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Our Profile of the Month for April is Tammy Cook from Narrabeen Beach SLSC. Tammy is one of the coordinators of the highly successful ‘Narra Water Rats’ Youth Development Program and just this season celebrated 10 years as a surf lifesaver.

When did you join Surf Life Saving and what appealed to you about it?

I joined Narrabeen Beach SLSC in 2007, a few years after my husband Rob joined who was a patrolling member. We had two young kids at the time, and as he was spending so much time at the surf club, I figured maybe I should find out what it was all about. I grew up in Merrylands in the Western Suburbs and the beach was nowhere near where we lived!

As soon our kids were old enough we signed them up to Nippers and have been there ever since. I personally love the community service aspect of surf life saving and feel this is something that is of great benefit to our kids and young adults. It’s important for our younger generation to understand it is not always about them! Community service and being part of a team, looking out for others, is a vital part of growing up and setting our base ethics for life (in my opinion anyway).

What are the key lessons that you’ve learnt from your time in Surf Life Saving?

I’ve learnt how giving people can be in a volunteer capacity, freely giving up their time to help others for absolutely no reward. I’ve gained a great understanding of the level of commitment required for committee members, the time away from family, impacting their day jobs, and also trying to drive change within a club which can be on some occasions, very frustrating. I am full of admiration for people who give up their time for committee roles and the fact they open themselves up occasionally for criticism, but push on anyway, in the broader interest of surf life saving.

Tell us about your time in Surf Life Saving and what roles you have undertaken.

After obtaining my Bronze Medallion in 2010, I became Age Manager for U6 and U7s and also the Director of Youth and Membership Development. I held these positions for a number of years and then moved to the Director of Finance and Admin in 2013.

Also in 2013 I became the ‘Narra Water Rats’ Youth Program Coordinator (along with many others at our club). For the last few years I have been assisting with administration tasks across the club, such as newsletters, club communications, grant applications etc.

Just this season I joined the Sydney Northern Beaches Branch Education Team as Youth Advisor.

What do you like about being a Youth Advisor (Education) for SNB Branch?

The Youth Advisor role is a newly created role this season, to try and put a consistent focus on youth membership at branch level as well as club level, and recognise the importance of our young members coming through the education pathways. I have learnt a lot about education at branch level, and again admire the many people who give up their time for very demanding roles within their own clubs, and keep surf life saving ticking along.

Tell us about the youth program you developed called ‘Narra Water Rats’.

During 2013-14, Narrabeen Beach SLSC kicked off a youth program, largely due to the fact that we had not been able to retain Nippers much beyond Under 13 age category for quite a few years. My main role initially was to be very annoying to everyone about the importance of this membership category and ensure we could form a pathway for training and retaining all Nippers from Under 14 through to becoming active patrolling members at our club. There was some resistance initially, and I think some people thought it would be a fly by night idea, but we pushed on anyway!!

This initiative started with just six youth members at our first meeting - we nominated a Youth Captain and voted on the name “Narra Water Rats” in recognition of water rats being found in and around the Narrabeen area.

The Water Rats Captain is a recognised position on the Lifesaving Committee, and we set off to try and grow this membership base. We began formal training for our SRC/Under 14s over the past three seasons, with training being an all weekend camp type approach over 4-6 weekends. Our cadets have loved it!

Once they have their SRC they are designated to Training Patrols and learn on patrol right through until they obtain their Bronze Medallion. The quality of these SRC qualified personnel, when doing their Bronze makes the job of the trainer so much easier, the pathway to the award completion is quicker, given they already have a good base of knowledge and skills for their Bronze training. We originally started with two designated training patrols and have now grown to four.

Our youth membership base sits at 35, and is the highest growing membership category at Narrabeen Beach. Our original six Water Rats are now BM/ARTC/ IRBC/SMIRBD/SMBM qualified, with our original Water Rats Captain now a Patrol Captain. Our current Water Rats Captain (Mali) was one of our original six and she is an outstanding mentor for our new cadets coming through.

We have transitioned around 16 SRC members through to the Bronze Medallion over the past two seasons, and we have 12 SRCs ready to transition to their Bronze next season. We also have another strong group of Under 14s coming through for their SRC award early next season.

Our Narra Water Rats initiative was recognised with a SNB Branch Presidents Award 2014-15, which was very exciting for everyone. And Narrabeen Beach won the NSW Junior Lifesaver of the Year, two years in a row! Ella Cook in 2015-16 and Elliott Prasad in 2016-17. I also have great confidence that we have many more outstanding youth members coming through, so the future looks so very bright.

My role as Youth Co-ordinator has been so very, very rewarding. I am so proud of all the Narra Water Rats at Narrabeen Beach, and they are truly outstanding members and young adults with very bright futures, both within their personal lives and in our surf club. They do their parents and our club proud at all times.

Describe Narrabeen Beach SLSC and its members.

Narrabeen Beach currently has around 350 members, including Nippers, with around 130 active patrolling members. Our members are so very generous with their time and we have many wonderful helpers who may not be patrolling, but help out at all of our carnivals and club events by way of catering and BBQs – the absolute toughest and most thankless job of all!

Surf Life Saving is a great leveller in that we get to work with so many different people. At Narrabeen we have a vast array of members, such as CFOs, CEOs, Commander of NSW Mounted Police, Mt Everest climbers and adventurers, and even a Qantas pilot! At the end of the day we all have a job to do on the beach within our patrols. I’m proud to know all the members at Narrabeen, and the effort that many put in voluntarily, to maintain high standards of lifesaving. The quality of our youth members is outstanding, they are polite, respectful and always willing to help out, and it’s wonderful for all of our youth members to expand their network of friends and colleagues outside of school and work.

What has been your highlight of the 2016/17 season?

Definitely Elliott Prasad winning NSW Junior Lifesaver of the Year in 2017. I was so happy for Elliott personally and for his family, as he is a fine young man. I also loved our Water Rats trip to Garie Beach during February where we helped them out with patrols over an entire weekend.

What are your goals within Surf Life Saving?

My goals are to continue the growth of our Water Rats at Narrabeen, and try to work towards a Branch based youth program expanding the network for our young kids across all clubs on the Northern Beaches. Mental health is very important to me and I am very concerned about suicide rates, especially in young men, and have been personally impacted by this within my family. Elliot’s JLOTY idea around Surf Life Saving being a place of respite for anyone to come and feel valued members of our community, is a great initiative that we hope to explore further. I feel that communities contribute to bringing up wonderful adults, parents these days cannot do it all themselves. It’s important that we demonstrate good behaviour, be always welcoming to anyone who wishes to contribute, and helping others usually means we are not thinking only of ourselves, so that our kids can go on, and do the same.

What has been your best memory so far as a surf lifesaver?

I managed to complete my Bronze Medallion in 2010, and I love my fellow Bronze squad members to this day, who are all very active contributors within our club. It was a massive personal achievement, especially for me being in my early 40s at the time. I was also so super proud of my daughter, Ella, when she was announced as the 2016 NSW JLOTY winner. It made me feel so very proud that Ella was selected on her own merits, and others saw in Ella what I knew was always there.

Who is someone you admire in the Surf Life Saving movement and why?

There are many, many people I have respect for in surf life saving! Immediately comes to mind is Ken Leonard (now deceased) former Life Member of Narrabeen Beach and Life Member of SLSSNB and SLSNSW. Ken and his wife Joan were outstanding contributors to surf lifesaving at Narrabeen and at Branch and State level. Ken was one of life’s true gentlemen, and spent most of his life being of service to others. Ken always had a kind word for me and my husband Rob whenever we met him at club functions.

I also have a huge admiration for Doug Lucas, a patrolling member at Narrabeen Beach and Palm Beach, and former President at Long Reef. I know how hard Doug worked as President at Long Reef, and the many seasons before his presidency, working his way through many challenges that would have scared away anyone less fearless! Doug is a Duty Officer for SNB, Jet Ski Operator, and fulfils many other roles. He is also a ski paddler and super fit person, and I do not know how he has managed to find the time and inclination to do what he does for surf life saving. Doug is a forward thinker and not afraid to drive change. I like anyone who can challenge the status quo respectfully, and get things moving into the current era.

Favourite beach that isn’t yours?

Would have to be Garie Beach in Sydney Branch. We have travelled to Garie for two Narra Water Rats trips and I absolutely love the beach in the National Park which is not too far from Sydney. The club house is a sight to behold and we have had wonderful times there. Apart from that would have to be any beach in Fiji!