COVID-19 shut many sports down this past fall. While many athletes struggled without their routine, the Millikin University Swim Team found a way around it. The swim team practiced at the Decatur Family YMCA throughout the fall, only swimming in one virtual swim meet.
“… the biggest impact is virtual swim meets where you’re really racing against someone you can’t see, and just trying to really go and give it your best,” Millikin Director of Swimming Dr. Molly Duesterhaus said. Swimmers were supposed to take part in their first in-person swim meet of the year on February 6th, but the meet was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols.
According to Duesterhaus, the team has talked a lot about navigating COVID and their physical, emotional, and academic well-being. “Swimming has been a really good therapy, just to be able to get in, shake it out and swim,” Duesterhaus said. Some swimmers haven’t swam as much as they wish they could, as they focus on their emotional, mental, and academic health. While this isn’t ideal, the priority right now is to make sure everyone is getting through this difficult time okay.
The team has not seen any swimmer to swimmer transmission of the virus, though they have had many swimmers test positive. The team is currently practicing diligent mask wearing and social distancing. The only time the masks are allowed to come off is when they are in the pool. In the fall, the team used parking lots for their dry land training where they had swimmers 12 to 15 feet apart. Swimmers were able to go to their own parking space for the workouts. Outdoor training continued as long as the weather allowed, but the team was forced into the indoors in November. While participating in indoors dry land training, swimmers wore their masks and remained six feet apart. Since returning from winter break in January, dry land training has taken place over Zoom. “… it’s always been by mask or by Zoom,” coach said. Even team meetings and study halls are currently being held virtually for the team.
The health and safety of the swimmers is at the core of the swim coaches’ minds. While swimming has been one of few sports that has been able to practice and compete throughout the global pandemic, the coaches continue to recognize the swimmers struggles both in and out of the pool.