rescue Process
Recognizing victims
Entering the water & removing
Towing and Carrying victims
Swimming stroke skills
Bronze CrossBronze Medallion and Standard First Aid & CPR-C (preferred) or Emergency First Aid & CPR-BWeighted object recovery from bottom & carry
Head Up swimming 20 m, carry victim back 
400 m swim in 11 minutes
Non-fatal drowning
Shallow Water Blackout
Assistant lifeguard roles & responsibilities
Communication and working with others
Surface dives
Spinal Injury Management
Standard First AidNone, but 13 years old by the last day of the course is preferred.Ability to perform CPRCirculatory Emergencies
Respiratory Emergencies
Broken bones
Head & Spinal Injuries
Heat Emergencies
Calling EMS
Victim & Rescuer communication
National Lifeguard15 years old by the last day of the course AND Bronze Cross AND Standard First Aid & CPR-C20lb object recovery and carry
Head up 50m in 60 seconds
400 m swim in 10 minutes
Underwater swim 15m
Role & responsibility of lifeguard
Regulations that govern workplace health and safety for lifeguards
Legal obligations & training
Management of Distressed or Drowning swimmer
Management of a spinal injury
Working alone & with a team
Swim Instructor15 years old by the last day of the course AND Bronze Cross AND Standard First Aid & CPR-CAll required physical skills for swimming lessonsPlanning
Safety & formations
Working with different age groups
All required skills in swimming lessons (eg. front crawl, back crawl, treading water, etc).
Lifesaving Society Lifesaving InstructorSwim Instructor certificateAll required physical skills for bronze coursesPlanning
Safety in performance and practice of skills
Teaching to the standard
All skills required in the bronze courses
  • A welcome email from the instructor or the Branch Aquatics Manager will be sent to the registered account's main email address, and where possible the candidate's email address. The email will confirm dates and location of the course, answers to the questions in the rest of this frequently asked questions section, the prerequisites required for the course, and the expectations of the course.
  • If you need to contact the instructor either before or during the course, call the branch where the course is happening and ask to speak with the Aquatics Manager.

For Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross, National Lifeguard, Swim Instructor and other water based courses:

  • 2 bathing suits - some days you may have a classroom lesson between 2 pool lessons
  • At least 2 towels
  • Goggles
  • Whistle - either on a lanyard or bracelet - Fox40 is ideal and can be found at SportChek
  • Notebook, Pen - whatever you need to take notes
  • Water bottles, snacks
  • Anything you think you'll need to swim laps - bathing cap, ear plugs, etc.

For First Aid only courses:

  • Notebook, Pen - whatever you need to take notes
  • Water bottles, snacks
  • Clothing you can lie on the floor with, and be on your knees
  • First Aid courses use the Lifesaving Society Canadian First Aid manual
  • Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross use the Lifesaving Society Canadian Lifesaving manual
  • National Lifeguard use the Lifesaving Society Alert manual
  • Swim Instructor uses either Lifesaving Society Swim Instructor pack or YMCA Instructor Candidate manual
  • more advanced courses use their own manuals and will be specified upon registering
  • Manuals can be borrowed during the course and returned at the end. A 'library' system is used to track manuals.
  • You are welcome to purchase manuals when registering, which are provided on the first day of the course. Prices are subject to change and why they are not listed here.
  • Whether borrowed or purchased, manuals are distributed on the first day of the course.
  • All courses are based on a Pass or Fail. There is no grade. The governing organizations of the course (Lifesaving Soceity or YMCA) have specific items that must be seen to be considered achieved/complete. All instructors and examiners will review the 'must sees' for each item required of the candidate. Most courses have exams where the material covered will be applied to unknown situations. An examiner is present to view the situations and determine if the 'must sees' have been met.
  • Candidates are told if they passed or failed at the conclusion of the course.
  • If candidates are successful, they are provided temporary cards confirming the certification date and may receive a badge as well (depending on the certificate). The governing organization will mail the official certificate within 3 months.
  • If candidates are unsuccessful, next step options will be provided by the instructor and/or examiner. Generally, candidates will need to take the full course again to ensure all 'must sees' are met consistently.

Here are links to the governing organizations programming of base courses to become a lifeguard and swim instructor:
Lifesaving Society Bronze Medallion https://lifesavingsociety.com/swimming-lifesaving/lifesaving/bronze-medallion.aspx
Lifesaving Society Bronze Cross https://www.lifesavingsociety.com/lifeguarding/bronze-cross.aspx

Lifesaving Society National Lifeguard https://www.lifesavingsociety.com/lifeguarding/national-lifeguard.aspx

Lifesaving Society Standard First Aid https://www.lifesavingsociety.com/first-aid/standard-first-aid.aspx

Lifesaving Society Swim Instuctor https://www.lifesavingsociety.com/teaching/instructors/swim-instructor.aspx
YMCA Swim Instructor (link currently in progress)

Ontario Trillium Foundation logo