Ready, set, re-open. Well, unfortunately it is not going to be that easy. The opening of pools is going to be unique based on where you live, the recommendations made by national, state and local health officials, the facility director along with other individuals in charge of determining how and when your pool will re-open, whether your team has developed a plan for not only practices but also getting athletes in and out of the facility in a safe and efficient manner, and of course, the applicable guidelines and recommendations from USA Swimming.
All of these moving parts will not necessarily move along at the same pace or have a smooth symbiotic relationship with one another. Only time will allow all of us to have a clearer picture of when pools will start re-opening.
The process of trying to establish guidelines surrounding the re-opening of pools around the United States has started. Recently, USA Swimming released it’s “Facility Re-Opening Messaging and Planning” document. Below are some highlights of the information found in the document.
USA Swimming indicated “[s]wimming does not require direct contact between teammates or coaches and social distancing can be maintained throughout practice.” USA Swimming went on to state, “[t]he CDC has indicated…there is no evidence the disease spreads through treated water. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilties should inactivate the virus in the water.”
COVID-19 Team Liaison.
One item that all club teams will have to immediately address is the recommendation that each club/team should have a COVID-19 liaison responsible for staying up to date on community and state recommendations. This should be a main item for all local boards to immediately start discussing.
The Routine of Locker Rooms and Practice Will Look Much Different.
USA Swimming is recommending eliminating the use of locker rooms and small dryland rooms. Additionally, in trying to mitigate the spread, USA Swimming has recommended teams create visible markers on the floor to highlight appropriate spacing on the pool deck and at entrances.
Communication Between Coaches, Boards and Parents Will Be Crucial.
Planning practices will not be as easy as writing sets and having kids jump in the water. Under the USA Swimming recommendations coaches, local boards and parents are going to have to find solutions to some of the following considerations moving forward:
- How will the team manage/sanitize bathroom use?
- What is the team’s plan for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces?
- How will access to the facility be controlled?
- How will contact points be limited in the facility (open doors, water bottles, equipment etc.)?
- What is the team’s plan should a coach or athlete become sick?
- What will be the structure of practice time and how will the team maintain spacing in the pool during workouts?
- What is the team’s plan for staff/coaches protective measures (i.e. wearing masks, spacing of coaches, increasing air flow)?
Recommendations For Swimming Safely.
For all age group swimmers and their parents, there will be adjustments on how your children prepare for practice and what their practice is going to look like when they do get in the water. Here are USA Swimming’s recommendations for swimmers who are preparing to swim:
- Wash your hands with a disinfectant soap and water or use hand sanitizer before going to the pool.
- Do not share equipment.
- Bring a full water bottle to avoid touching a tap or water fountain handle.
- If you need to sneeze or cough, do so in a tissue or upper sleeve/arm area.
- Arrive as close as possible to when activity begins.
- Avoid touching gates, fences, benches etc.
- Do not attend practice if you or a member of your family does not feel well.
While in the pool USA Swimming is recommending swimmers do the following:
- Follow directions for spacing and stay at least six feet apart from others.
- Do not make physical contact with others, such as shaking hands or giving high fives.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Avoid sharing food, drinks and towels.
- Maintain appropriate social distancing from other athletes when taking a break.
- Wear your suit to and from practice.
USA Swimming also created social distancing practice layouts for teams to review depending on whether it is a 25 yard or 50-meter pool, how many lanes are being used at practice and how many athletes will be practicing at one time.
In the coming weeks and months, we all are going to see new practice and facility guidelines coming from local clubs. For parents and swimmers, it is going to be important to remember your local club will be taking guidance and recommendations from USA Swimming, national, state and local health officials and facility directors.
Earlier last week, USA Swimming announced it’s sanctioned competition schedule will tentatively resume in August. "I think everything is taken with a grain of salt and maybe even more than one grain of salt," said Mike Unger, USA Swimming's chief operating officer. "We're trying to bring normalcy back when it's not normal, and we know that. But we have to have a Plan A, a Plan B and even a Plan C."
Olympic champion Ryan Murphy, who won three gold medals at the Rio Games, welcomed news of a revamped schedule but said he's not ready to celebrate just yet.
"I view it as a good sign," Murphy told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his training base at Cal-Berkeley. "By the same token, I'll be ready to adjust. Until we get out of this thing, I'm going to stay in a flexible mindset."
There will be guidelines that not everyone will like or agree with. Some of the requirements that teams, facility directors and health officials will develop will not be convenient but the objective for everyone involved in the sport of swimming is to get the athletes back in the water in a safe manner.
Everyone will have to keep that Ryan Murphy “flexible mindset”.
You can read all of the details in USA Swimming’s “Facility Re-Opening Messaging and Planning” here. (USA Swimming Re-Opening Messaging and Planning).