Every lifeguard can be placed in one of 3 categories at any given point in time:
A Patrol is the type of lifeguard who actively regulates the activities of the patrons in the pool to assure maximum safety. Their main goal is to keep accidents from happening by stopping dangerous behavior before it starts. They don’t want to have to jump in and rescue someone, however, they will when necessary. A typical Patrol is all over things. For example: if a child was to enter the pool area carrying a noodle, and was told by the parent to hold onto the noodle, a Patrol will make sure that child has the noodle at all times and does not approach the deep end of the pool without the noodle. He will also make sure the parent knows that a noodle is not a proper flotation device for a non-swimmer.
A Rescuer is the type of lifeguard who sits back and waits for something to happen. Once someone gets in trouble in the water, or any other emergency should arise, they are all over it. A Rescuer will tell patrons to follow the rules, but only a certain number of times before they let the patron figure out the dangers for themselves. Rescuers don’t want to have to jump in the pool and save someone any more than a Patrol does, but they don’t get involved in the patrons day to stop accidents from happening. For example: if the child from above was doggy-paddling towards the deep end of the pool, a Rescuer would not tell the kid to go back to the deep end. They may wonder if the child should be sent back to the deep end, but they won’t say anything. Instead, they will sit there and wait and watch for something to happen. If nothing happens, good. If something happens, then they are ready.
A Sloth is the type of lifeguard that basically doesn’t do their job, or will only do their job if someone asks (a patron) or tells (a manager) them to do something. They are normal lazy people. A Sloth is most likely a person who only got the lifeguarding job because they thought it would be fun to have a job where they sit around and watch people swim. They eventually find out that being a lifeguard is more work than they imagined. A Sloth may or may not enforce the rules, and likewise, they may or may not rescue someone. For example: if that child came back to the pool again, and began swimming around the pool, a Sloth may not care either way. Should that child be in the water with his parent and fall off the noodle, a Sloth would let the parent grab the child.
Obviously, every lifeguard does not fit perfectly into each of these type categories. Some lifeguards are on the extreme side of the type, and some are on the relaxed side of the type, and some are in between. There are also sub-types; specifically of the Rescuer and Patrol categories.
Another type of Rescuer is the Bystander. A Bystander is a type of lifeguard that has some characteristics of the Sloth. They sit back and let patrons do basically whatever they want… within some reason. They will respond to any emergency, but are not keen on enforcing the rules.
Another type of Patrol is the Socialite. A socialite is someone who will have conversations with the patrons. It’s not always as it seems, though. A Socialite is able to regulate the patrons activities in the pool using social interaction as a means to keep control over dangerous behavior. They have a laid back nature, and similar to the Patrol they don’t want to have to jump in and save someone. They will rescue people if necessary. To make matters more complicated (not that I’m trying to make your head explode) there are two types of Socialite. There’s the Adult Socialite: who engages in normal, adult conversation, and the usual social activities. Then there’s the Minor Socialite who pretty much plays around with the kids, encouraging safe play.
The best lifeguard team is a group of Rescuers and Patrols. Sloths are never a useful addition to the team. Socialites can serve to help patrons enjoy their time at the pool.
Then there is really one more type, that falls into any category. A Follower is neither a Rescuer nor a Patrol nor a Sloth, yet they could also be either a Rescuer or a Patrol or a Sloth. A Follower acts like any other lifeguard that they are on duty with. If a Follower is on duty, on the pool deck with a Rescuer, then the Follower will begin to act like the Rescuer. They will sit back and wait to see if that child will fall off the noodle. If they were on duty with a Patrol, they will most likely feel better about talking to patrons and as such begin to alert patrons of dangerous activity quite openly. However, they probably won’t fully act like a Sloth. The main reason for lifeguards to be a Follower is to gain the approval of the other lifeguard they are working with.
Like I stated earlier, there are relaxed versions of each type and extreme versions of each type. Not everyone fits one type perfectly and lifeguards are not glued to one type forever.
This is just my experience.