After weeks of consultation and work with a variety of partners, Swimming Canada has made public the first version of its Return to Swimming Framework.
Health and safety are the top priorities outlined in the 22-page document, which was posted Friday to Swimming Canada’s COVID-19 Resource Hub: https://www.swimming.ca/en/resource-hub/
A 16-person Return to Swimming Working Group developed the document, with the goal of facilitating a safe return to the pool as soon as possible. Chaired by Operations Director Brian Edey, the group includes key staff, medical personnel, representatives from provincial organizations, the Canadian Swimming Coaches Association and Pan Am Games medallist Jeremy Bagshaw as athlete representative. A sub-committee of coaches from across the country have also been engaged to provide input.
The framework is intended to inform the resumption of competitive swimming in Canada and is meant as a resource for all levels of the sport. It contains a number of recommendations to equip health authorities, aquatic facilities, provincial sections, clubs and coaches in their roles leading a safe return to swimming. Swimming Canada has worked with its Aquatics Canada partners Canada Artistic Swimming, Diving Canada and Water Polo Canada on this initiative. Swimming Canada is also communicating directly with its partners at major recreation facilities, as well as with the Lifesaving Society, which sets the standard for lifeguard performance in Canada.
“Stepping away from the pool has been difficult but the efforts of all Canadians, including our athletes, coaches, and administrators, have played an important role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi. “Sport has the power to reunite and heal a nation. While we are all anxious to see our swimmers back in the water, we have a collective responsibility to ensure a safe return to the pool. We need to be creative and flexible as we re-imagine what that looks like for our sport. This framework is based on the best information available to begin doing that.”
Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson is a member of the group, as well as the National COVID-19 Return to High Performance Sport Task Force coordinated by Own the Podium. The recommendations of both groups will complement each other, with health and safety as the top priorities. Step 1 will focus on small, controlled groups returning to the water with a variety of adaptions around health monitoring, physical distancing, hygiene, equipment use, and entry/departure points and pathways.
“This is a Canadian-made plan to show the way forward to return to swimming training. Our top athletes will have the responsibility of being the first groups back in the water, leading the implementation of the best practices to maintain health and safety. It will not happen overnight. With a successful implementation of step one, we ask other groups to show patience so they can be part of a sustainable return that leads to steps two and three and so on,” Atkinson said. “The next step in the return to swimming will be each provincial section’s development of their return to sport plan. Once provincial section plans are in place, clubs can then complete development of their specific plans. We look forward to seeing a sustained return throughout Canada when the time is right from a health and safety perspective.”
The organization will continue to create and share resources as the situation develops, based on the best information available.