YMCA sports camps operate safely through the summer

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By Akshita Joshi, Assistant Sports Editor While packing their bags for summer camp, students would have never expected to bring masks and hand sanitizer along with swim caps and tennis rackets.  Despite taking necessary precautions and following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, many YMCA sports programs’ campers were still able to have a...

By Akshita Joshi, Assistant Sports Editor

While packing their bags for summer camp, students would have never expected to bring masks and hand sanitizer along with swim caps and tennis rackets.  Despite taking necessary precautions and following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, many YMCA sports programs’ campers were still able to have a fruitful experience.

      Sophomores Aaron Sun and Hemanth Kolluri were student coaches at YMCA’s tennis camps this summer. The two have attended the camps since they were young, and this year were given the opportunity to serve as student coaches for the first time by the  tennis department, after witnessing their years of dedication and experience.

“There was nothing to not like about the camp because all of the players and staff were there due to their love for the sport. I think this goes for everyone, since quarantine has confined us to our homes, and getting outside and brushing away the rust on your game is a really great feeling,” Kolluri said.

Tennis is a low-contact sport, which allows it to continue during the pandemic. The YMCA made sure all of the campers had masks on while entering and leaving the tennis facility and checked every camper’s temperature upon arrival. However, the campers did not wear masks during the actual practices and games on court.

Hence, to limit physical contact,  the camp was broken up into several small groups with a maximum of nine campers per group. The program also removed doubles matches from the program to ensure they were following social distancing measures. Having only one player on each side of the court guaranteed that the distance between campers was more than six feet at all times.

The student coaches were in charge of helping younger campers with their technique. Because of social distancing guidelines, however, student coaches could not teach campers by physically guiding their swings.

“Since we can’t guide them physically, we have to guide them verbally. Usually campers learn faster in a hands-on experience, but when coaches can only motion and tell them what to do, they take a longer time understanding what the coaches want them to do,” Sun said.

With prior years of experience, senior Andy Mei was able to share the differences between past years and this year of coaching. This was his fourth year as a student coach and his eighth year of playing competitive tennis.

      While the situation was not ideal, Mei noticed that there was a certain benefit due to the extra protocol being enforced. Groups were smaller than previous years, optimizing performance for many campers since coaches were able to focus on more campers individually.

“Obviously I didn’t love the situation, but I would say there was a more organized system than previous years at the YMCA,” Mei said.

  The YMCA swim facility also continued its annual program this summer. To ensure the swimmers’ safety, the YMCA took the same protocol as tennis camps upon entering the building; required all participants to wear masks and maintain a 6 foot distance between each other upon arrival and on the pool deck at all times. Before, this practice was not possible as each lane had 10 or more swimmers. This year, however, the team was split up into groups of 25 per practice so each lane had four people at a time with two on each side.

      Junior Alyssa Totoro attended the YMCA swim program this summer. Totoro has been on the YMCA team for one year and has been swimming competitively for six years.

“The new YMCA rules were slightly difficult to get used to because we don’t get to pick our lanes to be with our friends, but I’m happy to do anything that lets me swim. I love going to practice where we listen to music, talk to our friends and work hard at something I love doing,” Totoro said.

Sophomore Sarah Park, who has been swimming for the Upper Main Line YMCA for 10 years, and her family were hesitant to go back to practices and meets. Her parents are still not ready for her to participate in indoor meets, but they have settled on the idea of socially-distanced outdoor meets and practices.

“My parents were definitely concerned for my safety, but they realized that the coaches were doing everything they can to keep us safe,” Park said. “For me, safety was definitely a concern, but I was confident in our coaches’ decision to bring us back, and I think all the coaches and staff at the YMCA have done a great job in making sure everyone was safe.”

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