A fish out of water: How swimmers are dealing with no open pools

Tanner Cook • Apr 27, 2020 at 10:00 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series. The second part will be in Tuesday’s edition. 

Local high school athletes have taken a hit in terms of losing out on spring seasons and what could have been. 

For swimmers, their high school seasons thankfully ended before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but that does not mean they haven’t been impacted. 

All of the area indoor and outdoor pools have been closed and some — like the Legion Street pool in Johnson City — will remain closed through the summer months. 

“The two-week break that we usually give the high school kids after the season concludes thankfully coincided with spring break this year,” Science Hill head coach Chris Coraggio said. “We weren’t, however, anticipating these next four weeks of complete shutdown, but we’re trying our best to keep the kids engaged.”

Said Volunteer head coach Jim Whalen, “We’re all just kind of in a holding pattern right now. Down here in Church Hill, we’re just waiting to see if the facility in Church Hill or the Kingsport Aquatic Center will open up anytime soon so that we can get back in the water and get our summer program started.”

Coraggio said that he’s doing weekly Zoom conferences with the kids and giving them modules in order to help them build mental strength during this time of uncertainty.

“We’ve created a lot of modules online that deal with building mental and physical strength,” Coraggio said. “Some of the kids are doing workouts with everyday household items like lifting their book bags or just practicing the strokes out of water. We’re always looking for fresh ideas and we’re encouraging them to stay physically active.”

“We’ve been telling our kids to do a lot of ‘dry-land’ exercises and try to build cardio,” Whalen said. “Swimming is a lot like running and we’re just telling our kids to keep or build up strong cardio during this time.”

The summer swim leagues have not been officially canceled, but the pandemic has greatly impacted the scheduling. 

“USA Swimming had a meeting and I don’t really know what came out of it, but a few weeks ago they put a moratorium on all meets through May 31,” Coraggio said. “Swim meets bring together a lot of people in a small and confined are for a very extended amount of time and that’s something we’re trying to avoid right now. 

“A lot of the kids that I help coach in the summer and in high school use swimming as both for fitness and as a stress reliever. So for them not to be in the pool right now is probably making them more anxious to get back into the water.”

For Whalen, he’s in a unique situation where his daughter, Tinsley is being recruited by colleges and in-person visits are strictly prohibited right now. 

“There’s no person-to-person recruiting going on right now and that’s hurting her because she’s not getting to practice with the team or anything like that,” Whalen said. “We’ve taken some virtual tours of schools and done some Zoom conferences, but we really can’t tell much from those things. It’s very different from the way it’s been done in the past and that’s just the world we’re living in now.”

Tinsley is also a swimming teacher in the summer programs. Her dad remarked that she is missing that part of it, too.

“She is so bored,” Whalen said. “There’s only so much Netflix you can take. ... We’ll have typically around 90 kids in our program from ages 6 to 18, but I don’t know about those numbers this year. There’s going to be some concerned parents out there and our season usually runs the end of May to the end of July. Hopefully they’ll push that back and we can actually get in a full season.”


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