Sharks navigating abbreviated summer schedule

Tuesday, July 7, 2020
While the summer schedule looks a little different, the members of the Shelbyville Sharks are still practicing each week.
T-G Photo by Chris Siers

Like so many other sports teams and leagues across the world, the Shelbyville Sharks were also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The summer schedule was drastically altered, beginning back in the winter swim season.

“We learned of the pool closure due to COVID-19 the same day we were going to start back with our “Winter” swim season following the pool closure due to repairs,” Sharks coach Megan Betzelberger said.

With the enhanced social distancing guidelines, the Sharks have made adjustments to their normal practice schedule to ensure swimmers' safety.
T-G Photo by Chris Siers

In addition to the closure of the pool for repairs, the Sharks' patience was rewarded with an indefinite shutdown, due to the public park closures in response to the global pandemic.

“As you can imagine, the kids had been waiting patiently to get back in the water, now they were told they were going to have to wait a second indefinite length of time. I think they were pretty disappointed. It is extremely difficult to get in the water for practice when there is no incentive of competition to judge improvement.”

With no access to the pool to resume practices, the Sharks relied on social media to send out daily “dry land” workouts to help keep in shape until the pool reopened.

Once the Sharks were given the green light to dive back into the pool, swimmers immediately took advantage of a bit of normalcy.

“On average, we have had about 10-15 swimmers in each of our two sessions, three days a week. We have always had two practice times, one session being primarily for younger and new swimmers with the second session for our veteran and older swimmers. We changed this in order to group our swimmers in lanes with their siblings to help maintain safe social distancing, as opposed to grouping swimmers according to age and skill level,” Betzelberger said.

In addition to the changes made in the practice schedule, the coaching staff came up with additional social distancing measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“We were also prepared to run our drills with swimmers starting at both ends of the pool if our numbers warranted also allowing for safe distancing. Hand sanitizer is provided for all swimmers prior to entering pool, and swimmers are asked to bring their own equipment: kick boards, pull buoys etc. to limit sharing equipment provided by the rec center.”

When it comes to actual work in the pool, the schedule is fairly routine for the 2020 team members.

“Our practices run 45 minutes for the first session and an hour for our second group. We typically start with a warm-up set, followed by drill technique or speed work and close with a cool down,” Betzelberger said.

While the practice schedule has been anything but normal this season, the swim team provides an opportunity for young athletes to compete in a team environment, even with the additional safety measures in place.

Like many other teams, the participation has dropped off in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“Our numbers have definitely taken a dip compared to previous seasons. Last year we had roughly 65 swimmers on the team. We have less than half of that participating this summer,” Betzelberger said.

Another major change due to the lack of organized meets with area teams is the lack of simulating the meet environment in a mock meet or time trial.

“In a typical season, we would have a mock meet or time trials meet within the team to familiarize our new swimmers with how a meet will run, to test equipment and establish times for lane assignments prior to our first dual meet. Since there are no competitions this summer, we really haven’t had the need for this type of meet. However, we still have a couple weeks left and we may have something in the works for a fun intersquad meet depending on practice participation,” Betzelberger said.

One major component of the Sharks' organization is the participation of former swimmers who return to the team as assistant coaches who help conduct practice and teach the newer members of the team proper technique.

“Sarah Maybee, Travis Arnold and Grace Weaver are our assistant coaches this season. All three are veteran Shark swimmers and have been a tremendous help in planning workouts, leading practices, working with our beginners and providing one on one instruction with stroke refinement,” Betzelberger said.

With so many absences of “normal life” these days, the Sharks continue to workout in the pool and carry on life as normal within the confines of the current pandemic and social distancing guidelines.

For now, the plan is to carry on the schedule through the remainder of summer, even with the lack of organized competition.

“We will basically continue with practices through the middle of July and close our summer season uneventfully, unfortunately. It is a rather anticlimactic summer season this year for our swimmers,” Betzelberger said.