Summer Sports Jobs are Up in the Air


Media by Carter Van Buskirk

While some St. Louis County businesses were permitted to reopen Monday, May 18, all gyms, fitness centers, playgrounds and pools are still prohibited from reopening. This has caused concern among some students who work summer jobs at these facilities.

With the rise of unemployment affecting all workers deemed non-essential to society, students who worked in the sports industry may no longer be able to depend on their jobs as a source of income during the summer.

“If I can’t work over the summer, it will be hard to pay for things,” said sophomore Sydney Tolbert, who works as a gymnastics instructor over the summer.

Tolbert is one of many U.S. teens who rely on summer jobs for income. In 2018, just over a third of U.S. teens had a summer job, according to data from Pew Research Center.

Tolbert has been working at Olympia gymnastics in Ellisville for about a year. She said the gym has been closed since mid-March.

If gymnasts are unable to practice over the summer, Tolbert said it will be very difficult for them when they return because it is hard to regain skills and build back up lost strength.

“Gymnastics is a sport that requires a lot of focused attention and coaching on skills,” Tolbert said. “It would not be safe for them to practice at home, as they may not have the required equipment or coach to help them.”

Tolbert said it could be detrimental if the gym stays closed much longer because the summer season allows gymnasts to focus on their skills more so than usual with no interruption from competition.

Senior Isabella Duran, lifeguard and swim instructor for the City of Ballwin, has also had her job affected by the virus. 

Duran has been reviewing lifeguarding skills with her lifeguard instructors over Zoom, despite being off work since Spring Break.

Duran said the meetings allow her to review her lifeguarding knowledge, even though she is unable to physically go over the lifeguarding skills in her training sessions.

 “Since I am a new lifeguard instructor, [the Zoom meetings] did help me become a little more comfortable using my skills and to be able to ask my colleagues about lifeguarding,” Duran said.

Duran had been using her job to help save for college. As of right now, she is not looking for an alternative form of income unless she is out of work longer than expected.

Duran has worked as a lifeguard for the City of Ballwin since 2017, and said she has always enjoyed helping people by ensuring their safety. 

“I have always enjoyed helping people, and as a lifeguard I am able to help by being quick to respond to someone who is in need of assistance,” Duran said.

Although she was planning on coordinating swim lessons with a fellow swim instructor over the summer, Duran said she doesn’t know if they will be able to do so because it’s unclear as to when or if the pools will reopen.

Kennedy Robinson, marketing and communications specialist for the City of Ballwin, said the Ballwin Pointe employs about 60 high school students. 

“Usually, we aim for a 50/50 split of high school students of college students to adult staff,” Robinson said. “This works in our favor when either group returns to or from school.”

As of Monday, May 18, St. Louis County has prohibited the reopening of fitness centers and gyms. Robinson said until they receive instruction from the County, the Pointe will remain closed. 

Robinson said the Pointe still conducts weekly meetings for the aquatic staff to update everyone and to keep morale high, but they’re not currently training lifeguards due to social distancing and staff on furlough.