Letter to Governor Polis

Jackie Stiff

Dear Swimming Parents, Coaches, Swimmers and Friends of Swimming,

We have written the letter below and are asking all parents coaches etc to sign the letter via the jot form link.  We will send in the list of all signatures with the letter. We would love to have over 10,000 Coloradoans to sign this letter.  

LINK to sign


Dear Governor Polis:
We are writing to you collectively as the parents of the 8,000 competitive swimmers in Colorado.  Competitive swimming in Colorado falls under the direction of USA Swimming, which is itself a member of the United States Olympic Committee. Colorado has longstanding and strong ties to the sport of competitive swimming. Former Olympic swimmers, Missy Franklin, Amy Van Dyken, George DiCarlo & Clark Smith are Coloradans and future rising stars continue to train in Colorado pools. Twenty Colorado swimmers qualified for this year’s Olympic trials across twelve events and, as you know, Colorado is the home of the Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Paralympic resident team.  In short, swimming is a prominent sport in Colorado and is an essential part of the lives, if not the lives, of our children.
We understand that you are faced with leading the state through an extremely challenging time. We applaud your efforts and the care you have shown for the safety and livelihood of the citizens of Colorado.
We are thankful for the guidelines issued earlier this summer that allowed the outdoor pools to open under restrictions. We recognize the need for those restrictions but believe that, given the empirical evidence, the current guidelines are unnecessarily restrictive. We respectfully request a uniform statewide policy to allow competitive swimmers equitable access to practice facilities moving forward. The current swimming landscape in Colorado lacks uniformity. Some counties have obtained variances that allow more swimmers in the pool at a given time than other counties, such as Denver, who have indicated they will not apply for variances. Some teams are not even back in the water because their practice facilities remain closed. At the moment, swimmers across the state have different levels of access to water and training, depending on where their pools are located, and many are at a competitive disadvantage. Moreover, with the recent uptick in cases and the increased focus on the fall and what schools will do, we have begun to question what the future will hold for competitive swimming in Colorado.
This fall, competitive swim practices must move exclusively indoors.  Almost no teams in Colorado own their own pools. Most teams depend on access to pools located in rec centers, high schools, and gyms to conduct practice and survive.   We are concerned that teams may not have access to such indoor pools for training should the state impose additional restrictions that fail to differentiate competitive swimming from recreational pool activities. The possibility of returning to a situation where competitive swimmers do not have access to water is anxiety provoking for these committed young athletes.  Swim practice is essential to the physical and mental health of Colorado competitive swimmers and such practices can be conducted in a safe manner consistent with social distancing and other public health guidelines.  As discussed below, many compelling reasons support this approach.
First, it is worth recapping the science on the safety of competitive swimming.  According to the CDC, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through properly maintained and disinfected pool water.  The CDC recommends additional protective measures of social distancing and good hand hygiene for pool patrons.  Moreover, organizations such as CHSAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) have identified competitive swimming as a “low-risk” sport.  Competitive swimming is a no contact sport, there is no shared equipment, and practice is a highly structured and organized activity with athletes under direct coach supervision at all times in accordance with recognized safety protocols. Competitive swimming in the COVID era is even more regulated. Since you allowed Colorado pools to open with capacity limits, swim teams have been practicing in a limited way under strict written protocols, guidelines and diagrams that limit the number of swimmers, ensure social distancing, and contain numerous safety precautions. These protocols are based on guidance from USA Swimming, whose leaders have worked with experts across the country, including CDC and NIH personnel, to provide guidance to teams about how to resume activity.  And the protocols are working.  To date, there have been no reported cases of COVID among Colorado’s competitive swimmers and no outbreaks at team practice facilities.
Having survived the initial shut down, the Colorado competitive swimming community is determined to take whatever precautions are necessary to ensure we do not go back to that dark place. Our swimmers and coaches are highly motivated, disciplined, and passionate about the sport and will do whatever is required to have consistent access to water. We understand your concern about what happens before and after practice. Our parents will stay away from the pool deck. We will stagger entry and exit from the pool facility and do everything within our power to limit any type of congregation. Our request is that you consider competitive swim practice to be among the most safe and essential activities that a Coloradan can engage in as you develop future executive orders and restrictions. Specifically, we suggest a statewide uniform guidance for the sport of competitive swimming in Colorado.  We request indoor/outdoor pools be removed from the “gym” classification in Colorado Public Health Order and Recreation Guidance and be evaluated/defined in their own definition based on the low risk factors specifically associated with a chlorine based aquatic environment. We ask that you remove the 50-person capacity limit for indoor/outdoor pools and create a capacity limit based on square footage (28 sq. ft. per person) that is more reflective of facility size. Lastly, we request that you identify competitive swimming as a low risk activity.
Future restrictions that limit or restrict access to pools for competitive swim practice will be detrimental to the ability of our athletes to maintain their conditioning and perform at a high level whenever competitions resume.  In particular, high school rising juniors and seniors in our state who seek to swim and be competitive in college need to be able to train in Colorado.  Furthermore, restrictions that vary by county put swimmers in more stringent counties at a disadvantage.  Keeping our athletes out of the water or allowing them inconsistent access to pools across the state impedes their progress and puts them at a disadvantage in relation to swimmers in other more permissive counties, states, and countries.
Please rest assured that the safety and well-being of our children will be at the forefront of our community’s efforts. We understand that collaboration between athletes, coaches, public health officials and facility operators will be vital to the future use of aquatic training facilities in a consistent, responsible, and safe manner.  We are a community committed to doing things the right way with your support. The future viability of competitive swimming in Colorado truly is at stake. The parents, athletes, coaches, and other members of this community are standing by to assist you and your staff in any way to ensure the future viability of our sport. We look forward to the opportunity to collaborate and support your efforts as we collectively move forward. Thank you for your time, consideration, and tireless work during this unprecedented time.