Will There Be a Summer Swim Season? Hope Is In the Air

120706-F-MQ656-228 JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (July 6, 2012) Sailors from the Royal New Zealand navy and U.S. Navy dive into the pool to start a 200-meter freestyle relay during a Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) international swim meet. Over one hundred Sailors from multiple nations gathered at Scott Pool to compete in a friendly swim meet and get to know each other prior to the start of the operational portion of RIMPAC 2012. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from Jun. 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the worlds oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/Released)

Will There Be a Summer Swim Season? Hope Is In the Air

By Sadie Jones, Swimming World Intern

The beginning of summer swim season might sound far from now because of the cold weather and stresses of school, but in reality it is less than six months away. With the amount of COVID-19 cases continuously rising while the first groups of eligible healthcare and essential workers are getting their vacancies, it raises the question: Will there be a summer swim season? To some, a summer swim season might not sound like a big deal, but to young swim families all over the U.S., it is the most memorable part of their summer every year, especially in Northern Virginia. 

The Northern Virginia Swimming League is one of the biggest summer swim leagues in the nation and is made up of 102 teams, divided into 17 divisions, impacting 17,000 swimmers. Many Olympic swimmers have come out of the league, including Melissa Belote and Ed Moses. While the league is known for its competitiveness in the sport, it is also known for teaching and practicing good morals, with the mission statement being, “to develop in the children participating in our program, a love for the sport, advanced aquatic skills, teamwork, and the principles of good sportsmanship.”

A normal summer for the league consists of two full months of at least two meets a week, practices every day, and lots of fun. A very vital component is the range in abilities of the swimmers. Anyone can be a part of this league, kids that only swim in the summer to be with their friends, kids that swim with a club team and go to championship meets, and everyone in between. The swimmers that make up the league range from age 5 or 6 to age 18. This makes for the development of unique relationships between the younger and older kids. The wide range of ability, spirit, and age make summer swim what it is. 

On May 7, 2020, the league made an announcement that there would be no 2020 summer swim season. The Executive Board met with public health officials, government officials, and all 102 teams in the league and came to the conclusion there would be no way to safely carry out the season due to the pandemic. This decision had a devastating effect on every one that is a part of the program, the swimmers, the parents, and the coaches. For some teams, this was going to be an unforgettable summer as they moved up divisions and were ready to maintain their winning streaks. This was the case for the Dowden Terrace Dolphins, after an undefeated season in 2019 and getting moved up to Division 1 for the 2020 season, the team was ready to dive into the competition. Daniela Gomez, a swimmer on the team for nine years, was very disappointed to hear there would be no season: “We were all super excited because moving to Division 1 is a huge deal for a little team like Dowden Terrace that never really gets recognition, so when I found out the season got canceled it was extremely disappointing to hear that we wouldn’t even get a shot.” Gomez is considered one of the lucky ones, as she still has a few more summers to swim with her team. But the Dowden Terrace class of 2020 graduates will never get to experience what swimming in Division 1 is like. 

With no official season, teams scrambled to figure out how they could put together a limited training program for their swimmers. Some teams had morning practices, limiting the number of swimmers in every lane, and trying to ensure everyone was practicing social distancing. Even with these efforts, nothing could compare to what swimmers know as a normal summer. 17,000 swimmers in Northern Virginia have lost one of the constants in their lives, the fun, the learning, the competition, the spirit, the lifelong friendships, and achieving their personal swim goals. The lack of a summer season showed swimmers what it is really like to miss something they always thought would be there and truly emphasizes the spirit and mission of summer swim programs. 

Going into the club season in September, teams also had to figure out what precautions they would take to get their swimmers in the pool safely. Many clubs have successfully done that and have even had meets along with high school teams. Now the question stands: Will there be a 2021 summer swim season for the NVSL and leagues all over the country? Factors like having more space to socially distance because of the use of outdoor pools and the increase in the number of people that will have received the vaccine by the end of May could help the likelihood of there being a season, but truly only time will tell.