L-S Swim and Dive Has COVID-Free Season


Lincoln-Sudbury Swim and Dive

L-S Swim and Dive seniors cheer on swimmers in a socially-distant manner.

You may have seen considerable changes in the sports world these past couple of months. Especially at the high school level, the sports scene has been unimaginably revamped for the 2020-2021 school year. For some athletes, the changes have been simple: just wear a mask! Many sports have been able to run fairly smoothly at L-S, but as the winter season neared its beginning, it became clear that the same “simple changes” just were not possible for swimming and diving. Therefore, many adjustments were made to practices and meets to keep everyone safe. 

Before March of 2020, swim and dive practices functioned how you would expect them to. Swimmers would all gather in the lobby at Atkinson as they waited for practice to start. People would trickle in as they arrived in their carpools from school. Then, everyone would flock into the locker rooms to change into their suits and head out to the bleachers on deck to listen to the announcements. The swim coach, Julie Nocka, would stand in front of everyone alongside the captains and talk about the plan for practice or the upcoming meet. Once she finished her announcements, the swimmers would head to the supply bins and shelves to get kickboards, buoys, or whatever else they needed for practice that day, while the divers grabbed gymnastics mats and headed to the diving well to stretch before getting on the boards. After we separated at the bleachers, the swim and dive practices did not have much crossover; the divers stayed in the dive well, and the swimmers stayed in the lanes.

This season, the beginning of practice looked much different than before. We all slowly filed into the building as the captains took attendance and made sure everyone had done their health check. In the lobby, instead of the old couch and tables, the floor was scattered with big red dots placed six feet apart from each other. Everyone had a dot to stand on while we waited for the athletes practicing before us to leave the deck. During prior seasons, after waiting in the lobby for practice to start, we would all go into the changing rooms to put on our suits and leave our bags in the lockers. This year, the locker rooms were closed because it is nearly impossible to socially distance in a small space. This means that we had to come to practice in our suits and leave our bags in big plastic blocks on the deck so our stuff did not get wet on the floor. After we put our belongings down, we headed to the shallow end with our plastic bags and began practice. A lot of people ask how we wore masks while swimming, and the answer is that we could not. The next best thing was to put our masks in plastic bags or containers to keep them dry and separated while swimming. As long we maintained appropriate distance while swimming, we were able to stay safe throughout our practices.  

In years past, after the announcements were given and the equipment was handed out, everyone would head over to the lanes and hop in with the same people who were always in our group. Before COVID-19, we would have seven or eight people in each lane and everyone could crowd together at the wall and wait to start swimming. Since grouping together, especially without masks, was no longer allowed, we had to stay separated while we took breaks between sets. There were no more than five in a lane, with swimmers split between the two ends of the pool.

Doing starts off of the diving blocks is another aspect that had to completely change this season due to COVID. Rather than just grouping up everyone close behind each other near the blocks like we used to do during practice, we instead only had two people behind each block to keep distance. The rest of the swimmers remained socially distanced in the water along the edges of the lanes, or got out of the pool and stood on markings that were six feet apart on the pool deck.

As for equipment, we were unable to all crowd around bins and dig around for buoys and kickboards. The coaches got the equipment needed and a lifeguard sanitized them after with cleaning spray for the next practice.

With diving, less extreme changes were made to keep everyone safe. Previously, we would all stretch together, two or three people to a gymnastics mat, and just talk and spend time hanging out. Sometimes we did group stretching, and sometimes we all laid around and complained about the temperature of the water. While the complaining stayed the same, with new COVID-19 restrictions, everyone had a gymnastics mat and was required to stay six feet away from each other.

After that, we all got on the boards to start practice. It is not the time on the board that is a problem, rather the time standing on deck waiting for your turn. Usually, we would all be relatively grouped together talking and laughing. One of the best parts about diving practice is getting to talk to people in between dives while you wait in line for your turn. This year, tape was marked out on the floor six feet away from each other so that people could stay socially distanced. As you can imagine, the tape did not stick for very long, leaving it up to athletes to know what is six feet. This means we could not talk to each other as much as usual since the pool was so loud and we had to stay away from each other. Not to mention, we had fewer divers this year and less time between dives to have conversations. On top of that, we all had to wear masks when not in the water. We did not wear masks while diving, but the masks did get wet since we put them on right after we got out of the pool.

The biggest difference between L-S Swim and Dive and other L-S sports is that we did not get to see athletes from other schools. Since there was only so much deck space, we had “virtual meets,” where both teams swam and dove at their own pools and compared the times and scores that were recorded. While this system kept us all safe, it did not feel normal. We could be competing against a team that had their “meet” days before ours. Not only that, but swimming and diving felt different while unable to see your competition standing in front of you. The adrenaline rush of racing directly against another team was not as present, which meant we did not feel as pressured to do our best. Additionally, meets needed to happen much quicker than usual due to less pool time so swimmers were given an extremely short amount of time and rest between events. As you can imagine, swimming at the same pool with the same people in the same environment got repetitive. It is hard to think back on meets and sort them out in your mind since nothing new or drastic is happening to the place you are competing in. 

Spectators used to fill the Atkinson lobby or the deck while meets were happening. This year, we were unable to have that many people in the building at once. To keep the team aspect alive, we live streamed our swim and dive meets. This way, parents and athletes who were not competing that day (the boys and girls competed at different times so there were not as many people in the pool) could watch their friends race and compete. Yes, it was not as good as being there in person and getting to cheer others on, but it worked for this season. The protocols taken by the L-S Swim and Dive team allowed us to have a successful season, but hopefully things will be back to normal next year.