Well, June 8 is upon us and it is time for us to make a call on the swim season. Dust off those caps and goggles and let’s go swimming. We will have a 2020 swim season. This obviously will be unlike any swim season any of us have ever experienced and will require a number of extra steps to create the safest environment for our swimmers and families. Having spoken with a number of teams and pool management companies we feel that the conditions exist to allow teams to resume operations. The one big item here is that teams should follow ALL of the specific rules and guidance provided by their own community, HOA, and local health officials.
As our league includes a number of different municipalities (county and city) the rules will likely be different from one neighborhood to the other. The one consistent piece of guidance across all neighborhoods is the importance of maintaining social distancing at all times. This has to be the cornerstone of each team’s plan to resume practices and ultimately virtual meets in early July. As we mentioned last week, Governor Kemp recently opened the door to allow groups of up to 25 people to gather. This is helpful and is an opportunity for us to slowly ease our way into the water and a swim season. If you do not have specific guidance allowing larger groups from your local board of health, HOA or pool management company, the state’s guidance should be the maximum number of people present at your pool. We expect the state to continue to increase this number over the next few weeks and will keep teams informed as that happens. It is still the responsibility of each team to stay up to speed and informed on what their local health officials are requiring for their facility to try to provide the safest possible environment for their families.
We know that you have a number of things to accomplish before starting practices as does the swim league. We need to know the status of your team by the end of this week, June 12, so we can create a schedule and finalize the ribbon order. I have created another Google form to allow teams to update us on their status. That form is located at https://forms.gle/3zWUPxQxGP7ENcHAA . If you plan on having a season you MUST complete this form, if you do not complete the form you will not be included on the schedule and will not be covered by the league’s insurance policy. Also factored in are the number of different county and city jurisdictions that govern our communities in the league. If your team has already informed us that you will not have a team this year and that status has not changed no further action is needed. Several teams have expressed an interest in just having practices and intrasquad meets. This is certainly an option for teams, and we will include that as an option in the form. As was the case with the original Google form, your team status is non-binding, and teams can change their status in the next weeks. However, we want teams to provide us with the most accurate info to ensure we provide proper insurance coverage and have enough ribbons for the season.
If you will be having a team this summer, we need to make sure all of your swimmers register and complete the updated league waiver prior to participating in any team activities. League fees will be $28 per swimmer and there will be no late fees for this season. Please remember that ASA requires all coaches, age 18 or older, to complete a background check via summerleagueswimming.com .
The roadmap forward will be as follows. Teams will resume practices sometime around June 15 or earlier depending on their pool availability and local governing situation. I plan on having a schedule completed by the middle of next week. We will set up another Zoom meeting for teams that will be swimming this summer to review rules and meet processes for the later part of the week of June 15. We will set up Zoom meetings to cover Hy Tek training for the following week. We will set up a coaches’ Zoom meeting for the same week. Details on how to sign up for these meetings will be sent out later this week. We will record all of the meetings and make them available for teams to view at their convenience, but your participation is encouraged to allow a good flow of information and to answer as many questions you may have as possible.
In the meantime, if you have not done so already, you should be formulating your plan for a return to practice. This should include all steps that have to happen from swimmers arriving at the pool, entering the pool area, which areas of the pool and pool deck will be used for practice, how swimmers will maintain social distancing while at practice, and then leaving practice before the next group of swimmers comes into the pool. The steps many teams will be taking that have been shared with me include the following:
- Not allowing anyone (swimmers, coaches, or any other person who will be at a team event) with COVID symptoms to attend practice or any team functions until they have been symptom free for a period of 72 hours.
- Maintaining social distancing of 6 feet. This will require limited numbers of swimmers in each lane and specific starting and stopping points in the lane or locations on the pool deck. Teams will provide markers on the deck to remind swimmers where to stand and maintain a safe distance from one another.
- Limiting inexperienced swimmers who cannot safely be in the water without hands on assistance. This will limit and possibly prevent the participation of many team’s junior programs and 6 and under swimmers. One possible work around for this would be having a parent or older sibling serve as the hands on person to help those swimmers.
- Not allowing swimmers who fall into the category of vulnerable populations to COVID or who are in regular contact with persons who fall in to that category.
- Specific plans to get swimmers into the pool area for their practice and off the deck when practice is complete. In most cases, this will require parents to drop swimmers off and not come onto the pool deck to stay within limits by local health officials on how many people can be at the pool.
- Possible temperature checks of swimmers when they arrive for practice to ensure symptomatic individuals do not risk infecting other team members.
- Providing hand sanitizer and making sure your pool is following steps required to sanitize common contact areas and surfaces on a regular schedule.
- Limiting the use of training items like kickboards, pool buoys and other items; unless those items are sanitized after each use.
While these steps are helpful, they are by no means comprehensive, many teams will take further steps to create the safest environment possible. An example of one team’s plan can be found at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hIJ3-qqQ9HkoL6ZmfQ2w1bAiKMVfteussqTHPAs7eLc/edit . Hopefully, you have been communicating these steps with your families and how important they are to ensure the safest possible environment for your swimmers and families. If you already have plans in place and want to share those with us, please do so, as we are happy to share as much info as possible. We realize that this will be a tall order for many teams to undertake and that the hurdles may be too high for some teams to clear. We understand if teams choose not to participate, as teams should do what they thing is most responsible for their community and families.
Several resources on providing a safe environment for teams from local USS teams and USA Swimming have been shared in recent e mails. Those can be found at https://swimswam.com/return-to-training-under-social-distancing-rules-going-smoothly-for-swimatlanta/ and https://swimswam.com/dynamo-swim-club-to-resume-training-for-senior-group-only-on-thursday/ and https://www.usaswimming.org/docs/default-source/coaching-resourcesdocuments/covid-19-team-resources/facility-reopening-plan-guidelines.pdf?sfvrsn=8a533a32_2 While these provide good guidance for teams, they are by no means comprehensive. Teams should make sure they follow all steps required by their local health officials and pool management companies to provide the safest possible environment for their swimmers and families.
A recap of the advised steps from CDC and the state of Georgia regarding pool operation can be found at http://fultoncountyboh.org/boh/media/attachments/2020/05/20/covid-19-guidance-for-public-pools_5.13.20-002.pdf .
Guidance from the CDC regarding steps for providing a safer environment for your pool once it hopefully opens can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/aquatic-venues.html?fbclid=IwAR34WKnT9kJhPjauq5CPTZGEoYAMPgqGjv5K49ujzMFUUEr7MXVSRQAzTvk .
Your pool management companies should already be taking steps to ensure they follow these guidelines, but you will want to coordinate with them to do all that you can to safeguard your facility and teams. These companies have done a terrific job of keeping neighborhoods informed about what steps need to be followed to get your pools open and operating safely.
Thank you again for your patience and persistence throughout this situation. We are thrilled to be able to have a swim season, even if it will be unlike any swim season we have ever experienced. Your support and desire to make the swim season a reality mean the world to the league and all of your families. We hope to continue to see improvements throughout the summer. Thank you for remaining positive, I hope to see you on deck this summer, I’ll be the guy wearing a mask.