Stanford’s Brooke Forde on Pac-12 Postponement: ‘We Knew it Wasn’t Going to Be a Normal Season’

Brooke Forde swims the 400 IM at the 2019 U.S. National Championships. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Stanford’s Brooke Forde: “We knew it wasn’t going to be a normal season no matter what.”

With the flurry of college fall seasons being canceled or postponed, the Pac-12 Conference’s announcement Tuesday was the first to affect college swimming. The Pac-12 postponed all sports through the end of the calendar year, which includes the first part of winter sports, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overall reaction has been disappointment by athletes, coaches and fans, but not total shock, given the situation in the U.S. and the liability that colleges face around student-athletes.


Greg Meehan. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I believe the PAC-12 has handled this very well and very responsibly,” Stanford women’s swim coach Greg Meehan said. “Admittedly, I was hoping the fall sports would be able to compete, but none of us are surprised with today’s announcement.”

At this point, winter athletes are hoping it doesn’t go any further into 2021.

“I am sort of surprised, but what did I really expect at this point?” Stanford swimmer Brooke Forde told Swimming World. “It is so hard to know. There is no announcement that swim season is canceled (just postponed). But it is hard to project. I am just trying to stay in the present and not make too many wild conjectures to what the fate of swimming will be.”

It will of course depend on the pandemic numbers in the coming months. That makes the situation tough to plan for, since it is ever-changing.

“I am just trying to be flexible,” Forde said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a normal season no matter what.”

Stanford was chasing an NCAA title four-peat before the pandemic canceled the NCAA championships last March, followed by the postponement of the Olympic trials and Olympics before this Pac-12 announcement.

Arizona State announced its entire swim team would redshirt the upcoming school year. Most colleges have said they will honor scholarships if athletes don’t want to compete, also granting an extra year of eligibility to athletes that lose seasons.

It is a lot to think about on a day-to-day basis.

“I definitely think I have gotten better at taking the news in stride,” Forde said. “It really helps me that I am able to train. I feel like I have a present day goal and thing to be working toward in the future. That has been my main strategy, focus on what I can do today. It has been really hard. Each of these announcements and schedule changes comes with a lot of emotional investment and planning of my life that I have to reset.

“You have NCAAs, then trials and the Olympics, now everything is in question again. Each time that happens, it is a pretty big shift in my mentality. I am getting better at shifting my mentality faster because there have been so many things, but it is definitely hard.”


Brooke Forde; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Adding to the difficulty is that every school and every part of the country is dealing with a different set of circumstances.

“I was out of the water for a good chunk after trials got postponed,” she said. “I was able to swim a little on my own at home. I had tonsillectomy surgery in June, so I was never really consistently training until I came back to campus in July. I was a little stressed about it at the time, but I don’t think it was the end of the world getting a bit of a break.”

But another break would not be so rewarding.

“Everyone is in a pretty unique position. For me, it would be pretty upsetting because this would be my fourth year of swimming collegiately and have only gone to two NCAA championships. That is only two real years of the college season,” she said. “But I feel pretty lucky that I have Olympic trials at the end of the school year and will hopefully have that no matter what happens with college. I will feel like I have goals in that area. I think it will be a lot harder for people whose main goal is the college season. That is very devastating. I am definitely all in for the college season, but it helps that I have something else that I am working toward as well.”

Forde said that with the future so up in the air, she is trying to focus on smaller goals.

“I am focused on short-term goals because it is so hard to have long-term goals — lots of detail work,” she said.

But after months of training on her own, and being out of the water, Forde is happy to just be swimming back on campus with her teammates.

“I am back at school able to train, which I am super happy about,” she said. “It has been so nice being with my teammates. At home, I got to train with a few old teammates, which was nice, but I definitely missed the training environment we have here. I spent every single day with these people and we were separated for months, so it is so nice to be back.”

Now that they are together, new challenges await the Cardinal.

“The toughest part is likely keeping everyone motivated without having a fall racing schedule,” Meehan said. “It’s a long time to go without competing.  At the same time it does give coaches and athletes the opportunity to have more time to work on things they otherwise may not have time for in a normal fall. It’s been really hard to continually ask our student athletes to remain patient while the fall deadlines are quickly approaching.  That said, I’ve been proud of how they handled it individually and as a team.”

As far as school goes, Stanford has several possible plans. Most look like upperclassmen will start the fall semester with online classes, with the on-campus slots prioritized for freshmen, incoming transfers and other underclassmen.

It’s just another thing for student-athletes to adapt to.

“For me the fall will definitely be online,” said Brooke Forde, a human biology major. “The main thing I miss is the social aspect in class — meeting people and chatting with professors. I was still able to learn the material I needed to. The challenge of the classes was still there, which is good.”

The challenge in the water is still there, even if it isn’t always clear. But as Forde said, the key is flexibility.