How AAU Diving Safely Ran National Diving Competition During the Age of COVID

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

How AAU Diving Safely Ran National Diving Competition During the Age of COVID.

By Joe Chirico.

Divers and coaches are all anxious to safely return to coaching, training and competing. It appears that many programs are finding ways to do this, whether in the pools, dryland facilities and even back yards. The fact that springboard diving takes place in chlorinated water, and social distancing is easy to incorporate into a practice, is making it easier for training to resume. 

At the 2020 AAU Diving National meet, held in early August in Noblesville, Indiana, meet organizers worked hard to ensure the safety of all of divers, coaches and spectators. AAU Diving is sharing the steps taken to make this meet a success with the hopes that it can serve as model for future competitions. We see this as a starting point and hope that other programs can build on this model and share their stories.

After our original location in Texas and our back up site in Florida became hot spots, AAU Diving was offered the Forest Park Pool in Noblesville, Indiana, which at that time had one of the lowest rates of infection in the Country. The Forest Park Pool had everything we needed: it was outdoors, offered lots of diving boards, and plenty of space for divers to allow for social distancing. We also blessed with a host club with lots of experienced volunteers and an amazingly helpful Hamilton County Tourism bureau. And of course more than enough Hoosier hospitality to go around.

The entire event was put together with about four weeks of planning. We were in constant contact with the local health department and their EMS services, along with the pool management and host club.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Hosting the meet an outdoor venue where the chances of spreading the virus is reduced was a high priority. With 11 boards and a full set of towers, the Forest Park Pool allowed sufficient room for social distancing. The chlorine level in the pool was set to meet CDC guidelines.

The divers were not allowed to use the locker rooms for changing; all divers came and left wearing their swimsuits. Portable bathrooms were brought in for the athletes only.

We developed a schedule that kept the divers in the pool area for as little time as possible. Divers came in, warmed up, competed, received their awards and left the pool. After each event, the pool was cleared of divers, coaches and spectators to allow the area to be sanitized. Then the next group was allowed in. The divers were assigned boards to train on so that we could limit the number of people at any given station.

Our meet management software only required one person per table to run the event and announce. We used Apple iTouches and iPhones for scoring pads which were cleaned after each use. We used iPads on each board in place of the scoreboard. It had the  divers name and their diver number.

When the events were done for the day, there was an open warm-up for the next day’s events. Divers were required to sign up in advance only on the board they were competing on so that the size of each group was limited. It also kept the same divers together for warm-ups and competition.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

For the divers to maintain social distancing they were mats placed behind the boards 6 feet apart for the divers to stand on. When one diver would go everybody would move up one mat. We closed several of the boards for the meet so that the divers would not get close to each other while waiting in line.

There was a fairly large field next to the diving well where we set up lounge chairs for the divers that were placed 6 to 8 feet apart so that they could sit and put their backpacks and other equipment on the chairs. We placed open walkways between every other row to allow the divers to walk up and down without being close to each other.

Everyone entering to compete or watch the competition was required to wear a mask and have their temperature checked. AAU Diving gave all coaches and divers custom-made mask for the event along with the T-shirt and backpack. Masks were made available to the spectator if they did not have one. Upon entering the site we used an entrance gate that was not open to the public so the divers could go directly to the diving well without interacting with the public attending the recreation portion of the complex. 

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There were separate entrances for spectators and athletes. After having their temperatures taken, anyone entering the diving area was required to fill out a self-evaluation health form and a waiver form. These were sent electronically to all parents, athletes and coaches by 6 PM the night before. Once these protocols were satisfied, all participants and coaches on deck were given a wrist band. That color of the band changed each day. All dive changes were handled by the athletes on their own phone.
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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Divers were assigned warmup sessions and were given an hour before each event for warmups. We ran 2 to 3 events at a time on different sides of the pool. For the most part, the divers did a very good job of maintaining separation. 

There were no bleachers for the spectators; instead we placed chairs 6 feet apart on one side of the pool while the divers and coaches stayed on the other side of the pool. 
 
All spectators were required to wear masks and sit 6 feet apart. Including families and people who had traveled together because the health department personnel monitoring the meet was not able to know who was family, and needed to be able to enforce the rule in a universal way.  The event was live streamed on Baller TV.  
 
For the awards all the finalist were lined up 6 feet apart. Awards were placed on the mat with their assigned finish. It didn’t make for the best photos, but it was effective The champion was unable to hug the rest of the finalists, but it did keep social distance between the athletes and sped up the awards ceremony.
 
Thank you divers parents coaches and volunteers for making this a successful and safe AAU Diving Nationals. Hopefully this is helpful and can serve as a model for future competitions.
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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Scott Donie

    Way to go Joe and John and everyone that made this happen. It is a shining ray of light of good news and an example for all of us to follow.

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