Coping with COVID
Whether it is video games, TikTok, or learning a new instrument, swimmers all over the country are trying to find ways to spend their novel free time.
As of March 17, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has urged a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 10 people in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In light of the situation, USA Swimming has canceled all events through May and the International Olympic Committee has postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Swimmers spend hours in the pool each day, before and after school. A question we frequently hear – what are you doing this weekend? – is typically answered with swimming. Due to coronavirus’s quick spread, everything in our lives have been cancelled – school, swimming, meets. What are we supposed to do with ourselves?
Jack Foley, a New Jersey and USA Swimming Convention Education Athlete Representative, has found running and video games to be a good way to fill his newly found free time.
Foley said his life hasn’t been normal since March. “It’s not the ideal situation,” he said. He hasn’t been able to swim or hang out with friends, and he has found himself lifting household objects rather than weights.
Morgan Thompson, like most swimmers, is used to swimming more than 6 hours per day. Thompson, a sophomore swimmer for the Mason Manta Rays in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been trying to find new ways to occupy her time.
Thompson, although very busy with online school, has spent her free time researching about different countries and cultures. “I am very passionate about traveling the world,” she says. She also enjoys spending time with family and baking new recipes.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson has even started a photography and videography account on Instagram. She has spent a lot of time conducting research and learning from the pros in preparation of being able to go out and film when it is safe again.
Like Thompson, Ashley Twichell, an Olympian from Westchester, New York, has also enjoyed baking new recipes in her free time.
For a mid-afternoon snack, she cooked herself a "piece of Dave’s killer bread toasted, spread with fresh avocado and sautéed spinach, topped with two over medium eggs, sliced fresh mozzarella, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes”
Twichell, while maintaining social distancing, of course, has been able to stay active throughout this extended break from swimming. She has been attempting to doing some type of dryland each day– whether that is core circuit, full-body workouts, or yoga. Like a true open water swimmer, Twichell has been able to get a few swims in at a nearby lake.
Twichell, who originally planned to retire after the 2020 Olympic Games, has now gained 12 more months of swimming. She calls it her “unexpected gift of another year of swimming.”
It is safe to say that all of us are ready to get back into the pool– no matter what competition level you swim at.
Thanks for reading! Please comment below, or feel free to email us, if you've been doing anything fun or interesting to make being isolated a little bit better. We would love to share your story!
Author: Matthew Rigsbee
Matthew Rigsbee is originally from the North Carolina Swimming LSC and has been an athlete rep for 4 years. He currently serves on the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations National Committee and attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Spotlight: Ceallach Gibbons
This week, we'll be turning the spotlight onto Ceallach Gibbons.
Ceallach Gibbons, a former athlete representative on the AEC, is continuing to give back, but in the form of coaching. Ceallach has been involved in the coaching world since she started teaching swim lessons in high school. Currently, she is the Assistant Age Group Coach with Rose Bowl Aquatics in Pasadena, CA. Additionally, she has coached high school swimming, Masters, and club swimming.
Ceallach’s transition to competitive coaching happened in college when she had the opportunity to train with the Harvard's Masters swim team during the summers between her college seasons. When the Masters program was looking for a new assistant head coach, Ceallach was hired into the position. It was this role as assistant head coach that made Ceallach realize she had a passion and a talent for coaching.
“Coaching forces you to question your own assumptions and knowledge constantly, it promotes continuous learning, and it challenges you to find a way to connect with people from vastly different backgrounds with drastically different learning styles. It's different every single day, and requires flexibility and an open mind.”
Ceallach’s favorite part about being a coach is watching her athletes develop confidence. She highlighted that her favorite part of swimming is its unique ability to develop athletes' life skills and confidence as a constant, ongoing practice. For her, seeing athletes navigate a challenge themselves, learning how to problem solve, or figuring out how to apply a skill from swimming to their life outside of the water is the most rewarding.
During her years as an athlete representative, those three skills also overlapped with coaching. Ceallach believes that coaching and being an athlete representative can be viewed in the same light. If an athlete representative was to consider coaching, Ceallach affirms that athletes already have the technical skills to do the job. Through her experiences with coaching, she has discovered that everything that she is sharing with her kids is from one of the many coaches she had growing up, or from other coaches who she has learned from.
“Take the mindset that you have as an athlete, somebody who wants to learn, somebody who wants to improve, somebody with goals and ambitions, and bring that with you to the pool deck as a coach. All of those things will make you better both in and out of the water.”
Ceallach also articulated that she thinks all athlete representatives should consider coaching, officiating, volunteering, or even supporting a swim team administratively. Even if the athlete doesn’t have the time to coach, they can contribute a few hours a week to the daily operations of a team.
“There are so many ways to give back to this sport.”
Author: Annie Kramer
Annie is originally from the Oklahoma LSC and has been an athlete rep for 3 years. She currently serves on the USA Swimming Membership and Registration Committee and the AEC Leadership Sub-Committee and swims for the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX.
In the midst of the global pandemic, we have had a lot of bad news and obstacles thrown at us. However, even through this unprecedented situation, so many of our Athlete Reps have been working above and beyond to help strengthen their local communities and support their constituent athletes.
In this article, we will be featuring some of our LSCs and Athlete Reps who are truly stepping up to address the COVID-19 pandemic. We are hoping to recognize those who are finding opportunities to build their leadership in the face of adversity. Let North Carolina and Georgia Swimming inspire you to build up the athletes around you, and to be better community members, too.
North Carolina Swimming
One of the biggest challenges governance leader's are facing currently is maintaining athlete engagement while out of the water. But, for North Carolina, this wasn’t just an obstacle - it was a goal.
Last month, NCS was able to gather nearly 20 coach-appointed athletes to call in to their first monthly meeting. On that call, the NCS Athlete Reps challenged their Committee members to reach out to a team that didn’t have a representative yet, and ask them to join. Since then, with very few repeats, NCS is reporting 64 members on their Athletes’ Committee - and almost every team in the LSC is now represented.
Senior Rep Piper Burton was happy to say that their “long term goal, as a committee, is to have three active and responding athletes from every team. So we are already ahead of the game!”
The LSC’s Athlete Reps are currently developing new positions and organizational systems to ensure that every member has opportunities for involvement in hopes to maximize the Committee’s ability to make positive impacts throughout NCS.
Keeping up athlete engagement will be a challenge that every LSC will face in the coming weeks and months, but North Carolina has shown that with drive, initiative, and some creativity, that this time out of the water doesn’t have to be a lull in engagement - instead, it can be an opportunity for incredible success.
Our world’s healthcare professionals have shown heroism these last few weeks and continue to fight the COVID-19 virus with tenacity and perseverance. Yet, their work is being hindered by the nationwide shortage of medical equipment, especially Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as face masks and scrubs, designed to keep medical professionals safe while treating ill patients.
Georgia Swimming found an opportunity to help those on the front lines against the coronavirus. Emory Healthcare, one of the state’s largest hospitals, approved the use of swim goggles as a backup eye-protection device to be used if standard PPE was no longer available.
Knowing this, the Georgia Athlete Reps wasted no time in organizing a goggle collection drive, asking those who were able to collect swim goggles and donate them to Emory Healthcare’s professionals. Senior Rep Sarah-Grace Thompson estimates that over 200 pairs were donated to this hospital, and will continue to help to treat victims of the virus!
Opportunities for service and outreach are more important now than ever before. When safe and available, do your best to help your communities, thank and assist medical caregivers spending countless hours in hospitals, and promote attitudes of community and solidarity amongst your athlete community.
Thanks for reading! Please comment below, or feel free to email us, if you, or your LSC, has a story surrounding being resilient during the Coronavirus outbreak. We would love to share your story!
Author: Ryan Gibbons
Ryan Gibbons is originally from the Florida Swimming LSC and has been an athlete rep for 2 years. He currently serves on the USA Swimming Safe Sport National Committee, the AEC Leadership Sub-Committee, and as the Southern Zone Jr. Athlete Rep. He will swim in the fall for Emory University in Atlanta, GA.
Spotlight: Patrick Hunter
In this article, we turn the spotlight onto Patrick Hunter from the New England LSC.
Patrick Hunter began swimming at age 11 in Minnesota. Although he was never the fastest person in the water, he enjoyed the comradery and commitment swimming brought to his life. While specializing in the 100/200 breaststroke and 200 IM, Patrick also gained a strong interest in the different aspects of a meet - from the officials, computer system, and meet management.
His interest in the “dry side of the sport” led him to become a Minnesota Athlete Representative that served on the LSC’s Technical Planning Committee. This role connected him to LSC Officials' Chair, Bruce Green, who introduced him to the world of officiating. From there, Patrick became certified as an Administrative Official, Stroke & Turn Judge, Chief Judge, Starter, Deck Referee, and Administrative Referee.
When studying at Boston College, Patrick served as the swim team’s manager, where he handled team operations, travel logistics, and swimming statistics. During this time, he continued to serve as an official at various meets. Locally, he spent many weekends at swim meets, but through hard work and experience, he was able to serve at higher level meets such as Sectionals and Pro Swim Series. Although officiating at high level meets did not happen overnight, Patrick used USA Swimming resources, such as their mentorship program, and online education to further his skills.
Patrick encourages athlete representatives to consider officiating, as he strongly believes that former swimmers make the best officials.
“Swimmers truly get it - we know what a 200 breaststroke feels like, we know what it feels like to dive off a starting block, and we understand the anxiety and pressure that leads up to a big meet or big race…we can work together to make that experience the best it can possibly be for the athletes of USA Swimming.”
A proud member of New England Swimming, Patrick currently resides in Boston where he works as a staff auditor in the Commercial Assurance practice of Ernst & Young. He is a 2019 graduate of Boston College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in management with concentrations in accounting and finance. Patrick continues to volunteer his weekends at local LSC meets, and also travels to national meets, such as US Open, Nationals, and Junior Nationals, to officiate.
Author: Janelle Nguyen
Janelle Nguyen is originally from the Southern California Swimming LSC and has been an athlete rep for over 10 years. She currently serves as the AEC Programming & Events Chair and swam at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She currently attends graduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA.
Athlete Rep Success Stories
As an extension of the section written in the Athlete Representative Guidebook, we would love to create a space where you can share the projects that have been successful in your LSC.
These are the ones showcased so far that have to do with Leadership Summits across the country.
MARIA DAVILA • SD IMPERIAL
Maria Davila and San Diego Imperial Swimming held its inaugural Athlete Leadership Summit in August 2018.
“The Summit was successful mainly because we had committed athletes on the task force putting it together, as well as LSC Board members and coaches who were excited to fulfill the vision for this event… Athlete attendees were very impacted in the leadership skills they gained through this Summit, and took what they learned and applied it to running for and being elected as LSC Athlete Representatives,” Maria said.
Using her skills from what Maria has learned in the time she was an LSC Athlete Rep, she became the chair for the task force of this event. While she was the chair, Maria encouraged effective communication and motivated those on the task force to get excited about putting on their LSC Summit and seeing it through.
“Athlete attendance at our board meetings increased by 50% and more athletes are actively seeking help from our Athlete Reps to get more involved in the LSC,” Maria said.
Maria’s driving factor behind working hard to plan an event like this one was to encourage athletes to be leaders within their club teams and to encourage the San Diego Imperial Athletes to be a part of governance in swimming.
“Athletes often don’t realize that their voice plays a big role in how the sport is governed, and this is something that I wanted to change by encouraging our swimmers to be leaders not just within their clubs, but within the LSC and USA Swimming as a whole,” Maria said.
ANNIE NORRIS • GULF
Annie Noris and the Gulf LSC hosted a very successful first Athlete Retreat for their athletes’ committee in 2016. The “retreat served as a way to come together as a group for the first time, and start off with a strong basis of unity and leadership within our LSC.”
The time put into planning a successful event like this one is undeniably worth it when the event impacts an LSC in such a positive way.
“Our retreat was successful because around 15-20 teams were represented which had never been done before. It was really fun to finally interact with swimmers across our LSC. We did a lot of team bonding exercises and had speakers come to talk about leadership in our sport,” Annie said.
Planning and executing an event like this one certainly requires strong leadership skills, hard work, and motivation. “I definitely owe my ability to speak in public to being an athlete rep. I was able to build up a lot of confidence through the leadership skills I learned, and it helped me build up others around me. I think one of the best things you can do as a leader is to pass on your skills to others,” Annie said.
JACK SWANSON • MINNESOTA
AEC member, Jack Swanson, held a significant leadership role in planning USA Swimming's inaugural leadership summit in 2018. His “main focus was the broad focus of developing the vision of the Summit, and the specific goals” they wanted to accomplish.
When planning such a large event like this one, Jack expresses the importance of planning in advance.
“We had a list of goals that we wanted to accomplish, which included specific learning outcomes, as well as specific skills or traits we wanted participants to take back to their LSCs. These all came back to the broad goal of wanting to give athletes a toolbox of skills that they can use as leaders not only as LSC athlete reps, but throughout their lives. We used a survey immediately after every session and about 2 months after the event to ensure we were successful. Based on survey responses, for the most part, we were. Athletes came away with the skills and leadership traits we wanted them to,” Jack said.
At the conclusion of the event, Jack and everyone else involved with this event has seen countless positive impacts on USA Swimming.
“The main effect on USA Swimming I've seen is increased athlete participation and engagement. The past two years, we've had incredibly engaged groups of athlete reps at the Leadership Summits and Conventions. 16 of the participants in the 2018 Leadership Summit have served on National Committees and 3 have served on the AEC. For many, this was one of the first opportunities for national-level leadership in USA Swimming,” Jack said.
Your Success Story doesn't have to be about a leadership summit! Comment anything from big volunteer projects you've lead, to small events you've been a part of.
Author: Annie Norris
Annie is originally from the Gulf LSC and has been an athlete rep for 5 years. She currently serves as the Southern Zone Senior Rep and is an At-Large Member of the AEC. She also swims for Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.
A place where we can share stories to inspire others.