Being Thrown Up on is Part of Being a Leader

The year was 2005, and it was my first shift as a swim instructor at the Kingston Family YMCA. The little boy I was holding after a jump into the pool threw up all over me. He had eaten hot dogs and mac and cheese for dinner. I still remember the smell. Clamping down my gag reflex, I quickly exited the pool and proceeded to the showers. I may have also had an educational conversation with his mother about the importance of timing eating and swimming lessons. (Little did I know, at sixteen years old, how hard it is as a mother to try to coordinate that.)

(2005 – I don’t have any photos from the YMCA, but I did find this gem)

I’m pretty sure my entire handling of the situation is the reason I was promoted to Team Leader. No, I’m joking. That doesn’t happen after one shift. There was a whole team of Instructors, Lifeguards, and Supervisors that pulled together to evacuate and clean the pool. My point is, being thrown up on is part of being a leader. I mean this in both the figurative and literal sense, especially if you work with children. Heck even teens—we’ll get to that later.

We’ve all heard the difference between a manager and a leader. In the simplest terms, a manager tells you what to do, and a leader shows you what to do. Who would you want to follow? Someone who commands your respect, potentially without earning it, or someone who leads by example.

Part of that difference between being a manager and being a leader means taking the crap, vomit—sometimes literally. The managers that I’ve always looked up to are the ones that are willing to slog it in the trenches with the front-line staff. They SHOW you what to do and how to handle those hard situations.


The first lesson I learned about being a good leader is knowing how and when to fill-in for your front-line employees. And maybe knowing when not to tell people to jump. If you’re a manager and you can’t assist your front-line employees, chances are, they don’t respect you. It’s no wonder that there’s been a push for managers to be better leaders.

What qualities do you look for in a manager?

Me and my daughter, Davina (age 8 months)

A bit about me:

If you don’t know me, I’ve worked in management with various recreation facilities across Canada for sixteen years. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and Drama from Queens University. In the past few years, I have also explored my interest in writing speculative fiction and have published a few short stories. Recently, I have dove back into another passion of mine which is music. More announcements shortly on that front. I am also a passionate vegan of sixteen years and at the time of writing this, a mother to a beautiful one year old girl.

I have created this blog to share my experiences in teaching, leadership, philosophy, and music. I’m sorry to say that I probably have more vomit stories than good stories. This isn’t a blog about how I was the best leader. Lots of times I probably wasn’t, and I’ve made my fair share of poor choices. I hope you can all learn something from my mistakes and have a laugh along the way. Although my background is primarily in recreation, I am hoping my stories will relate to individuals in all fields of work. Full disclosure, I will probably also share the occasional vegan recipe.

I hope you participate in the conversation—tell me when you agree and when you don’t! I love a good conversation.

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