No competitive swimming season for Saskatchewan summer swimming program

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The 2020 swimming season has been postponed. U of R Athletics

The cancellation of the 2020 competitive summer swimming season has left many swimmers, coaches and officials devastated by losing a complete season.

Many summer swimming clubs came to an abrupt halt for the 2020 competitive season because of the COVID-19 crisis. With new health regulations sanctioned by the Government of Saskatchewan, swimming competitions are strictly prohibited due to close proximity between swimmers and officials. 

The summer swimming season has already been cut short as pools remained closed until June 22, when Phase Four of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan allowed outdoor swimming pools to operate. It was not until July 6 that indoor pools could re-open The season typically commences at the beginning of May and ends in early August. Losing over a month of practice time was detrimental to many clubs across Saskatchewan. 

With struggles to open pools in such a short time frame, many rural pools choose not to operate for the summer. Swimming pools are costly, and with the risk of outbreak many communities choose to not re-open their facilities. 

The re-opening processes proved to be challenging with new health precautions. Trying to balance new disinfecting methods and social distancing methods to provide safe and healthy space for swimmers limited other additional activities such as aquafit, water polo, and swim club. 

Marj Walton, the executive director of Swim Saskatchewan explained, “we have to work within the guidelines [the Government of Saskatchewan] gives us.” Despite hoping for a competitive season, firstly Swim Saskatchewan must obey rules regarding the safety of swimmers and coaching staff. 

If clubs wished to commence with practices, they would have to submit a Return to Sport plan created by Swim Saskatchewan to outline the safety precautions that would take place for swimmers and coaches during practices. Obeying regulations from the Government of Saskatchewan and Swim Saskatchewan, then following expectations of lifeguards and pool executives resulted in a huge list of demands for small clubs. Various swim clubs opted to cancel their season for the duration of the summer. 

Out of the 16 summer swim teams registered with Swim Saskatchewan, only three teams swam this summer. 

For many swimmers and coaches alike, it’s been difficult to lose a full season. Kris Doering, the coach for the Biggar Barracuda Swim Club expressed her sadness towards the lost season: “For me its been a tough one to swallow because I belong on deck, coaching the kids.” 

Doering, who has coached for the last 22 years, expressed concerns that swimmers being out of the pool for more than a year will lose much progress in terms of muscle memory. “If they do not take the initiative to get into the water on their own time, they could be in trouble next swim season,” she remarked. 

Whether swimmers made the choice to compete, or just to come to improve their endurance and technique, the swimming season proves to be valuable for all who choose to participate. Many parents register their children in swim club to help improve upon their strokes, and with daily practices, there is a vast improvement within a few months. With an abundance of lakes, dugouts, and sloughs in Saskatchewan, its important for kids to learn how to swim for personal safety. 

Another consequence of the pandemic includes the postponement of the 2020 Summer Games which were set to take place in Lloydminster. Many summer sports are included within the games, and it is a fantastic opportunity to interact with different athletes from separate sports. Swimmers age 11-14 come together to compete within their different regions across the province. Both summer and winter swimmers combine into teams to compete in all swimming events for a place on the podium. The Summer Games is a fabulous opportunity for friendly competition and making long-lasting friendships in swimming. With the Games’ postponement, there has been concern about swimmers aging out of the window to be eligible to compete. Furthermore, a decision has not yet been determined by Swim Saskatchewan and Summer Games executives if athletes aging out will be able to compete next year. 

The Summer Swimming community is disappointed by the cancellation of the competition season but understands the decision to keep swimmers, coaches, and officials safe. Walking into a summer swim meet is like walking into a family reunion every summer. Coach Doering expanded on seeing swimmers and coaches at meets: “Summer swimming is a huge family and every summer we show up and reconnect with each other, we always pick up where we left off.”

Swim meets prove to showcase children’s improvement as they continue to drop time as the season advances. 

“I am going to miss the competitive edge of the swim season,” explained Doering “and I will absolutely miss calculating all the time dropped at the end of the season.” 

With the Summer Swim Program eager to commence with competition next season, we now have perspective on actions that need to be taken to re-open facilities next year. 

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