Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
One year ago, I wrote an article about why cities should support swim teams. One year later, due to the Coronavirus, most pools and teams across the country have closed temporarily. We are seeing pools reopening in a handful of states and there is hope that the swimming world will return. However, in my own town which depends on tourism for the bulk of our city’s income, we are facing a $50 million plus deficit. City council members are looking at all options to cut costs and the pool may be on the chopping block and be closed for good.
Not only are USA Swimming teams at risk throughout the country, but pools may go under as well. We’re fortunate in Southern California to have an LSC that is helping out clubs financially during this crisis. But if pools are shut down permanently, how do teams exist? How do we get funding for cities and counties to keep their pools open and operating? How do we convince local governments that keeping our pools open is life-saving for their residents?
In my years as a swim mom and Masters swimmer, I have gone to city hall more than once to express the importance of keeping the pool open or to gain support for our team. I’ve written letters pleading to keep the pool open when we’ve gone through downturns in the economy. Each time, we’ve been fortunate to keep the pool open. But this time, I’m not so sure. The crush of closing down the economy during this pandemic came swift and hard and cities are faced with tough decisions.
Here are three reasons why closing pools permanently will be detrimental to our communities:
Life and death.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death globally according to the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states “every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger.” Learn to swim programs are offered at most public pools. The service they provide literally saves lives. Without learning how to swim, children are at risk at backyard pools, lakes, oceans and any body of water.
Obesity in adults and children is at epidemic levels in our country. We’ve learned how dangerous obesity is during the COVID-19 crisis. Swimming is one of the best exercises because it works our hearts and lungs, is low impact and builds strength because of water’s resistance. Everyone, regardless of age can swim and improve their health — mentally and physically. A public pool promotes a healthy lifestyle which benefits everyone.
A public pool can offer a wide variety of activities for residents including summer leagues, competitive USA swimming, US Masters, water aerobics and water polo. Our city pool also is used for lifeguard training, scuba certification, lap swimming and as an activity for kids in summer camp. So many people’s lives are improved daily because of our pool.
What are your communities doing to ensure pools and teams stay afloat?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.