Photo Courtesy of Oakland University Athletics
The swim teams began practicing in the Recreation Center (Rec Center) pools again on Monday, Sept. 20 after the pandemic forced a sudden hiatus in mid-March. Although easing back into some normalcy is welcomed, Coach Peter Hovland assured swim athletes have been “thinking outside of the box” and have “stayed focused” without access to OU’s Olympic-grade pool.
In an effort to continue conditioning, Susan LaGrand, junior team leader, created her own makeshift weight room for her and her teammates. A rotation of cars parked precisely against a simple storage unit provided motivational music to a simple storage, stocked with exercise equipment. She made a gym out of thin air, during the summer when the pandemic made gyms vanish.
“We’re all just trying to be as optimistic and positive as possible, and like everybody, we’re just taking things one day at a time… In some ways it’s been kind of exciting and fun, and that’s the outlook everybody’s going to take,” Hovland said.
The summer wasn’t entirely void of pool practices though. In addition to LaGrand’s impromptu preparations, the Rochester Wingate Country Club opened their pool up to the team in August and September. Some swim athletes sought out additional local pools to train individually in the summer too.
After a summer of unprecedented flexibility, the men’s and women’s swim teams are able to return home and begin practicing in the Rec Center’s pool with a few safety precautions.
Firstly, all athletes have to take two COVID-19 tests — the viral and antibody — before being approved to practice. The viral test shows if someone currently has COVID-19, while the antibody test is a blood test that can determine if someone has ever had or has COVID-19. After approval, athletes can begin the process to enter the rec center.
“There’s only one entrance to the building [the rec center],” Hovland said. When you enter the building you’re immediately greeted by someone on staff from the athletic department to make sure you filled out your daily [health] survey… There’s also a hand sanitizing station, and someone takes your temperature, just to even get in the building.”
Upon passing each test at the entrance, athletes’ temperatures are taken a second time once they reach the pool area. While on the sidelines, all athletes have to remain masked, and even after entering the pool, they have to remain socially distanced (at least six feet apart).
Locker rooms are not yet open to the public, but the swim team is allowed to have four people in the room at a time. Given that there’s almost 60 athletes on both teams combined, this could extend pre-practice preparation a great deal.
Despite COVID-19 precautions delaying practice, this is progress from the summer, so the team is taking all the necessary steps.
The size of the pool in the Rec Center also allows the space to easily stay safe once everyone is inside.
“We’re very blessed to have a wonderful facility… It’s very easy for us to keep six feet apart in our lanes,” Hovland said.
The summer forced OU’s swim teams to find their own structure during a time without the rec center or gyms. Although entering the rec center may look different, its reopening has allowed the team to reestablish two staples of its routine.
“I think just once we can get back into the water, [we’ll] get back into a routine,” he said. “This is a big part of who they are, this is a big part of what they do and some of them are kind of lost without it. So we’re glad that we’re able to start bringing [the Rec Center] back into the flow now.”