Starguard Elite: 5-Star Guard

I’m back and super excited to write about this! This is the story of how I found out I held a prestigious lifeguard award and I didn’t even know it!


Last summer, I was managing the Troy Aquatic Center through Midwest Pool Management (MPM). MPM guards are all certified through Starguard Elite (SGE).

I’ve spoken about holding 3 of the 5 nationally recognized lifeguard licenses/certifications. I hold an Ellis & Associates(E&A or Ellis) Pool Lifeguard license, Starguard Elite license, and a Red Cross Lifeguard certificate. I have also previously held an Ellis & Associates Shallow Water Lifeguard license. The two I do not/have not held are YMCA and National Aquatic Safety Company (NASCO).

Both Ellis and SGE have a national staff that performs audits on their facilities. Year round facilities receive 2 audits during the off-season and 3 audits during the summer. Seasonal facilities receive just the 3 during the summer. (Granted, Troy had not received an SGE audit in 3+ years. They received regular MPM audits, but not SGE. SGE audits cost extra and I assume Troy did not pay.) Basically, the audits are there to ensure that the facilities and guards are performing up to the standards set by the licenses. It is an accountability thing.

The Rec-Plex received all of their Ellis audits each year that I was there. I participated in most of them.

Both SGE and Ellis audits consist of a visual review and a skills review for the lifeguards on stand when the audits are happening. The lifeguards do not usually know that the visual review is happening. The auditor hides and films the guard’s scanning and visual aspects of the guard while on stand. The skills aspect happens after visuals and the lifeguards do know it is an audit at this point. The auditor picks 1 or 2 water skills to be performed as a team- either a rapid extrication or a spinal extrication that is followed by CPR or some sort of after care. A guard also performs an individual CPR skill. The auditors also review the paper work for the facility and may talk over some “what-if” scenarios to ensure that the facility is prepared. The facility is then given a score based on their performance. The individual lifeguards that participated also receive a rating/award.

Ellis scoring system:

  • Fails: The facility and/or individual fails to meet the E&A minimum standards.
  • Meets: The facility and/or individual meets the E&A minimum standards.
  • Exceeds: The facility and/or individual exceeds the E&A minimum standards.
  • Platinum Facility Award: The best of the best E&A facilities. Only the top 10% of E&A facilities get this award.
  • Golden Guard: A truly exceptional lifeguard. E&A only gives out about 70 of these awards internationally each year.

SGE scoring system:

  • 1 Star or 2 Star: The facility and/or individual fails to meet the SGE minimum standards. (as far as I know)
  • 3 Star: The facility and/or individual meets the SGE minimum standards.
  • 4 Star: The facility and/or individual exceeds the SGE minimum standards.
  • 5 Star: The best of the SGE facilities and/or individuals. SGE equivalent to the E&A Platinum and Golden Guard awards.

I have participated in many many Ellis audits. Many, Many visuals and skills at the Rec-Plex pools and visuals a few times at Disney. I have gotten an exceeds in every single E&A audit that I have participated in.

Now it is story time from my SGE audit:

Summer 2017, Troy Aquatic Center was sure that we would receive an audit since SGE had not been out there in 3 years. We were on edge.

One day, I picked up a shift to manage another pool, Warrenton Pool.

Things at Warrenton were always kind of shaky. The pool is old and really in need of an update. The guards were known to be decently unmotivated, even though they had an SGE instructor for a head manager. The pool, over all, was known to be mediocre at best.

I was doing my job, circling the deck periodically, testing chems, checking on guards- the usual, when a guy in an SGE polo comes up and reveals himself to me. First off, this was my first audit of any kind as a manager(the boss). It was invigorating. I had one of my guards from Troy subbing in at Warrenton that day, and I put her in for the individual CPR assessment- she was nervous, but she knew her stuff. As for the water skills, we were decently busy, so I could only spare two guards. I honestly can’t remember who they were, as they were not my regular guards- they were Warrenton guards. They had to perform a rapid extrication that went into CPR and AED aftercare. It was a little shaky, but you could see them working together to get it figured out.

Based on my vigorous Ellis training, I thought for sure we would get a 1 or 2 star rating. I was so worried. Turns out at the end, when I was speaking to the auditor, he said it would likely be a 4 star rating.

I called Ned, my field supervisor, and he was shocked. He said it was a Christmas miracle that Warrenton, of all pools, would get 4 stars, and he thanked me. I also called their head manager, who was disappointed that she missed the audit, but was happy to hear about the 4 Star rating.

I was over the moon about 4 Stars in my first audit as a manger. ‘


I am working at Troy, when Ned comes up to do some routine field supervisor stuff. While I am in the pump room helping him out (holding doors or something haha) he hands me a 5 Star pin and says “here, this is for you. Good job.”

I’m used to getting pins for audits. Anyone who gets an individual exceeds in an E&A audit gets a pin. I really just thought that it was the equivalent of an Ellis exceeds pin. I was happy and moved on with my life.


I’m talking about the audit with some of my current guards (who switched over this year to Red Cross from SGE) and I get to thinking about the 5 Star pin.

I try to do some research but there is nothing on the internet about it, that I could find.

Finally, I decide to message the SGE Facebook page and ask about it. They respond with congratulations and good jobs! So I ask them, “I also have an Ellis license, is this pin the equivalent to an Ellis exceeds pin?” and they said no. They told me how it is the highest award you can get as a lifeguard through SGE. It is the equivalent to an Ellis Golden Guard.


TL:DR I’m really awesome and deserve more recognition than “Here, this is for you. Good job.”





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