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Coronavirus pandemic wipes out Central Maryland Swim League season

The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out a variety of popular summer activities, such as carnivals, vacations and weddings.

Youth sports have not been immune and swim leagues in Maryland have felt the sting. The Central Maryland Swim League, which includes seven teams from Carroll County, is among those whose seasons have been canceled.

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“We were really hoping there would be something that would allow us to have a swim league,” CMSL chair Tom Straehle said.

The Central Maryland Swim League’s board of directors called off the 2020 season effective May 14, according to the league’s website. A news release also stated that CMSL would not collect team dues for 2020 and seniors would be allowed to swim next season, a decision subject to league approval.

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“We looked at everything we had to do and get ready for the swim league and we said, you know, we’ve got to make a decision to tell the team to not spend any money, such as money for handbooks or awards and all that stuff,” said Straehle, also a member of the CMSL board. “We needed to let the rest of the league know that it didn’t look like it was going to happen.”

Straehle said the Central Maryland Swim League was among the last of the local swim leagues to cancel their season.

CMSL boasts 50 teams with about 3,000 swimmers, Straehle said. The season traditionally starts at the beginning of June and the championship meet is normally held the last Saturday in July.

The Straehle Invitational Swim Meet is also held near the end of the season and takes place at one of the CMSL clubs. The invitational took place at the Four Seasons Sports Complex in Hampstead for 14 years until Coppermine Fieldhouse announce plans to acquire the facility last August. Padonia Swim Club in Cockeysville was scheduled to host this year’s meet.

Carroll Aquatics, Freedom, North Carroll, Nottingham Swim Club, South Carroll Swim Club, Westminster Riding Club, and Westminster Swim Team are the Carroll County teams in the CMSL.

“It’s a great outlet for the kids, it’s a great social experience,” Straehle said. “It’s a great thing for the kids to do all summer, and they want to do it again next summer. There’s no question in my mind that as long as all the swim clubs make it through the season and make it through until next year with no problems, they’ll be back.”

USA Swimming released guidelines for facilities that planned to reopen in accordance with each state’s individual reopening plans. Straehle said the CMSL board of directors used these guidelines to make their decision. When swimming, athletes are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and avoid any physical contact with other swimmers. USA Swimming designed facility sample diagrams to safely promote social distancing for pools of difference sizes.

The first three displays show individual layouts for a 25-yard pool with six lanes to accommodate 12, 18, and 27 swimmers at a time. Another image shows a 50-meter, 10-lane for up to 60 swimmers at a time and how they should properly position themselves a safe distance from others. Swimmers are strongly recommended to maintain a safe distance when outside of the pool as well, and decks should be marked with 2-inch wide colored duct tape to provide clear directions of where people should stand.

“On a team of 100, how do you practice?” Straehle said. “How do you instruct the little ones who, quite often, you’re teaching them how to swim? There’s contact involved, so how do you do that 6 feet away? We also looked at the fact that we didn’t see social distancing being gone and we need a lot of parents to run a meet to even have a meet.”

Staffing pools could become a concern due to a shortage in lifeguards who were unable to receive their certifications amid the pandemic.

The American Red Cross created two new provisional online course offerings to provide flexibility for those who need required training and extended the certification process 120 days.

“I’ve been involved in this for a long time and I’ve never remembered a shortage in lifeguards,” Straehle said. “Normally there’s enough that there’s more than what you need, but you have to have the training and the training requires you to be in a pool with close contact.

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“Logistically, it just wasn’t going to work out this summer.”

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