By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

Mac swim coach urges state to reopen pools

Photo courtesy Robert Porter##
The McMinnville Aquatic Center, seen here, has been without swimmers since March due to the state’s coronavirus regulations.
Photo courtesy Robert Porter## The McMinnville Aquatic Center, seen here, has been without swimmers since March due to the state’s coronavirus regulations.

Local swimmers feel left out.

Phase One of Oregon’s reopening of the economy included restaurants and bars, personal services, gyms and malls.

And yet, public swimming pools didn’t make the cut.

Murilo Martins, director and head coach of McMinnville Swim Club, takes umbrage with the state’s decision.

“When Phase One was announced, we coaches realized the state wasn’t fully educated on how safely we can use our pools. Now, coaches across the state are writing to their representatives - we’re asking for pools to re-open in Phase Two,” said Martins.

In response to Oregon’s decision regarding public pools, Martins is organizing his fellow swim club coaches across the state into a dedicated awareness campaign. He’s also turned to Twitter, using the hashtag #whygymsbutnotpools .

Martins urged any interested swimmers to use the hashtag today and help convince state officials that swim practices and lap swims differ from “pool parties.”

The entire membership of Oregon Swimming received a Tuesday message from Martins, detailing plans to raise concerns regarding public pools and their ability to safely reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roughly 6,500 members are hoping to earn Gov. Brown’s attention, and hopefully help Oregon’s leaders add public pools to the list of reopenings in Phase Two.

“We had a lot of individual action before, but not a focused approach,” noted Martins. “I’ve been working with Oregon Swimming to coordinate this campaign with coaches.”

Chief among Martins’ concerns is a lack of swim lessons preparing young people for the summer season. “Lessons are critical for kids’ safety,” he said.

Asked about the social media aspect of his campaign, Martins replied, “I’m not usually a big social media guy, but it’s important to help raise attention for the issue. When big gyms were allowed to reopen, people were upset. We can’t compete with them financially, but we can organize over 5,000 people with our hashtag effort.”

Martins does believe the Mac Aquatic Center can be made safe and limit the spread of COVID-19. He’s been in contact with McMinnville Parks and Recreation, and says the flow of the building itself can help create social distancing.

He added, “We’re capable of changing the way people swim to make it safer. Only one person per lane, and our techniques are focused on breathing away from fellow swimmers. We want limited practices – no long sessions. But even 20 minutes is long enough to give kids lessons.”

Mac Swim Club athletes would also adhere to social distancing, Martins said, by avoiding the locker rooms and arriving with swim gear already on.

Local swimmers Kristi Heiser and Tim McDaniel are hopeful Martins’ effort results in Oregon reopening public pools.

McDaniel, a Mac High and Oregon State University swimming alum, certainly misses his favorite pastime and form of exercise.

“I’ve never had to go without swimming in 50 years. It’s aggravating when you can’t get in the pool,” he said.

Without a regular source of fitness, McDaniel said he’s “falling apart physically without the cardiovascular workout.” He routinely swam five miles a week prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The toll has yet to be realized. The body needs it,” said McDaniel.

Socially, McDaniel also longs to see his aquatic center friends again, after enjoying the camaraderie created with several fellow swimmers.

Like McDaniel, Heiser feels the absence of swimming fitness. With early signs of arthritis in her joints, she said her flexibility has plummeted.

“Swimming is a non-jarring activity, and it was really a great form of exercise. Without swimming, I’m sore all the time and walking is more painful,” she explained.

Heiser joined the Mac Aquatic Center four years ago, and has been a regular swimmer ever since. While she’s eager to resume aquatic activities, Heiser said the logistics of reopening public pools could prove problematic.

“I don’t know how they’ll work it out,” she said. “But I hope they can come up with an idea.”

Heiser added, “I’m willing to deal with any inconvenient rules to get back to swimming.”

CUTLINE

Comments

Writeitdown

Thank you, Mr. Martins! The physical and mental health benefits to the community this summer FAR outweigh the very small risk of people contracting the virus, especially with the safe practices put into place.

sw

Opening the pool to fewer people means that it may be more cost effective to keep the pool closed. The costs of maintaining a pool, doing all the work required to meet state regulations for fewer paying customers might be more of a strain on the Parks and Rec budget.