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Diving into a new normal: Swim and Dive transitions to remote athletics

March 5, 2021

In a semester marked by social distancing and COVID-19 tests, Bowdoin’s swim and dive team has exchanged their usual caps and goggles for face masks. Yet even as they struggle to navigate a new reality of pool reservations, Zoom meetings and dryland workouts, Bowdoin’s swimmers and divers are doing what they can to make the most of this unusual semester.

When upperclass students returned to campus this spring, they brought with them vastly different fall experiences. Last semester, Assistant Coach Morgan Cooper provided team members with daily strength workouts, but getting off-campus athletes into the pool presented its own set of challenges: while some athletes had limited access to pool space, others had to develop a training plan entirely outside of the water.

“I didn’t have any access to a pool,” men’s swim captain Alex Burns ’21 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “So, I was just doing yoga because that was something I could do in my room with no equipment.”

Women’s swim captain Mary Laurita ’21 also focused on dryland training. However, she also swam with a masters group—a team for swimmers over 25 years old.

“I was fortunate enough to have pool space, so I was able to go in on my own. I swam with a masters group for a little while, but then it started to make me a little nervous just because it was a lot of people.” Laurita said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “But I also just did dryland at home, getting my mom and sister into it, too.”

The remote fall semester forced the team to invent creative ways to interact with the first-year class.

“It’s tough to find ways to keep people engaged virtually,” Laurita said. “Looking at a computer for an extra hour never really sounds great.”

The team has also focused its efforts on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work.

“Building a culture that is open for conversation is something that’s really important,” Laurita said. “Having those sorts of meetings somewhat regularly in small groups and large groups helps form these connections and [helps us to] start having tough conversations.”

Looking forward to the remainder of the spring semester, Head Coach Brad Burnham has the task of balancing the various demands, expectations and goals of individual team members.

“There are going to be people who want to pretend it’s a normal season, those who want to use this year to develop a technical foundation for next year and those who probably just want to use swimming as a means to stay in shape,” Burns said. “I think the coaches are ready to give those three programs to us depending on where we fit.”

Burnham is also tasked with the additional challenge of staying connected with an entirely remote first-year class. With the bulk of first-year athletes living together off campus and training for the spring semester, Burnham hopes to keep them connected with the on-campus team members.

“Knowing the first years might be able to develop some sort of routine makes it easier to send them what we’re doing,” Burnham said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We always offer to give some feedback, and I’ve had a few first years contact me saying, ‘Here’s a video of my freestyle, can you take a look and give me advice?’”

Regardless of each team member’s personal goals, Burnham hopes that having access to Greason Pool will offer on-campus athletes a semblance of normalcy during a distinctly abnormal year.

“We have 30 people who come to the pool, and, while they’re in the water, they don’t have to wear a mask … so they can feel very normal,” said Burnham. “So just [having] that …  it’s a version of what we normally do, [and] I think they feel it’s a good part of their day.”

Although much about the coming season remains uncertain, Laurita remains optimistic.

“This is a time where people are choosing to swim when it’s not forced upon them,” said Laurita. “I hope it reinvigorates people’s passion for swimming. Being on [the pool] deck each day is your choice, so feel good about it–or take a breather, take a day for yourself [and] focus on the things that you need to focus on. Use the pool as a space that makes you happy.”


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