Family that keeps heads above water

Greta Spronson and grand-daughter Mischa Hartley , who has started swimming lessons at Chapletown Swimming Pool.
Greta Spronson and grand-daughter Mischa Hartley , who has started swimming lessons at Chapletown Swimming Pool.

WHEN it comes to keeping an eye on swimmers, a family from Chapeltown has watertight credentials.

Two generations have been lifeguards at Chapeltown pool – and there are high hopes of a third as Mischa Hartley takes swimming lessons at the age of one.

It’s where Mischa’s grandmother, mother, aunties and uncle have all worked as lifeguards.

The tradition started when Greta Sproson took her lifeguard qualification at the age of 31 after volunteering at her local pool while her children where young and as the pool passed from the council to a community trust.

Since then she has trained many hundreds of people in the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification, which is needed to be a lifeguard, including her children Shanelle Hartley, aged 23, Venetia Sproson, aged 19, and Scott Sproson, aged 21, whom she got to work on as soon as they turned 16.

Greta, aged 46, of Bellhouse Road, Firth Park, aims to take Mischa through the qualification as soon as she is old enough.

“I’ve always encouraged my children to be safe in the water and from an early age I took them for swimming lessons which included a water safety programme,” she said. “We all have a love for the swimming pool and want to keep people safe whilst they enjoy it.

“I have trained hundreds of lifeguards and I am so lucky to be able to have my family around me. This has been an amazing few years. My children are all now capable swimmers and the knowledge they have learned is so valuable to them and others it has been a wonderful qualification for us all to hold.”

Greta now trains staff at Chapeltown in lifeguarding and is a swimming teacher. “It’s a lovely place, the staff are very friendly and that’s why people like to go there.”

As well as her own children she has trained her brother Chris Cook, aged 48, and nephew James, 24, in the lifeguarding qualification, which they have gone on to use in their careers, as a diving instructor for the Army and a voluntary lifeguard for the RAF.

Venetia continues to work alongside her mum at the pool.

Tara Dillon, executive director of IQL UK, which manages the qualifications that Greta teaches, said: “Greta’s family is a great example of the hard work that lifeguards all over the country are putting in to keep people safe whilst swimming. Lifeguarding is a life-long skill which saves lives. We hope Mischa continues with her swimming lessons and takes her NPLQ when she turns 16…”