Emma Piascik ’21 has been swimming for over 10 years, but in order to stay connected with the sport during the pandemic, she had to get creative.
Amidst the craziness of the outbreak, Piascik reconnected with her former high school swimming coach and Lafayette graduate Bill Deatly ’81 in order to stay active during quarantine. Deatly has an impressive Lafayette résumé as a four-year letter winner on the Leopards’ swimming and diving team as well as serving as team captain for the 1979-80 season. Piascik is currently in her fourth year on the team as a breaststroke and individual medley specialist.
With indoor pools closed and resources limited, Piascik reached out to Deatly to see if she could join his coaching staff. He said yes.
Deatly and Piascik combined forces in May to coach swimmers in Livingston and Morristown, N.J. Deatly is one of the four founding head coaches of Scarlet Aquatics in New Jersey and has been coaching there for over two and a half decades. The team boasts four nationally competitive divisions.
But with restricted indoor pool access for a sport that can’t be done with masks on, how could these athletes continue to train?
Deatly had a few ideas. First, he created a model that allows his swimmers to train outdoors while following Covid-19 safety guidelines. Outdoor pools allow for the swimmers to keep proper social distancing while enabling them to maintain their practice schedules and goals.
“A lot of teams in the New Jersey area had to downsize and cut back the number of swimmers they have on their team due to the Covid-19 restrictions on indoor training,” Piascik said. “But Scarlet Nation has been able to keep every swimmer on the team because Coach Deatly found an outdoor pool which allows for the entire team to be present without violating Covid-19 safety guidelines.”
Swimmers are then divided into smaller sub-division groups to further allow for social distancing. In order to ensure the swimmers’ safety, temperature checks are taken prior to practice and masks are worn outside of the pool.
“The first outdoor pool was great for the summer months,” Piascik said, “but when the temperatures started to dip as fall approached, we needed to find an outdoor heated pool.”
Deatly quickly secured an outdoor heated pool and purchased solar blankets in order to maintain a consistent 82-degree water temperature. Solar blankets are pool covers that help the water retain heat at night despite cooler weather.
“Deatly has seamlessly transitioned the positive motivational swimming environment from the indoor to outdoor pool,” Piascik said, noting that the training also gives swimmers an opportunity to socialize and make friends while adhering to social distancing requirements.
Despite the strict pandemic safety measures, the two Leopards united to keep the swimmers in the pool and establish a routine.
“Being a member of the Lafayette community definitely makes you an outside of the box thinker, someone who is always looking for a solution even in a challenging situation,” Piascik said. “So, I think we’ve been able to work well together as a result of that.”