By: Maggie Phillips
“What do you have a taste for today? How spicy do you want today to be?”
This is a question the Cleveland State University Men’s & Women’s Swimming & Diving Head Coach Hannah Burandt asks her swimmers before they enter the pool to start practice. While these words may not be what most athletes expect their coach to ask at the start of each day, they show the unconventional nature of this year’s swim season and Coach Burandt’s attitude toward the success of her swimmers.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CSU swim team had to make several major structural changes. These adjustments have prioritized the athletes’ safety, allowing them to have as normal of a swim season as possible.
The first major change came when the Horizon League postponed the swimming championships to April 8-10, which are usually held in February.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through pool water. Swimming is not considered high-risk contact because of the disinfectant power of chlorine and its by products. However, there is still a risk for disease spread outside the water, prompting the team to abide by several new safety protocols.
The swimmers have been training since the fall by abiding by these additional measures to prevent virus spread. One protocol was limiting the number of swimmers who can be in the pool during a practice session. Practices were limited to 2-3 people per lane, with only 4 people in the locker room at a time.
While this created enough of a challenge, CSU’s Robert F. Busbey Natatorium has been under renovation all season, forcing the team to find a new place to practice. In a time where pool availability is scarce, the team found space at a local recreation center, often with only four lanes at their disposal.
With limited pool times, lane availability, and capacity, many athletes can only swim a few times per week. Accustomed to 14-17 hours in the pool per week in previous years, they had to compensate with lifting, cycling, and yoga classes to stay in shape.
Luckily, the competition pool is expected to reopen by the end of the month. When asked about what she was looking forward to for the rest of the season, senior swimmer Irena Weclawiak seemed excited about the opportunity to swim in the pool again.
“With our big pool opening approaching, I can’t wait to work on starts off the blocks and to swim with people I haven’t practiced yet with… I’m [also] really excited for travel meets as a whole team, for the opportunity to see each other performing our best, and to cheer when we’re giving our 100% during a race.”
The team competed in its first meet against Notre Dame College last Thursday. More dual meets are scheduled throughout the next few weeks with the possibility of some being held at the Robert F. Busbey natatorium- once renovations are complete.
Recognizing the many struggles and alterations created by the pandemic, Coach Burandt has attempted to not only focus on the physical health of the swimmers but also their mental and emotional health. Asking each swimmer what they have a taste for is not simply an exercise to bring some levity into practice. It’s a chance for athletes to strengthen their technique by doing what feels good for them that day, which is especially important in a time when so much is out of their control.
“Swimming is obviously a physical sport, but it’s also a very mental sport. Any time we’re at the pool I want the swimmers happy; I want them feeling like they are glad they were able to swim that day and felt some kind of fulfillment,” says Burandt.
When asked about her expectations for the team, Coach Burandt holds a different mindset than many other coaches.
“We get to define what success is; it’s not dictated by a time, it’s not dictated by point, it’s not dictated by place… Even if we get shut down again, my hope is that the entire team is glad we did this. We were still successful because we took care of each other as people and learned to do stuff that’s tough and do it the right way.”