Swim teams across the United States have slowly started to make their way back to practice over the seven days, with Mission Viejo getting the ball rolling in California last Friday and several Florida clubs, including the Berkeley Barracudas, starting up this week.
The situation in Kentucky, however, is much more complex after Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack declared that all pools would be closed through to the end of June, at least, with it likely going through the entire summer.
“Pools aren’t really going to be considered until after June, but our state health official, he made a statement last week saying that he does not foresee pools at all being open this summer,” Amy Albiero, the general chair of Kentucky Swimming, told SwimSwam in a phone interview.
The following day, news came out that all pools in Lexington would be closed through the end of August.
“So that’s kind of what got everyone in Kentucky, at least from the USA Swimming side of things, really panicking,” said Albiero, as the LSC has three clubs in Lexington, and once those closures were implemented, it was bound to have a ripple effect.
“Once one city gets the ball rolling of closing things down it’s only a matter of time before it starts happening all over the state.”
What Albiero and the LSC have done is submit a proposal to the government, following USA Swimming’s facility reopening guidelines, on how they can operate safely during the pandemic.
“Kentucky Swimming worked really hard over the last week to put together a proposal using those USA Swimming recommendations and guidelines on behalf of all of our teams, kind of as a USA Swimming organization for our state,” she said. “We submitted that as an organization, and then are encouraging our clubs to go ahead and submit one for their individual clubs, with their facilities, what kind of facilities they run out of and that sort of thing.
“I believe Lakeside (Swim Club) has also submitted a proposal and Triton (Swimming) is very close to submitting one, if not already.”
In addition to being the general chair of Kentucky Swimming, Albiero is the owner of SwimLabs Swim School and the head coach of Cardinal Aquatics. She is married to University of Louisville head coach Arthur Albiero, and two of her kids — Nicolas and Gabi — will be entering their senior and freshman seasons, respectively, with the Cardinals in the fall.
The SwimLabs facility is a unique one, featuring three endless pools and a 15-yard lap pool, which would allow people to come in and train while remaining socially distant.
“There’s no other facility like it in the state and I want my facility to be looked at differently than your regular outside recreational pool,” she said. “But as of right now, pools are all being (put) under one umbrella, and that’s really what our plea to the government is, is to look at all of our facilities differently.”
For the first phase of reopening, the plan for the SafeSplash + SwimLabs Swim School facility would be to open it up to only competitive swimmers, with the ability to accommodate one swimmer per endless pool and two swimmers in the two-lane lap pool.
“Five people in the pool, we would rent it by 50 minutes, with a 10-minute buffer to change, get them out of the building and get the next group in, and then two staff.”
As for the rest of the state, Albiero’s proposal outlined that, no matter which facilities are reopened, they can safely operate no matter where they are.
“My proposal to the government was, yes with the facility but also separate from the facility, just as an organization if we can have the approval to train anywhere in an open pool, here’s how we would operate,” she said. “So I wanted to not just be dependent on the facility.
“I’m willing to work with a different facility, but I want to give the government a general understanding of, regardless of where we’re allowed to train, here are the operating procedures that we will operate under. So as of right now, we don’t know anything about the University of Louisville (where Cardinal Aquatics trains), which obviously for our highest level athletes, some of our National Team members, we want to try and get them out, get them training. A lot of them train at the U of L pool. We’re just trying to get a facility open, period.”
As of Wednesday, Albiero hadn’t heard back from the government on her proposal.
“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is to educate the people who are making these decisions, because we do understand that not everybody knows what USA Swimming is or how we operate and that sort of thing,” she said. “And we don’t know if the people making decisions on our behalf, how educated they are about our sport. And if all of their exposure is to swimming is what a summer recreational pool looks like, they’re not really making an educated decision for all facilities.
“We don’t want to be combative, this is all in the spirit of educating everyone making the decisions. Here’s who we are, we agree that safety is of utmost importance, and one of the things I’m reminding our government of is safety for the swimming community is always the number one priority. Not because of COVID, but 365 days a year we’re about keeping everyone safe. We also want to open our facilities and get our kids in there safely. We have a plan, we believe, to do that. And again, it’s just about educating who we are and how we can do it.”
In terms of the long-term plan for Kentucky Swimming over the next few months, a lot of different ideas have been floated around, including running virtually scored meets. If it becomes viable, offering some small in-state hosted meets would also be a goal.
“Our hope is that if we can get some facilities open, we don’t care if it’s short course, long course, 15 yards, we don’t care. We just want to get back to some extent, get our kids in the water, get our teams back in the pool.”