Practicing in a pandemic: Navigating the waters of varsity swimming at home


Courtesy of MSMS Swim Team

Initially, the swim season was canceled, but now students have the opportunity to compete.

Elena Eaton, Lead Cartoonist

“I always loved this part the most… when you’re swimming and your team is crowding around the side of the pool and coach is yelling and it’s so much fun… the whole team is yelling and cheering for you… it’s incredible to watch and really be a part of,” Lady Waves swim captain Camille Newman said.

For Newman, describes camaraderie as an intrinsic element of the MSMS swim team—an element not guaranteed this year.

High school sports have not evaded the broad scope of COVID-19’s impact.  Some seasons were annihilated by Mississippi High School Activities Association’s (MHSAA) safety regulations and faced cancellation for the 2020-2021 season. Others managed to survive the devastating blow, though significantly changed from previous years.  Swim was one such victim. 

After careful consideration, MHSAA deemed swim a safely practicable sport. This declaration sent waves of relief through MSMS varsity swimmers, though it came with a game-changing caveat: independent competition.

As Newman said, the excitement of the swim season is largely attributable to the team-building aspect. Whether they are writing smack-talk on event cards, cheering each other on during races or blaring Christmas music on the bus back to campus, MSMS swim team members inspire each other to continue the sport—to grow as swimmers and as friends. That level of team bonding is being tested this year by independent matches.  

In contrast with last year’s exuberant team season, the 2020-2021 swim season is taking a solitary approach wherein athletes will practice and compete alone. So how will the swim team prepare? How will they overcome this paradigm shift from viewing swim as a team sport to an individual competition?

To start, swim coaches Chris Chain and Veleria Scott are sending out dry- and wet-land workouts to help the athletes get back into the swing of things. Dry-land workouts typically consist of aerobic exercise similar to conditioning practices of other sports, while wet-land workouts bear resemblance to the team’s normal training regimen and involve different sets of swims. Coaches encourage team members to complete these practices on a daily basis; however, circumstantial limitations are understood as not all team members have access to a pool.

Pool access similarly poses an obstacle for scheduling swim meets. Typically, school swim teams like MSMS’s require an invitation from the host of the swim meet to participate.  Under normal circumstances, this would involve a decent amount of effort to arrange. This new situation, however, changes how schools coordinate.  Which schools are hosting what meets is a question shrouded in uncertainty; thus, MSMS swim coaches Chain and Scott are individually contacting many of these schools to determine a plan for the season.  Simply put, scheduling meets, like much else affected by COVID-19, has been complicated exponentially, adding to the great dubiety of this year’s swim season.

While other schools may be treading water, MSMS swimmers won’t allow these uncertain circumstances to break their stride.  “I’m excited I still get a senior year swim season,” senior swimmer Mabrie Woods said.  Keeping in contact with each other via group chats and school emails, these athletes aim to maintain the strong bonds formed last season and inspire each other to have hope that things will get better.  

As Newman explained, the best thing for the swim team right now is “really realizing the situation and that this is the best we can do right now and fully embracing that.”