While they are not able to be in the pool, Nose Creek Swim Association (NCSA) members are keeping fit and staying engaged by helping keep their neighbourhoods clean.
Following a challenge by coach Robin Loyola, NCSA athletes have taken it upon themselves to clean up garbage they find in their neighbourhoods and post photos of their full garbage bags on NCSA’s social media pages.
When out for a walk with her dog recently, Loyola said she noticed foot traffic had increased significantly and as the snow melted, more and more garbage appeared along the path. It occurred to her that, if everyone out for a walk picked up just five pieces of garbage, it would all be gone within a few days.
“After talking about it with my husband, who also coaches for NCSA, we thought we could challenge our NCSA family to do the same,” she said.
Loyola said the club has been challenging its athletes to support the community in various ways in 2020. Those Good Samaritan challenges – in honour of the swimming club’s 25th anniversary – began even before the pandemic struck, with swimmers visiting senior living facilities, reading to children at the Airdrie Public Library and carrying out other good deeds.
“We had swimmers visit the Luxstone Manor senior's residence and play games with them for an afternoon, and they also hosted an ice cream bar," Loyola said. “We had a family participate in the Airdrie Adopt-a-Family for Christmas, another swimmer volunteers at the Bethany tuck store and one coach provided an in-service for the Genesis Place lifeguards to help improve their swim technique for their mandatory distance swim test.”
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Now, with public health orders in place that bar groups from gathering, Loyola said the club’s focus has shifted.
“We had more projects, however, with the pandemic, everything we had planned went by the wayside,” she said.
Loyola said another coach, Linda Bruce, came up with the idea of having NCSA swimmers write letters to the city's seniors who are in isolation. She said the idea was well-received by the staff at Bethany Airdrie, and the swimmers are currently writing letters to be sent to the senior care facility in the near future.
“The most valuable thing you can give someone is time – it’s the one thing you can never get back,” Loyola said. “To have this opportunity, the silver lining of everything that is going on around us, is that time has slowed down for everyone.”
Along with helping out in the community, NCSA members are maintaining their training regimens throughout the pandemic. According to coach Alexx Diep, the club hosts live workouts on Zoom a few times a week and also provides the athletes a dryland training program they can do at home.
He said coaches also connect with swimmers on Zoom, to either go over their swimming technique or simply play games.
“We’ll play bingo or rock, paper, scissors – anything to keep their spirits going,” he said.
In addition to the physical training being offered, Diep said NCSA has facilitated presentations on Zoom for its athletes to continue their swimming education, featuring guest speakers like three-time Olympic swimmer Tom Ponting, University of Calgary head swimming coach Mike Blondal and performance physiologist Dr. Gregg Wells. Presentations have also been made by a collegiate swimming recruiter, a sports psychology specialist and a yoga teacher.
“Like everyone else during this time, we had to adapt, and we did,” Diep said. “It’s made staying at home a lot more interesting for the kids, and certainly we hope it’s more engaging than just doing homework and screen time. This way, it’s structured a lot more and we keep them busy.”
NCSA swimmers were less than two weeks out from the 2020 short-course provincial championships in March, when the spread of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of sporting events. More than 30 club members were set to compete, according to Diep.
“We had a lot of swimmers who were at the top of their age group, heading to provincials and who were going to do a killing, and potentially be selected for the Team Alberta],” he said. “That all got shut down, so these guys were hit pretty hard.”