Like Many Clubs, Flyers Aquatic Swim Team Fighting Through Difficult Situation

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Like Many Clubs, Flyers Aquatic Swim Team Fighting Through Difficult Situation

By Jessica Briers, Swimming World Intern

On March 19, club teams in the St. Louis area received news that swim practices would be suspended until COVID-19 was contained.

On June 17, three long months later, the Flyers Aquatic Swim Team (FAST) had their first practice back. After several Zoom calls per week and communicating the dryland routines through email, practicing in any pool was a great step forward. By the end of June, however, the first of a new set of problems had occurred.

The pool being used by several FAST groups throughout the day had a maintenance issue and would not be in use until the summer of 2021. For the next two months, FAST was forced to practice at a very small country club in Dupo, Illinois. The new requirements put in place by USA Swimming and the health department made fitting the club team into the six lane pool a challenge.

“Coaches have been spending time figuring out the pool situation while having not necessarily a negative attitude but a hopeful one,” said FAST Head Coach, Derek Shipp. The coaching staff remained positive even though the future of practicing was unknown.

With more than eight groups and about 300 swimmers, fitting the team into these small pools was a big setback, just as much as finding pool space. “The biggest challenge is getting the whole team into a space with these new guidelines,” Shipp said. “Most facilities have other programs and things going on, so we have to work around those.”

This scenario led to the higher groups such as National and Senior Select 2 having priority on these limited times. From 5-6:30 a.m., those two groups practiced at this time from July into September. These few months were smooth sailing and the team had plans to continue training outside until it got cold.

As September got closer, FAST encountered increasing problems finding pools to start their short-course season. The high school normally used for practices said they would not be able to rent their pool this year. Several other colleges, high schools, health clubs and YMCAs said the same thing. As the cold mornings arrived, the only option was for FAST to continue practicing every morning in its outside option. With the water temperature being 78 degrees and the air being as warm as 56, many swimmers hated the thought.

It is not just practices that are being affected. FAST’s last championship meet was back in December of 2019, where the groups competed at the Ozark Senior Champs. Since then, all meets have been canceled and racing with other teams is still several months away. In order to keep the season going, the best thing for FAST to do is have intrasquad meets. So far, two weekends have been spent allowing four sessions of swimmers to race for official times.

“I really don’t like that the only racing opportunities are intrasquad,” said Eli Butters, a National group member and Michigan State commit. “I always love to race against competition. It makes it so much easier to swim fast.” However, given St. Louis County guidelines, it will remain this way for a while.

This past week, FAST received news that one area pool will allow the team to rent its facility. This is an outdoor, 50-meter pool that happens to be heated. The team will use it until the middle of October when the pool plans on closing. While staying positive and trying their best to work hard under these conditions, the team and coaches are still getting work done and doing their best to prepare for meets once they are back up and running.

The unknowns are quite stressful and have left the team in a hard situation, but as of right now, FAST has stayed positive and is seeking any and every opportunity given.

3 comments

  1. Karen Briers

    Thank you for offering a journalism intern program. It’s exciting to see Jessica’s first article. So many teams are struggling to find pool time. We’re grateful to our coaches and the board for ensuring our kids have a place to practice.

  2. Tracey Richards Chiulli

    This is happening here in NY as well. Many teams use indoor pools at schools and colleges which are not renting to outside groups. And the indoor pools that you can find to rent are extremely expensive with many limitations.

  3. avatar
    Tracy

    This is a really great article. Thanks so much for the information.

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