LLast summer, COVID-19 shut down a summer staple, the community swim team, across the country. With the Virginia Run Riptide, a community swim team in Centerville, there were social distance workouts five days a week last year without any encounters. This summer, however, the Riptide is making a strong comeback and ready to make the most of an imperfect situation the pandemic has handled.
Riptide head coach Nick McGrath said changes preventing COVID-19 will be implemented during training and will likely stay the same throughout the year to maintain consistency and avoid confusion among the youngest swimmers. He said he also encourages all elderly people to get vaccinated.
The NVSL – Northern Virginia Swimming League – is the governing body of summer swimming under which the Riptide takes place. Comprised of 17 divisions, it is one of the largest summer swimming leagues in the country.
The league proposed a mask mandate for all officials on the bridge and swimmers, among other proposals, were to be voted on on June 3. Division 3, Ripide’s division, voted ‘no’ to the mask tenure – Virginia Run Riptide Team Representative Russ Ramey cited the additional spacing guidelines the team intends to provide during competitions, but that the team will encourage unvaccinated swimmers to wear a mask.
McGrath also said he will need to delegate to some of the younger coaches to watch the younger ones and make sure they follow guidelines. Riptide junior assistant coach Andrew Boyle said ahead of the team’s first practice that despite the guidelines, he expects a lot of buzz among the young swimmers, although it was difficult to find pools for swimming during the pandemic.
“I swam a bit for [COVID-19] but I think probably 80 to 90 percent of the team didn’t, ”Boyle said. “So I think it will be a big adjustment for the team. I think everyone will have to really work in training and really be 100% to 100% with the team to try to get back to where we were.
With that in mind, McGrath said he’s going to change the first few weeks of training from normal years. The Riptide will have technique-oriented practices from the start, he said, as well as longer distance swims designed to “kind of flush out the system.” McGrath’s method is based in part on what he experienced while swimming during COVID-19 with his swim team at Roanoke College.
“I went back into the water on the first day of [Roanoke’s] season, and I was in pain and saw my whole team suffer too, ”said McGrath. “We have some work to do to get back to that… I think overall it’s a bit like riding a bike, you know. You get the movement down and then there’s a little bit of physical endurance training, but other than that it shouldn’t be too bad.
Some Riptide members have had the chance to swim with their respective club teams during the winter. Those who swam may be in better shape, but they faced huge obstacles during the height of the pandemic trying to compete.
Florence Emanuel, former head coach of the Centerville Swim Club (CSC) who retired after the 2020-21 winter season, said the CSC and other teams at the club have followed USA Swimming guidelines throughout. throughout the season; USA Swimming is a separate governing body from NVSL.
Protocols, Emanual said, included five children per lane, no use of changing rooms and baskets for everyone’s belongings that were 10 feet apart on the pool deck. Due to the limits of children per lane, she said 12 children per day were not given the chance to swim because numbers were limited.
Thanks to the strict protocols, Emanuel said his swimmers handled everything well and were still happy. She said parents who in August and September tried their luck and signed their children up for winter swimming have not regretted it.
“[Swim practice] was the only piece of normalcy in their life, ”said Emanuel. “Even though some of the things we asked them were different, it was one of the only chances the kids could get out of the house or their computer and see friends. And I would say it was the best thing ever for them, and for us [coaches], to see them like that and that we work with them.
Emanuel said that in retirement he would miss this attitude from his swimmers, and especially the swimmers and families who have been in his life for 10 to 12 years. In many cases, it has resulted in several children in a given family. However, she said her heart was happy because the swimmers would be in good hands in the future.
Ramey is the good that CSC swimmers get into. He has also been the Head Coach of Westfield High School Swim & Dive since 2019 and the Head Coach of the Riptide Winter Program since 2017, in addition to his aforementioned role as a representative of the Riptide team of the NVSL Division 3.
Ramey said helping athletes develop and get to work with kids pretty much every day are his favorite aspects of training. He said his first three training sessions with CSC were, “So much fun – seeing all the smiley faces, hearing all the laughs, that’s what I’m looking forward to. Even though USA Swimming guidelines don’t change until June 6, he said it was a big difference from swimming at Westfield High School, where athletes weren’t even allowed to cheer, among other COVID-19 restrictions.
As the Riptide team representative for the summer season, Ramey said his main responsibilities are to make sure everything runs smoothly at “A meetings” – more selective competitions for which a swimmer must qualify in. as a function of swim time at a “B meeting.” To ensure that an “A meeting” runs smoothly, Ramey needs to ensure that all volunteers are in place, that the athletes are in the correct events, then after the competition, to display all results and get all disqualifications, or DQ, information – received when a swimmer breaks the rule of a stroke – to everyone.
The Riptide is hosting its first “B Meet” of the season on June 21 at 6 pm with the Brookfield Swim Club and the first “A Meet” at the Riptide pool will be July 3 at 9 am against the Little Rocky Run Stingrays. These meetings are what Boyle and his fellow junior assistant coach Michael Hart are most looking forward to returning this summer, they both said.
“Dating can be a problem, but at the end of the day it’s so much fun to, you know, [being] out there and have that summer vibe, ”Hart said. “Smelling the barbecue, all the parents are there, everyone having fun, then after eating with the guys – like it’s such a great atmosphere.”
To handle the crowds at those meets, McGrath said the Virginia Run Riptide home pool will use its adjacent tennis courts for swimmers to settle in to provide adequate spacing. He said, however, that he would spend more time by the pool – watching the swims and noting the points – but he said he would try to go around the courts to make sure everyone was doing well. behaves well. A viewing station for coaches and spontaneous contestants will also be set up to watch the game and cheer on teammates, McGrath said.
While fixtures will not be the same due to spacing guidelines, practice matches – especially Riptide’s infamous “Fun Friday’s” – will be back more than the year before, said McGrath. Boyle said games can bring relief after a hard week of training.
“I think what we’re going to do or try to do is turn things into activities and games, where they’ll stay more excited about what’s going on,” Boyle said. “Whether or not it’s scoring points for doing something right, or stealing points from someone, someone is doing something wrong, trying to do it…
Boyle said the games the team had in mind include “Red Light, Green Light,” as well as who can do the best diving lap. Hart said he’s delighted that older games are potentially coming back from their one-year hiatus, like “Sharks and Minnows.”
An adjustment to his coaching style will have to be made instead of games, Boyle said. He said he plans to do more things by example instead of being in the water with the younger ones and showing them how to do practical moves or techniques. But Boyle said he still likes that “a family is going to be built no matter what” among the swimmers while Hart said he’s excited for a “pretty normal” year.
The Riptide held its first practice of the year on June 1st. McGrath said there was a “nervous excitement” during the practice which was amplified by “super cold” water.
Boyle and Hart both said the buzz about the Riptide’s first workout was “exciting.” Boyle said it was especially prevalent among younger people, while Hart said it felt like normal practice and seeing people without masks was again enjoyable with a mood of anticipation.
“I think I can speak for everyone in the world when I say the world deserves this summer,” Hart said.