Tips and Tools for Getting Back in the Pool: Planning for Practices and Virtual Swim Meets
Many people are starting to wonder when social distancing rules will be relaxed and what that might look like. Our swim teams and leagues are particularly interested in what relaxed rules could look like at swimming pools around the country. SwimTopia staff recently listened in on a webinar that included Joel Shinofield, Managing Director of Sport Development for USA Swimming, and Mel Stewart, Cofounder of SwimSwam. We wanted to hear what these industry leaders were thinking when it comes to returning to the pool, and they had some great suggestions and ideas. We’ve also been reading up on what health and sports experts have been saying, and we’ve been in touch with major swim leagues. Below, we’ve summarized our learnings and added some ideas (like virtual swim meets), and we’d like to share some tips on preparing for summer swim season—as safely as possible—when the time is right.
Please note, we know some leagues and teams have already had to cancel their seasons. Our heart goes out to you all, as we know this was not an easy decision. We’re so sorry that many people are missing their summer communities and fun this year. This article is intended for teams and leagues who are still thinking of ways to pull together some kind of summer season.
Preparing For Summer Swim Season
Luckily, the CDC states that “proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools should inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.” But your team and league will obviously have to operate within government guidelines and consider health experts’ opinions when making decisions about returning to the pool. During this time, many factors will be out of your team’s control. When things feel out of our control, it can help to make multiple contingency plans so you’re prepared for anything :). We’ve tried to focus here on the things you can be doing between now and when guidelines are made official:
Plan for changes to the swim season – depending on when pools can open up, seasons may have to be condensed and/or moved to later in the summer. Dual, tri or quad meets may need to be run virtually (see more below), and championship meets may have to be removed from the schedule or run virtually as well.
Communicate with your families – stay in touch and let your team know you’re thinking of them, evaluating options, and ensuring the health and safety of swimmers and families. While they’re waiting for you to decide on whether and how the season can go ahead, check out our tips on staying connected with your team: Coronavirus and Your Swim Team – Rallying Together Through Uncertain Times
Consider all variables when making plans – think about what your team and resources look like:
- What might the local guidelines be for the size of gatherings? Also consider what you think is reasonable (if you plan to be more conservative than the guidelines). You could create plans for 25, 50, or 75 people.
- How many swimmers do you think you’ll have this season? Will numbers be lower?
- How many lanes does your pool have?
- How much deck space does the pool have?
- How many hours will you be able to access the pool?
Come up with a plan for practices – make plans now for how to run practices with more social distancing:
- Run much smaller practice groups with only a few kids per lane, start at opposite ends of the pool, and have siblings share lanes
- Swimmers line up 6 feet apart along lane lines, in between sets
- Coaches spread out at either end of the pool
- Shorten practices and limit the number of days kids are allowed to attend so everyone gets a chance to come to practice
- Stagger entrances and exits from the water and the pool area
- Keep locker rooms and restrooms closed (swimmers wear swimsuits to practice if possible)
- Reduce surfaces to be touched by keeping doors and gates open (plan for monitoring by staff or volunteers)
- Move chairs and furniture on the pool deck further apart (and don’t let kids move things!)
- Require curbside drop-off/pick-up to reduce parents in the pool area
- Establish attendance rules/guidelines that require that coaches, swimmers and parents display no symptoms
- Have a plan in place for what to do if a coach, swimmer, or parent on your team comes down with Covid-19
Communicate with your local facilities – your facility will also be making plans to reopen. Talk to them about their timeline for being prepared: what their sanitation practices will be, how long they will need for lifeguard training before they can reopen, etc. You can also talk through the plans you have been making to keep your swimmers and families safe. If the facility staff know that you have given careful thought and consideration to your plan, you’ll make them feel more comfortable about allowing your team back into their facility. Even if the facility won’t be open to the general public, you can present the argument that a structured swim practice can be a lot more safe and controlled than regular recreational swimming.
Create a plan for swim meets – we’ve been developing a way to host virtual swim meets through SwimTopia’s Meet Maestro. A virtual meet is where each team swims at their home pool, while comparing times and scoring the meet against one or more other teams. Virtual meets allow teams to hold a meet with fewer people on deck—you can even spread the “meet” out over time (for example conducting the meet during each age group’s practice time)—while still giving the kids a chance to see how they’re improving, earn some (much loved) ribbons, and have fun.
More About Virtual Swim Meets
Meet Maestro, SwimTopia’s online meet management system, now allows teams to hold virtual meets between teams swimming in separate pools, while combining results, awards and psych sheets.
Virtual meets make it fun and easy to compete at a safe distance, and you can even compete against teams across town, or across the country, right from your own pool! We know that in many leagues, not all teams will be able to participate this summer. Virtual meets can enable your team to compete with other teams in similar situations. Virtual meets can include as many teams as you need or want, and hosting tri and quad meets in Meet Maestro allows for more flexible scheduling, especially during a compressed season. If reserving empty lanes between swimmers is desired, the automatic assigned lanes features of Meet Maestro make that easy. And if your team is interested in participating in virtual meets with teams outside your league or area, SwimTopia is ready and able to match you up with other interested swim teams.
Through our mobile app you’ll get that “live swim meet” feel. The SwimTopia Mobile App will display the combined results for each event as soon as they become available. And if your team uses the CTS Dolphin wireless timing system your results will be quick, and you can reduce the use of paper on pool deck.
Join us for a Webinar—How to Make Virtual Meets Easy and Fun!
We’re hosting a webinar about virtual meets on Thursday, April 30, 2020, 7-8pm CDT. We’re excited about how virtual meets can help teams get back in the water, and we’ll be sharing our plans and ideas. We’d also love to hear from you about ways to keep meets fun, exciting and safe for swimmers, parents, and coaches.
Sign up for the Webinar:
Hosting Virtual Meets This Summer with SwimTopia & Meet Maestro
Thur April 30, 7-8pm CDT
We Want to Hear From You!
If you’re interested in more information about virtual meets, including help with matching your team with others willing to host meets, please fill out this Google Form and we’ll be in touch with more information.
Other SwimTopia Resources to Support Your Team & League Through Covid-19
We’ve put together some resources to help you navigate this difficult time.
- Check out SwimTopia’s new Community area, where you can share ideas and tips with other teams and ask questions. Topics include: building your website, admin tips, running swim meets, and running your team or league. We even have a special section just for “Rallying during Covid-19.”
- Create a discussion forum on your team website to help folks stay in touch and share ideas and information by embedding a Disqus Widget.
- In the sad event that your summer season is canceled, we’ve compiled this article to help you issue registration refunds through WePay.