By Reach for the Wall Staff
With the recent announcements by Montgomery County Public Schools, Prince George’s , Washington DC school districts to operate remotely and to postpone and/or cancel Fall and Winter sports, and Northern Virginia, winter sports would compete from December 14–February 20, fall sports would compete from February 15–May 1, and spring sports would compete from April 12–June 26. The opportunities for high school aged swimmers to compete is severely reduced. Currently, in Montgomery County, MD athletes that are training for competitive swimming (not leisure) are only allowed 1 swimmer per lane in any pool, indoor/ outdoor, public or private. In Prince George’s county, outdoor community pools, both public and private, may have to 50% capacity, but must practice proper physical distancing guidelines and follow Health Department COVID-19 guidance. Indoor pools have remained closed. In Washington, DC, indoor and outdoor pools are not open, with an announcement expected August 1. Northern Virginia has entered Phase 3 of their reopening, which allows pools to operate at 75% capacity & ‘Free Swim’, which means they can have multiple swimmers per lane up to their capacity restrictions. With these guidelines and restrictions in place, the outlook for sustainability of the 40+ year-round swim clubs within Potomac Valley is bleak. Given the lack of capacity of indoor facilities, there will not be enough time or space to accommodate the number of athletes that want to swim as their ‘main sport’ throughout the Fall and Winter months.
Potomac Valley Swimming (PVS), which provides jurisdiction over the sport as delegated to it in the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations to conduct swimming programs consistent with the policies and procedures of USA Swimming. The geographic footprint of PVS includes the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and the counties of Fairfax and Arlington and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia. While small in area, PVS, has 12,648 athletes registered (courtesy PVS HOD presentation). While the statistics on the success of those clubs and athletes on the local and national level are important, they don’t change the raw numbers and ability to accommodate training these athletes within the current restrictions.
This is where you, our beloved readership can make a difference.
Your representatives need to hear from you & understand how the appropriate safety measures can be implemented to provide a lower risk option for athletes that choose swimming. We’ve received petitions and letters that can be used to send to each jurisdiction, please do what you can & let your voice be heard…if not, the choices for clubs to swim for will be reduced (clubs will cease operations), coaches will be unemployed, and athletes may be faced with the fact that swimming isn’t an option. Here’s links to locate your council members in each of the jurisdictions:
- Prince George’s County, MD
- Montgomery County, MD
- Howard County, MD
- Washington, DC
- Arlington, VA
- Loudoun County VA
- Alexandria, VA
- Prince William County, VA
Letter #1, originally composed by a PVS Club team based in Montgomery County, MD:
One of the most significant obstacles facing our swim club and other local clubs is the current Montgomery County ordinance that limits lap swimming to one swimmer a lane. This ordinance is far more restrictive than the CDC and USA Swimming has recommended. Limiting swim teams to practices with one swimmer a lane dramatically increases our costs and also limits the number of spots we have available on our team.
We are reaching out to encourage you to contact your respective Montgomery County councilmember as soon as possible and encourage them to allow between 4-6 swimmers per lane during practices. You can find contact information for your representative here: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/
Swimming for (insert club team name) has an immense impact on my child’s physical and mental well-being. Please consider some of the following points in your decision to increase the capacity restrictions on lap swimming:
- As parents of year round competitive swimmers, we are asking you to reconsider the current “1 swimmer per lap lane” restriction and permitting, during this Phase 2, up to 4-6 swimmers per lane for any pool 25 yards/meters long, provided that all such swimmers maintain a minimum of 6 feet between each person at all times whether in or outside of the pool.
- (Club Team name) provides competitive swimming opportunities at all levels for close to (XXX, club team size) children in the community, ranging from six year olds to eighteen year olds.
- The one swimmer per lane restriction is at risk of having a very adverse impact on (Club Team Name), other local swim clubs, and thousands of competitive youth swimmers in our area.
- The CDC has concluded that:
- “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19.”
- “Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity and health benefits needed for a healthy life.”
- Competitive swimmers do not exhale into the air when they swim, but exhale into the water and only inhale when turning their heads to breath. This, in addition to the CDC guidance suggests that lap swimming is even safer than the current recreational swimming guidelines where such swimmers are consistently exhaling into the air around them.
- At a minimum, the Stage 2 guidelines should allow the same number of people in a pool regardless of whether they are in the pool for lap swimming or recreational swimming.
- By comparison to other land sports that are currently permitted to practice under Phase 2, swimmers would never be less than 6 feet apart whether in or out of the water.
- Many of the teams represented in this area are owned by local entrepreneurs. They provide jobs for hundreds of coaches and these teams are in danger of going under because of the one swimmer per lane policy.
- For our family, and for so many others, the pool is about much more than summer. It provides a healthy outlet for our children to learn about nutrition, the benefits or exercise, sportsmanship, and discipline.
Letter #2, composed by DC Wave, part of the Change.org petition:
DC Wave swimmers represent the diversity and spirit of Washington, DC. As the only publically supported, year round swim team in the District, it provides access to a sport not known for diversity and affordability.
On July 15th DC public pools were scheduled to re-open for lap swimming under Phase 2 of Mayor Bowser’s reopening plan. DC Wave leadership presented a plan to the Department of Parks and Recreation for restarting practices following strict social distancing protocols, but the team will still not be allowed to start practices until Phase 3 of the reopening plan.
Many of us have been personally impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic and recognize the consequences of returning to the pool too soon. We believe that by following strict social distancing protocols while practicing in outdoor pools, our kids and coaches can remain healthy.
Private, year round swim teams in Virginia and Maryland have been back in the pool for weeks, but under the current proposal DC Wave swimmers will not be able to resume practices for the foreseeable future. This leaves our swimmers at a competitive disadvantage if and when competition resumes. It also hurts our high school age swimmers hoping to be recruited to swim in college.
At a time of uncertainty and turmoil, returning to practice when the pools open will give our kids a sense of normalcy they sorely need at this moment.
Also consider signing the petition
Letter #3 Composed by NVSL coalition of pools to Governor Northam in May:
Note: We’ve edited the original letter to reflect indoor facilities. As a reminder, Virginia is the least restrictive district in our area, so this may be useful to send to representatives in Montgomery, DC, or Prince George’s
Thank you for continuing to provide guidance to the residents of the as you plan to safely reopen our economy. We, understand the difficulty developing policies regarding a novel and unprecedented virus present and appreciate all efforts to return to some level of normalcy.
Today we are writing to seek clarity as it relates to indoor pools and ask that you consider the unique characteristics and circumstances of swimming pools as you establish further guidelines.
Pools have been a foundational part of local communities, they are places where people from disparate backgrounds gather to exercise, compete, and visit with neighbors. Many need their pool now more than ever. With school being virtual, Fall/Winter sports, and other activities now cancelled, the pool may be the last place to escape, particularly during the coming months.
The uncertainty created by the current situation is particularly deleterious to year-round club teams.
Many club teams are run by volunteer boards of directors and are aided by scores of volunteers that help make our organizations successful. We are all spending significant funds to maintain coaching staffs.
Collectively, we support thousands of direct and indirect jobs, many of which go to hundreds of locals who work as lifeguards and swim and dive coaches. If we are not able to make offers now, we may not be able to secure the personnel needed. We appreciate the decision to open the economy requires balancing different equities.
As your COVID‐19 Business Task Force considers what might be allowed, we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the process. We can answer questions and provide information on the composition of our membership, including the specific needs of our young members, the risk profile of pools, and the nature of pool economics so we can operate for the 2020 Fall/Winter season and beyond. Our clubs, in conjunction with our governing body PVS, are also working closely to share best practices. Our goal is to provide our athletes with a safe and healthy environment for training and competition.
Letter #4 composed by another PVS club team with facilities in MD & VA, targeted to the Montgomery County Council:
Dear County Council Members,
As a resident of Montgomery County and a parent of a year round swim team program, I am asking you to investigate and evaluate the current guidance in Montgomery County for “one swimmer per lane” for lap swimming. This is restricting swim teams that run a controlled athletic environment from being able to train the athletes in an effective and safe manner.
My children swim for (Club Team Name) in Montgomery County. They are currently using one large pool in Kensington and 3 other pools in Fairfax County because they are allowed to train swimmers 3-4 per lane and do it safely. They are maintaining proper social distancing throughout the 1.5 hours of workout. In Montgomery County, the practices are only 50 minutes long at this point so they can get all the swimmers time to practice. In Kensington, they are 1 swimmer per lane due to the guidance by the County.
Please consider adjusting this guideline so we can keep our athletes close to home this Fall when they start school again. Please see the attached guidance USA Swimming has put forth across the Country as a safe return to competitive swimming. We have not been able to find any science or data that supports “one swimmer per lane” as a needed guidance to keep our swimmers safe and healthy. (Club Team Name) as well as the other year round swim programs are professional coaches and their number 1 priority is to keep our children safe and healthy.
Please help us get this guidance adjusted so our children can train close to home in August and beyond.