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Sport sidelined: Many recreational activities struggling to find staff post-pandemic

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Hayley Smith said being a lifeguard is the best job she's ever had.

She works at the Vecova swimming pool in northwest Calgary.

"It is significantly more fun," she said,"you get to know people and often it doesn't feel like not work, you get to know lots of your customers like they are your friends."

Swimming pools are hoping to find more people like Smith, as they struggle to hire enough lifeguards to walk their decks.

Swimming pools are hoping to find more people like lifeguard Hayley Smith as they struggle to hire enough lifeguards to walk their decks.

"It's been pretty challenging," said Michelle Thompson, with the Aquatic Health and Fitness program at Vecova. "We are finally able to get a few more resumes to come through but over the pandemic people let their certification go. They found other positions and once pools started opening again it was very hard to get them back."

Swimming isn't the only sport being sunk by the pandemic.

There are nearly 200 fewer soccer officials in Calgary now than there were before COVID-19 hit,  a 30 per cent drop.

When soccer was sidelined, officials found other jobs - and the game is suffering.

"On a nightly basis, we are short a few referees," said Carlo Bruneau with the Calgary Minor Soccer Association, "It's not just soccer, its going to be every sport facing this issue...this summer we are experiencing that pinch where coaches are having to officiate matches."

Soccer leagues say they are actively trying to recruit and train more officials who will stay in the game.

It may be more of a challenge at the pool.

"Lifeguards generally have a high turnover rate anyway," said Michelle Thompson, "this is a part-time job for them while they finish high a school and university so definitely we have a gap...we have had to limit our pool hours definitely you will see that over summer as well."

Until that labour shortage is addressed, there will be fewer opportunities for Calgarians to hit the pool and the pitch.

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