As for everyone else, it’s been a long 6 months since March when the world locked down. Back then, almost overnight, everything changed. Our club swimmers went from competing in galas and training up to 5 times a week to nothing. From being super fit athletes to having to find ways to safely do an hour of exercise a day.
Even tougher was the uncertainty about when and how things would resume. That’s hard for us to deal with as adults navigating the world. Imagine how the kids felt. Suddenly they were faced with an obstacle that Mum, Dad or another adult couldn’t overcome.
But we’re back! In the last week of August, the Leisure Centre welcomed back Cranleigh Swimming Club. The collective sighs of relief were audible. The anticipation and excitement of our swimmers were palpable. More than anything, we were delighted to be back in the water.
It has felt like a long time coming, watching society open up as restrictions relaxed. Other sports began in July, but still, pools remained shut. Then once they started opening, logistics meant the return couldn’t be immediate. Paddling pools and open water swimming have partially filled the gaps. But for our club swimmers, nothing is the same as being in the pool, training with their teammates.
Behind the scenes the return has taken a mammoth effort. Amongst our wonderful community of parents, a Covid sub-committee was formed. Their job was to ensure than once we were back in the pool, swimmers, coaches, parents and anyone else in the leisure centre remained safe. Since July they have been planning for that return. Numerous meetings, risk assessments, detailed communications. Working with the Leisure Centre to ensure our plans coordinated with theirs. It’s been a lot. Add into that, the significant teams of parent volunteers that we need to manage safety at every session. So many people have stepped up to the plate. A real community effort.
Has it been worth it? Just turn up at the Leisure Centre and see the happy faces of the swimmers leaving the pool and make your own mind up! They may be emerging still wet, with only a thin layer on top of wet swimming costumes to return home in. But to them, details like that are worth the sacrifice to be back in the water.
Two particular people in the CASC community need special mentions. Firstly, Tom Shimell. Tom agreed to take on the role of Welfare Secretary early in the year before Covid was on anyone’s horizon. Anyone taking on a position on the CASC committee makes a big commitment. It is always appreciated. But agreeing to help the club, Tom had no idea of the extraordinary work the role would entail this year. And he has taken it all within his stride, managing the club’s response with fantastic effect.
The second mention goes to our Head Coach, David Whorlow. David works for the club to coach swimming. But even in normal circumstances, he always does so much more. His efforts in this crisis have been huge. Almost single-handedly, David has put together a plan to optimise our swimmers’ time in the water. Making sure that all squads get the right proportion of training time, and no-one loses too much. Add in the two lost training days a week due to not yet having Cranleigh School’s pool available. And then constrain further by ensuring swimmers adhere to social distancing guidelines in the lanes. And different squads arriving and leaving safely, with adequate time for cleaning.
The testament to David’s solution is that it has just worked. The return has been incredibly smooth, with few points of friction. It makes David a strong candidate to solve the many problems that the government is struggling with right now!
So, we delight in our swimmers being back in the pool again. Of course, it isn’t quite the same. There are varying levels of fitness as different swimmers have been able to do different amounts. There are no competitions. But they are swimming. And to so many of them, that is all that counts.
As a club, we are also pleased that very few of our swimmers chose not to return. We also had a healthy list of new swimmers, looking for a trial to join the club. Overall, we should emerge as a bigger group. There remains a lot of work to do to keep everyone safe and to overcome the financial obstacles of no competitions and reduced membership fees. But there is a collective determination to succeed and I am sure that we will.
Unfortunately, with the prevalence of Covid-19 on the rise again, no-one knows for how long we’ll be back in the water. We hope that the Leisure Centre can remain open as we go into autumn and winter. The alternatives for swimming at this time of year are reduced if not. Regardless, what we are sure of is that we won’t be taking our sessions for granted. We are so happy to be back doing what we were meant to be doing. Let’s hope it continues!