Academy Swim Club no longer left high and dry; others would like to follow

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Xochi Gervais completes a backstroke while swimming laps last week at the Kawamoto Swim Stadium, which has reopened for modified use.

Academy Swim Club’s Mark Noetzel has an idea to resume coronavirus-era competition in the pool – from a distance – and count Jon Hayashida as one fellow coach who would love to see the county take notice.

Academy resumed practice at Hawaii Prep’s Dowsett Pool in mid-June after, as USA Swimming suggested, it was able to meet state, county and school guidelines, such as limited participation and physical distancing. Noetzel said he’s had to turn kids away, especially since only one group of swimmers has been allowed to participate at a time.


The nature of lane swimming lends itself to social distancing, it’s outdoors and Noetzel pointed out that if proper chlorine levels are met “the pool is washing the kids.”

Practice is an essential component to all athletic endeavors, and Noetzel noted there were silver linings when the pool was closed. For one, coach and pupil looked at the big picture. But competition is what gets the blood flowing, and while the next swim meet is likely still a good ways off, Noetzel can envision clubs competing against each other from different locales.

“We’ve marked it out, you can line up the kids (in lanes) 1-8 and roll them through. Heat 1 and Heat 2, and the next one is 6 feet behind the block,” he said. “When swimmers are done they exit the other direction, rolling them through. You eliminate (personal) timing, and have just the automatic one, which is fine for this time of the year.

“You could get the kids thinking about a higher level of interest than practice. Maybe have them all swim the 50 freestyle and share the results on (the app) Meet Mobile. Next week, you try to beat that time, and swimmers from other clubs try to top it as well.”

The problem for Hayashida, coach of Hilo Aquatic Club, and the other Big Island clubs that utilize county pools is that while six of nine public facilities have been reopened islandwide for modified use, the sport was not among those green-lit for organized outdoor team practices under Mayor Harry Kim’s latest emergency rule in June.

“There is a way to do it,” Noetzel said, “and that’s what the county needs to hear. The crew that shows up values their swim time and they are going to do things the right way.”

Hayashida said he’s ready and willing to work with the county to make it happen. He’s the general chair of Hawaii Swimming, which has written letters to each of Hawaii’s county mayors and the governor, pointing out swimming’s classification as a “low-risk sport,” Hayashida said. USA Swimming’s guidelines focus primarily on social distancing and cleanliness, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says “there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through recreational water.”

He said swimming practices have resumed on Oahu and Maui.

Since the shutdown began in March, Hayahshida’s asked his swimmers to stay in shape with dry-land exercises, and some have headed to Carlsmith Beach Park for a good water workout. Some of his swimmers have taken advantage of the reopening of Kawamoto Swim Stadium to stay sharp on their own, but Hayashida’s ready for the group setting to resume.

“I’m looking forward to getting back in the water and getting back in a high positive attitude,” he said. “Because of the layoff, I think their work ethic will be higher than normal.

“They should be able to recover faster.”

After his club’s three-month layoff ended in June, Noetzel noticed pandemic positives as well.


“There is a silver lining in that you greatly appreciate what could be taken away for a long period of time,” he said. “Also, became USA Swimming eliminated all competitions, you get to sit and talk to your athletes more and work on things without the pressure of producing a certain result.

“You take a long-term look at their abilities and their strokes and how they cam develop.”

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