The opinions of this article reflect the feelings of its author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SwimSwam nor its owners.
Courtesy: Donna Hale
How long will many of our student-athletes suffer because our nation mismanaged a pandemic? How many will be robbed of the dreams they worked their whole lives for because we cannot figure this out. I know the virus is serious and even deadly, but so is our willingness to throw in the towel. To quote John Lewis, it is long past time we made “Good Trouble.” If we don’t share our collective voices the consequences for so many will be tragic.
Look at what is happening already. Swimming programs rich in history are announcing closure. And don’t think we are likely done. Just today another D1 program is gone. Enough! It’s just become too easy for schools to do this in all sports.
Again this is in no way intended to minimize the seriousness of the coronavirus. But, we should be figuring out how we live with this new reality instead of hiding in the locker rooms. Many college sports can be played and safely compete with the right protocols in place. Cancel is not the right answer for everything we treasure. Just because a high contact sport like football maybe cannot go on does not mean all sports disappear. Now I know this is going to make some of you angry. The deaths are tragic. But so is all we have lost.
Obviously we all care about the safety of athletes. But, why can we not figure this out without throwing in the towel? As I said, I know this will be controversial for many.
But the collegiate athletic experience is unique. It’s worth making “Good Trouble.” We owe it to the students to do what we can. Many have devoted their entire lives to their passion. If we let this season just go what are the real long-term consequences? They have sacrificed many hours, worked hard, and looked forward to their collegiate years. What is the cost to their mental health to have it taken away so easily? Yes, the things we are losing matter. The mental health of our student’s matters. Perhaps they deserve more voice in the choice. No one in any sport should be forced to compete. But maybe — just maybe – the athletes deserve a bigger voice and to make their own choices within reason. I do not envy any coach or conference. And I don’t know the answer but do believe we ought to ask all the questions. This is my plea: Let them swim if it can be safe. Even if it is different.
Testing, social distancing and strict protocols make sports like swimming, diving, and tennis possible. These are just examples. There are others.
Let’s make “Good Trouble.” Challenge the NCAA and conferences nationwide to figure it out now. Are we really planning now so they can compete in the spring or is this kicking the goggles down the road? We are getting good at that when it comes to this pandemic. Not only in sports but in all aspects of life. I understand the virus is serious. Do we really understand the choices we are making and what they mean? The mental health anguish? The lost opportunity? Even the very future of college athletics?
I will take the heat I know is coming because I believe in what I am writing. For a sport like swimming, the economic ramifications are huge. How many students will continue with their clubs if they don’t see signs we are trying? Will they just give up because it appears we have? Will more college programs disappear What about the industries that depend on swimming sales? This is about economic fallout as well as long-term consequences.
Will we lose more college and club teams? I am betting yes. And on it goes. It’s already bad enough. This means lost jobs. Will we lose all the progress we have made in drowning prevention because we are taking away opportunities to learn to swim?
I’m just a mom but have been around this sport long enough to spot the unintended consequences of no action. They are profoundly real. This is intended to be about what is possible.
Let’s get in some “good and necessary trouble” to protect not just our athlete’s health, but the pure joys and critical experiences that make a life. When will all we lose be too much to bear?
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 17 years.