Rowdy Gaines: Aquatics Coalition Pivotal for Pools Re-Opening; Work Just Beginning

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Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

The Aquatics Coalition has helped several states and communities get back into the pool safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Rowdy Gaines said the group’s work is just beginning.

“The USA Swimming Aquatics Coalition has helped pools get reopened over the last couple of months,” Gaines told Swimming World this week. “We got all of these organizations involved and came up with something to present. We had to tailor it and make it for different parts of the country. I am really proud of our sport. USA Swimming really took a lead on this and created this. If this coalition wasn’t formed, pools still would not be open.”

The group includes USA Swimming, USA Diving, USA Artistic Swimming, U.S. Masters Swimming, the U.S. Swim School Association, USA Triathlon, YMCA and the American Red Cross. The group has helped educate elected officials on opening pools safely and has seen results in several states.

But there is a long way to go.

“There are parts of the country that still aren’t listening,” Rowdy Gaines said. “Now we are moving to indoors and many of them are still not there. The job is not going to be done until we figure out a way to get these pools open. The coalition was put together to show we can prioritize opening for instructional purposes. Swim lessons can make a lot of money and teaching kids how to swim is a good business model— and kids’ lives are at stake. More kids are going to drown because pools aren’t open.”

The stated goal of the organization is to “help guide states and municipalities across the country in reopening swimming facilities for instructional aquatics in the safest possible manner.” It emphasizes the increased risk of untrained swimmers heading for unsafe water as temperatures rise, and hopes to push governments to prioritize opening pools for “purpose-driven aquatics, including using pools for swim lessons, exercise, rehabilitation, and athletic training.”

“We applaud the public health professionals and policymakers on the front lines of combating transmission of COVID-19 and we understand that their jobs are incredibly difficult, so we want to help be part of the solution,” Shana Ferguson, USA Swimming’s Chief Commercial Officer, said in a press release announcing the coalition in June. “The Aquatics Coalition is bringing together some of the best minds in water sports to identify and share best practices to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in natatoriums and outdoor venues, while allowing a safer, phased re-entry into the pool.”

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