By: Natalie Leung
As everything familiar around me began to shut down early March of this year, I was excited to finally have a break from the rigorous training schedule I had endured for the past six months of the winter swim season. Although, as the unexpected months of quarantine slowly trudged on, I felt a desire to feel the cool, crisp water of a swimming pool—a desire that I haven’t felt in years. It must be true that you only miss the things you can’t have.
Swimming is one of the few sports that are at an advantage during a pandemic, as we are able to social distance, along with the element of being surrounded by chlorinated water that kills a plethora of germs. By July, the shut-down had been lifted, and not long after Governor Murphy announced that outdoor pools were opened, I received an email announcing that club swimming was back on. Attached were specific guidelines we were required to follow, including temperature checks at home and upon arrival, mask-wearing at all times unless in the pool, socially distanced lane assignments, and more. To me, this was not much to ask of athletes in the midst of a pandemic, and although I still had my reservations about the safety of it all, I felt comfortable enough to sign up.
My first practice back was in August, and by then, we knew that the season would consist purely of a month of practice and no swim meets. Many of my teammates were disappointed that they would not be able to compete, but overall, we were all extremely grateful that we had an opportunity to get back into the pool. It felt strange to be back, and the intricacies of our safety protocols definitely took time to get used to, but once I was able to see it firsthand, most of my reservations about safety were relieved.
Throughout my 11 years swimming, oftentimes I would feel as though I was going through the motions, or that I didn’t see my purpose in the sport. As I got older, I got slower, and that was a huge blow to my confidence and mental health within the sport. Swimming during the pandemic, without the pressure of competing, has given me the ability to develop an understanding of the purpose swimming plays in my life. What I used to think of as a burden, is now a deeply appreciated outlet to clear my thoughts while simultaneously staying in shape.
It is understandable that many may see participating in sports at this time as a huge risk, but personally, I think swimming during the pandemic is much safer than even eating out at a restaurant. During my experience swimming these past 3-4 months, I have found that the amount of times where we are without masks and in close proximity is very minimal, and we are able to properly social distance most of the time. It is necessary for us to be able to safely introduce these outlets back into our lives, and I think that the sport of swimming has done an amazing job in taking the precautionary measures to keep their athletes safe during these atypical times.