Seattle Metropolitan Suspends Practice, Statewide Shutdown Issued In Washington

On Saturday we reported that three of the largest clubs in the United States — Nation’s Capital, Rockville Montgomery and Machine Aquatics — had all suspended group practices due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and now, the biggest club in the Pacific Northwest has followed suit.

The Seattle Metropolitan Aquatic Club announced the suspension of practices on Saturday in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The club, which had over 600 members at their high-point this season, had taken preventative measures leading up to this decision — such as telling families who live with high-risk persons they should suspend themselves from practice immediately — but ultimately they did what they deemed safest amid the uncertainty.

“These decisions aren’t made lightly, and we use the best information we have — including information directly from physicians working in hospitals as well as in the overall response efforts in the Seattle area — to inform these decisions,” said SMAC President Jim Hong in an email. “In this case, we felt that we have a responsibility not just to the membership, but also to the community at large. So, we made the decision prioritizing an abundance of caution that aligns with the overall public health message that social distancing is of paramount importance right now.”

Being such a large club, Hong wanted to set an example for others that have yet to suspend operations.

“I think as the largest club in PNS and one of the clubs at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s incumbent upon us to help lead the fight to ‘flatten the curve’,” Hong said. “We believe that the most important thing we can do is to slow the spread of the disease.”

On Monday morning, Washington governor Jay Inslee issued a statewide shutdown of bars, restaurants, and recreational and entertainment facilities, and put the limit on large gatherings to 50 people. The death toll in the state of Washington reached 42 on Sunday with 772 confirmed cases.

So if practices hadn’t been cancelled on the weekend, they would’ve been by Monday.

Sent by club head coach Ken Spencer, the note announcing the suspension of practice says that dryland workouts will be sent to the swimmers that they can do at home and that they’re “exploring things we can do to keep swimmers engaged with the team and each other online.”

You can read the full note below:

In the name of public health, we’re going to suspend practice immediately for at least the next two weeks with the understanding it could go longer.   Watching the kids interact at practice this morning, it’s become clear that even with low numbers at practice, it’s impossible to maintain the recommended social distance while in the lap lanes.  A huge motivating factor for swimmers at practice is to interact with their teammates and staying 3-6 feet away from each other isn’t realistic.

A few weeks off in your swimming career is a temporary diversion.  How many times have athletes been out of the water for several weeks due to an injury or family trip only to come back stronger?  Normally, we take a week-long break after the Swim-A-Thon to give both our coaches and athletes a well-earned rest. Many families take additional time off for their Spring Breaks as well, resulting in a couple of weeks off of practice. This year, moving this break up and extending it a little is appropriate given the COVID-19 outbreak.  Coaches will send out dryland workouts and suggestions for ways to improve out of the pool in the coming days.

Beyond swimming fast, we understand the social network the team provides is a huge part of many of our members lives and will be missed.  It’s really important to remember we’re doing this for a part of the population that’s not as resilient and safe from this threat as we are.  Great teammates do things for the bigger picture and a larger cause. We need to do that now.

We’ll reevaluate the situation in the coming weeks and determine if it’s safe and possible to resume practice.

We’ve moved the suspension date to March 27 for April swimming to give families time to make decisions moving forward.

We’ll follow up shortly with team policies on proration of Volunteer hours and other team administration, as well as swim a thon and other team events.

Coaches will follow on Monday with dryland workouts athletes can do at home for the week.  We’re exploring things we can do to keep swimmers engaged with the team and each other online.

Thank you for your support and patience on this.  We appreciate having all of you on the club.

The club’s first re-evaluation check-in will take place on March 27, but Hong fully expects practice to remain cancelled then. “The real question for me is looking for the ‘inflection point’ in the infection curve,” he said. “And even when the country has definitively reached that, it’s probably still weeks or maybe months before we go back to normal.”

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3 years ago

they are shutting down the areas where there are already several corona virus cases. Those areas will probably end up being impacted the most

The Underminer
3 years ago

Bellevue Club Swim Team (Winter Juniors West champions this season) also suspended practices. Why not report about them?

Reply to  The Underminer
3 years ago

Hi The Underminer, we’ve reached out to several large clubs around the country to learn more about their plans. Hopefully we’ll hear back from more soon and can proceed with more reports.

D Man
3 years ago

Endless pool in the backyard FTW

Coach, but I play an Epidemiologist in Real Life
3 years ago

There are almost certainly many, many teams still practicing because they believe that as long as the kids swim in properly treated water that they’ll be “safe”. Or because they heard that the disease isn’t so bad in kids. Or because their state doesn’t seem to have a lot of cases, so it’s probably fine. These people are all wrong.

Concerned Coach
3 years ago

New rules coming out everyday. Governor Inslee shut down youth sports in our area. I would get out in front of it. This virus replicates fast. We need to be leaders in protecting the athletes and their families from this. It’s hard to think past the impacts of not training but this is a lot bigger than swimming. People can spread the virus without symptoms. With the swimmers being so in shape their symptoms might not be be really bad but they can spread it to someone who can spread it to someone who will have a bad response. We all need to do our part. Be proactive with this and don’t wait until it directly affects you to do… Read more »

3 years ago

I swam today and am better for it. Didn’t touch or go near anybody and didn’t use the locker room. Please explain to me, you bunch of Einstein’s, why that is worse for the community than going to the grocery store……

Reply to  Gator
3 years ago

it mostly just looks wrong. You arent suppose to be doing fun recreational things when other people are dying. The grocery store would be a lot worse except people have to eat to live.

Reply to  Gator
3 years ago

I would really like someone to explain this too. Is it even possible to get it if you take these precautions?

I don't see virii, so they must not be there
Reply to  Virtus
3 years ago

If you can control your environment 100%, then you can reduce your chances of getting it by a lot. But no one can control their environment 100%. You have to go shopping or let people deliver things to you. You have to take things out to the trash. You have to accept packages and mail, etc. So if you go out to a pool facility, you have to interact with people and objects where you have virtually no knowledge of their viral state. Now, you can equate that to going to the grocery store if you want. But I imagine “having food to eat” falls higher in the “needs” hierarchy than “doing a pool workout”. But, if you think otherwise,… Read more »

3 years ago

If I have no cases in my area and are taking all precautions and not getting near anyone is it wrong for me to train still?

3 years ago

Seriously!? A team in Seattle is just now shutting down?

Record Keeper
Reply to  meeeee
3 years ago

They practice at Seattle University pool. I think it is because the school had to shut down all facility like other universities did.

Reply to  Record Keeper
3 years ago

SMAC practices out of at least a dozen different pools.

Reply to  Record Keeper
3 years ago

As a current SMAC coach this is absolutely untrue, Ken,our head coach decided the kids could not stay a safe distance apart at practice so the safest thing was to suspend practices.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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