My name is Steve Grella and safety is my passion.
I founded Lifeguard LI in 2012 predicated on that passion for safety and service. I knew that my training and background was unique in a way that my community could benefit. What started as a tiny one-class-per-summer solo lifeguard training course has transformed into the full-service aquatics organization you see today. Lifeguard LI is not just a job to me, it is my calling, and this is my story...
From a young age I was always drawn to service and helping people. My father was a detective and my mother worked at a hospital, so helping others has always been in my blood. So was the spirit of entrepreneurship. I started my first "business" in 10th grade, where instead of textbooks I filled my backpack with candy bars and snacks that I would sell to classmates in between class (and sometimes during!). On the weekends, my mom would drive me to Costco to stock up on bulk boxes of candy to unload to sweet-toothed classmates during the week.
Shortly after, I got my first job in customer service as a cashier at Burger King. I learned a great deal from that first job, such as how to work together with others and to interact with strangers - even if at times that just meant asking "do you want fries with that". Working at Burger King laid the foundation for my compassion and empathy for my young employees today. Understanding the challenges of not having a car or the difficulties of working for low wages has made me a better leader as I choose to be flexible with employee scheduling and always opt to pay the highest wages in the industry.
I was a quick learner and really took a liking to competitive swimming and just 2 weeks later I got back up on the dive block and posted a time of 30 seconds for my 50 yard swim timed evaluation. I was hooked on swimming and would never look back.
After swimming for a few years and truly enjoying the experience, I decided to take a Lifeguard certification course as my gym class in 10th grade. It was uncommon too allow a 10th grader to take the course as a class in school, but due to my participation on the swim team they made the exception. An entire semester of 3rd period lifeguarding class left soaked, cold and smelling of chlorine the rest of the school day. To think we now train students that obtain their lifeguard certification in as little as 2 days! It was long and tedious, but I truly enjoyed the experience and knew I would be a lifeguard for years to come.
A Chance Encounter
I had finished my lifeguard certification in the Spring of 2002 and was on the hunt for a summer job. A family vacation took us from New York to Florida and on that flight my future was rewritten. We were a family of 4, so my mom, my brother and I sat in the 3 seats on the left side of the plane. My dad sat in the aisle seat on the right side of the plane next to a young couple. My dad got to talking with the man, Rich Mack, and his pregnant wife Vicky. Rich was the director of the Friends Academy Summer Camp in Locust Valley. My dad went into pitch-mode and introduced me as a young, strong swimmer who had recently received his lifeguard certification. Rich told us that one all lifeguard positions had been filled, but that one of lifeguards had gotten injured a week earlier opening up one spot. I had my first lifeguard job! To bring it full circle, at the time Vicky was pregnant with their daughter, Alexis. Alexis now works for us at Lifeguard LI! It was the least I could do as her dad gave me the opportunity to begin this amazing journey I am on today.
By 17, my passion for safety was evident. I loved being a lifeguard and keeping people safe, I took my job seriously and I was pretty good at it. But I wanted to help more. I enrolled in an American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor (WSI) course to become a certified swim instructor. To this day I still believe that WSI course is the most difficult training I have ever completely, it pushed me to not just be a swimmer, but taught me the nuances of teaching swimming and dealing with students of all ages and abilities. I went on to teach swim lessons at Friends Academy for 6 summers and I taught during the school year at the YMCA throughout high school and for 4 years while at the University of Maryland. I taught everything from mommy and me class, to group lessons with children and private lessons with adults. Each lesson offered its own unique challenges, with different lesson plans, teaching styles and "characters" I would have to play based on who I was teaching. I honed my skills over the past 20 years of teaching swim lessons to now train my instructors in those same nuances. I believe it offers our clients a wonderful swim experience.
Certified Pool Operator
While at the University of Maryland I wanted to continue my aquatics service education and I found a 1 credit class I could take to become a certified pool operator. I was already a lifeguard and swim instructor, but I knew very little about pumps and pool operation. The course was extremely valuable as I immediately took over as the pool operator at Friends Academy. Cleaning filters and priming pumps was definitely not my favorite part of the job, I even once passed out from accidentally inhaling acid from the vat (not fun!), but it taught me the importance of safety at the pool and all the things that can go wrong. I now know what to look for at all of our facilities and can help clients at their homes with advice on their pools. My team and are are exceptional at pool openings, closings and maintenance now. Its still not the most fun part of my job, but I know its value.
removing the most drunk driver off the roadway. I did this 4 years in a row. But what policing taught me the most was that it isn't just about removing bad guys from the streets, its also about proactively helping people and injecting good into the community. Working as a police officer gave me the opportunity to volunteer as a mentor, helping troubled youth and getting them back on the right path. I also participate in the annual "Coffee With A Cop" event, where the community can meet with police officers to discuss their issues and just bounce ideas off of each other as to how we can make our communities a better place for all. Our departments slogan is "Committed to Excellence" which I has also adopted as Lifeguard LI's slogan. I expect myself and every staff member to embody those words. We are committed to excellence in every service we provide and hold ourselves to a higher standard.
While in the police academy in 2010 I had the opportunity to become an EMT. The month-long training ended with the New York State EMT exam, a grueling proficiency exam that made me exponentially better at first aid and other lifesaving techniques. The EMT course has made me a better instructor and allows me to teach our students from a rare perspective. When you train with Lifeguard LI you can take comfort in knowing that you are receiving the very best information, backed by world-class instructor training programs and tested in the field during real-world emergency situations.
Lifeguard InstructorIn June 2012 my best friend came to me and said we had to take a lifeguard instructor course. I had never heard of the course, if not I would have taken it years earlier, but nevertheless we signed up together and became American Red Cross Lifeguard
you can trust and know that you can make it through anything with. Both of my children have had serious choking emergencies, luckily they are both fine, but this has reinvigorated me to expand our training and education efforts to arm as many people as possible with the ability to save a loved ones life. 90% of people who experience who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die from that incident, but If performed immediately, CPR can DOUBLE or TRIPLE the chance of a victim surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. In regards to children, at least one child dies every 5 days from choking and another 12,000 children are hospitalized every year in choking related incidents. 54% of the population doesn't know CPR or other lifesaving skills! That number for me is way too high and I will do everything in my power to see as many people receive CPR and lifesaving skills training as I possibly can.
After Summer 2012, I took a slow and steady approach to my lifeguard training program. I wanted to learn and get better at teaching, while methodically growing the program over the first few years. Each year classes seemed to double. I added several more facilities and expanded to CPR trainings as well as lifeguard recertification courses. A natural pipeline of quality candidates started coming through my program, which served as an incubator for me to bring on the top talent and groom them to be "committed to excellence" as lifeguard for private pool parties and swim instructors for at-home lessons.
Commercial Pool Management
Faster we grew, as my candidate pool expanded. Facilities took notice through word of mouth and started reaching out for staffing assistance. From this, I saw the necessity for a high-quality, professional, local company to come along and fill a massive void in the pool management space. Managing and operating facilities in the way Lifeguard LI days is almost something that can't be taught, it truly derives from my 20+ years of experience. I wanted to offer an management experience never seen before, with the experience and professionalism of a large company, but adopting my core principles of trust, success, innovation and sustainability all while giving back.
I offer competitive prices, high wages and professional, world-class services because I am committed to excellence. I want every person that is able to perform CPR to be trained in it, which is why I offer free CPR classes to the community. I hope my training classes can one day save a life. We will never know how many lives could have been saved by our lifeguard protecting pools or our swim instructors teaching swim lessons, but we will continue to expand our offerings and provide these services to anyone that is willing to join me on this journey.
Whether you take a swim lesson, get CPR certified, Hire a lifeguard for a pool party or sun bathe at one of my managed facilities, you know you are getting my best and my staffs best efforts. When choosing an aquatics service, remember that Lifeguard LI is more than a service, it is more than a job, it is a calling.
In 8th grade I tried out for the school basketball team, and possibly the best thing ever happened to me - I got cut. This left a void in my after-school schedule that simply wasn't allowed in my house. I needed to find an extra-curricular activity and I wasn't very good at chess, so chess club was out of the question. My mom pushed me to go out for the swim team, I reluctantly obliged her. My first tryout was a nightmare! I dove in the pool for my timed 50 freestyle and immediately my goggles flew off my face. Blindly I slapped at the water and 45 pain-staking seconds later I was back at the original wall I had started, out of breath and embarrassed. Luckily there were no cuts made on the 8th grade swim team, so I was welcome to come back and work on my stroke while improving my time.
The year is 2010 and I am 2 years graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in economics. I continue to lifeguard and teach swim lessons part-time and keep my certifications valid (highly recommended) while bouncing from job to job. June 19 I got a life-altering call that I was going to be sworn in as a Police Officer with the Glen Cove Police Department. I began my training at the Suffolk County Police Academy shortly thereafter. Becoming a police officer is what enable me to add a new level of professionalism and responsibility to my mission of serving and safety. I went from slowing kids down while running on the pool deck to prevent cuts and scrapes to slowing cars down on the highway to prevent injury and death. I had made rescues in the pool before, but now I was really saving lives - performing CPR and getting drunk drivers off the road. I was relentless in my passion for keeping people safe, receiving the Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) exceptional police award for
Instructors. After my WSI course and EMT training, the lifeguard instructor was not too difficult, but it was a rewarding experience and allowed me to combine my passion for safety and service with my love of teaching. Along with my entrepreneurial spirit, Lifeguard LI was born. That first year I only taught one class. Where you ask? Coming full circle once again, back to Friend Academy where Rich Mack graciously hosted my first class.
I am infinitely lucky to have the never-ending support of my wife Megan. She has had my back every step of the way and continues to push me to be a better person and now a better father. In 2018 we welcomed my first son into the world and in 2020, at the height of covid, my second son was born. Now having a family and 2 children, along with the complications of a pandemic, I have learned the value of having people close to you that
At Your Service,