Phs Teacher Takes Job As Seaworld Dolphin Trainer


As a small child, Austin White was one of hundreds of Rim Country youth who learned to swim in the friendly confines of Taylor Pool, under the watchful eye of former pool manager, Jim Quinlan.

White went on to become a Pikes swim team member, lifeguard, swim instructor and, eventually, the facility manager.


Payson High School biology teacher Austin White shows students Corey Plues, Albert Sobalvarro and Joey Metcalf the inside of a small shark.

The pool where he spent so much of his youth will soon be a distant memory.

A new pool awaits. White is preparing for his new job as a trainer and performer at SeaWorld San Diego.

The first-year Payson High School teacher and soccer coach learned last week that his lifelong dream to work at SeaWorld had come true. The Payson native was one of 10 new trainer-performers hired from an original field of over 500 applicants.

"It's something I've always had as a goal," he said. "I can't remember when I didn't want to be (a trainer)."

As much as White had his sights set on working at SeaWorld, he wasn't sure he had the right stuff. An arduous pre-employment tryout tested him physically.

"It was very tough," he said. "We had tests where we had to swim 250 feet under one minute and 20 seconds and another where we had to swim 125 feet underwater without a breath.

"And the water was cold, about 55 degrees."

Also, as an endurance test, the candidates had to dive to the bottom of the SeaWorld pool, about 26 feet, retrieve a weight and return it to the surface.

Being a seasoned, expert swimmer, White performed admirably in the water, especially during the 250-foot swim he completed in 48 seconds.

While White was undergoing the tests, he knew working at the marine mammal park was not just about his aquatic abilities.

His new job requirements will require him to speak in front of large audiences and answer questions for tours and other small groups.

Some of the tests and exams for that part of his job description left him uncomfortable and less self-assured.

"For about two hours we had to improvise skits," White said. "I think they were testing our adaptability."

As he improvised through a series of spoofs and parodies, White remembers thinking, "Why am I doing these? This is crazy."

He was also asked to perform a microphone test as part of the interview process.

Later, after a series of one-on-one interviews, White and the other candidates met their next challenge -- perform a dance routine under the watchful eye of a choreographer.

"That's when I thought I was finished," he said. "I'm 6-6. I can't dance."

Although White's dance floor moves didn't stir up memories of Rudolf Nureyev or Patrick Swayze, he apparently did well enough to impress the judges.

"I got the job, the only guy among 10 chosen," he said.

As important as White's interview was in the selection process, his education and background also played a huge role in earning him the position.

"They wanted a four-year degree in biology or psychology, SCUBA, CPR and lifeguard certified and two years animal husbandry," he said.

White fulfilled the animal husbandry requirement as a student at Payson High School in the late 1990s.

"I was in FFA for three years," he said. "I never thought that would someday help me get a job."

He also picked up several years of valuable husbandry experience while running the White family farm in Bancroft, Idaho.

"I had to pull about 20 calves and birth three others," he said. "I learned a lot about biology on the farm."

As a trainer at SeaWorld, White expects to work in front of an audience and part of the time back stage, training the animals.

White graduated from Payson High School in 1996 with honors and later attended BYU-Hawaii.

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