Quarantine breeds creativity for Sarasota Sharks’ virtual meets
As the world adapt and changes so quickly nowadays, it would only be fair to find new and safe ways to keep students and athletes on their normal schedule. When the pandemic hit the United States, student-athletes’ seasons were quickly shut down, and most had to go without their daily practice for almost four months. But the local competitive swim team known as the Sarasota Sharks decided the swimmers were not going to let the pandemic get the best of them.
The team went without practicing for almost three months, but they quickly rebounded with a new socially-distanced schedule, so that their swimmers could get back in the water. The Sharks’ pool is the Selby Aquatic Center, also formally known as the Sarasota Y. The pool can be converted from a 25-yard (20 lanes) pool to a 50-meter pool (8 lanes). This pool is known to train the country’s top athletes, and in the past 50 years the team has sent over 30 athletes to the Olympic Trials. The Sharks already have four swimmers who have qualified for the 2021 US Olympic Trials. Because of this, the staff made it their top priority to get the team back into training as quickly and safely as possible.
New procedures include keeping athletes safe by having two swimmers per lane starting on opposite ends. This way, the pool is less crowded, and the swimmers are socially distanced. The team also sanitizes their lifting equipment after each use, and it is required to wear a mask to enter the facility. With these new rules, the team is able to get back into training, while meeting all the Center for Disease Control (CDC) criteria.
Competitions became the next target for the Sharks to hit. Fortunately, the USA Swimming Organization quickly came up with a way swimmers could compete against each other yet stay at their home pool. This past weekend, the Sarasota Sharks Swim Team hosted their very first “virtual dual meet” ever. A virtual meet can be set up just like a regular competition, except swimmers simply race at their team’s pool. Race times are official, and swimmers are required to wear masks all time out of the pool. The athletes may not be able to see the competition, but they can race just as hard.
Virtual competitions are the first step toward getting back to the regular competition schedule, but for now, the Sharks have the best-case scenario where they can still compete. Most teams across the country still have not been able to get back into the water just yet, so the Sharks are very fortunate to be competing already in the fall season.
With more meets scheduled in November, the Sarasota Sharks are set up to swim fast this season with nothing holding them back.