Mike's Mailbag: Pool Hopping

Mike's Mailbag: Pool Hopping

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, September 24, 2018

Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com.


Dear Mike,


Last year my swim team was kicked out of our pool by the people that run it. It was devastating to our team, we lost over half of our swimmers and 90% of our coaching staff. Over the past year we have gained 4 amazing coaches that believe our team can survive. Also, we have been rebuilding an old pool. The renovations of the pool have taken longer than expected and our team has been "pool hopping" for more than half the year.

My group is now swimming 3-4 practices at a very old indoor pool which has awful air quality. About an hour into practice, the whole team is coughing, especially me since I've been sick. I’m not getting very good practices and my coach is frustrated with our lack of yardage. The situation my team is in is affecting my motivation as well as my friends’ motivation to go to practice. The times we have lane space at a local college pool are times we have a hard practice to make up for the bad and it is getting harder and harder to make intervals.

I love swimming but after a year of pool hopping and bad practices, I feel awful. Advice?

-Pool Hopper



Dear “Pool Hopper,”

You’ve heard the cliché, “If there’s a lane, there’s a chance”?

Well, that’s not always true.

Not all pools are equal. While some pools are very, very nice, those shallow, hot, moldy, unventilated pools cause real damage. I’ve trained in pools that were 88-degrees, had no ventilation, had floating rats and hot dogs in them, would cause a sinus infection after every practice, and were so chlorinated I had to get an inhaler just to breathe. These pools always made me feel bad about the sport, and sometimes made me sick.

I’m so sorry you’re stuck training in a bad pool, Pool Hopper. I’m sure training in these sub par environments affects your passion for the sport. It’s hard enough training 400 IM repeat sets before school; it’s even harder when you have to train against bad conditions, like bad air quality. (Is there a window or door you can open before practice?)

To put it bluntly: You really shouldn’t be training in these kinds of pools. In my opinion, when your entire team is coughing, something’s wrong with the pool environment. I’ve been in these kinds of environments before, and it definitely affected my health. Competitive swimming is not worth risking your health.

The real issue here is finding a pool you can swim in. Consider re-approaching your last pool, the pool you were kicked out of, with your new coaches. Come up with a game plan with those who run that pool and see what can be done. See if there is a path towards gaining access once more. Then, consider seeing if you can get more consistent time at the local college pool. Maybe there is another team that uses that college pool that you could partner with and split pool time with. Maybe there’s another time you can use that pool. I remember we used to practice very late at night some days. You may need to get creative.

Talk to your new coaches. Tell them how you and your teammates feel, and how you believe these pools you are training in not only affect your passion for the sport, but they also affect your overall health. The air quality issue is a real one, and it’s one that needs to be addressed. Talk to a parent or adult as well. A lot of times, parents just don’t know. They don’t know how bad some of these pool conditions are, and swimmers keep tolerating it because they believe it’s all part of the process. Some swimmers may even convince themselves that extreme coughing should be tolerated. It shouldn’t. You all should also talk to the facilities managers at these pools and let them know of these issues. Take them seriously. If you don’t speak up, no one will.

Bad pools can have long-lasting impact on your health and on your passion for the sport. Talk to people in charge, talk to parents, talk to facilities managers. Talk it out and come up with some kind of plan. Perhaps there’s another pool somewhere you can go to — a pool farther away, perhaps, but one that won’t make you cough.

I hope this helps.



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