Diving captain Caitlin Campbell ‘22 is just one of six divers on both the Fairfield University men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs, making her experience as a student-athlete all the more unique.
Had this season been operating normally, the swimmers and divers would have started competition in late September; but, due to the pandemic, the teams have faced unprecedented challenges since the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has canceled all competition for the fall season of 2020. Campbell mentioned that the athletes have still been working as effectively as possible, but they have had to overcome adversity along the way as they continue to battle through training hiatuses and COVID-19 scares.
As of Friday, Nov. 6, vice president of student life, Karen Donoghue, released a statement detailing a number of mitigation strategies that the University is taking to stop the spread of COVID-19, one of which includes pausing “all team training for the next 14 days with the exception of basketball.”
This takes the swimmers and divers up to the Thanksgiving break, leaving them to cope with alternative ways to workout until the pool and other training facilities open back up again. Campbell feels for her teammates, who play a sport which necessitates an environment that no other does at the University.
Facing their third 14-day break, the teams are trying their best to forge on.
“Consistency is essential in diving. Missing just a few days can set back progress for at least a week,” Campbell said. Nonetheless, the divers are doing their best to make the most out of their workouts where they do have access to the boards.
“Unfortunately, when our pool closed the only practice we could do was dryland and conditioning,” said Campbell. “We don’t have access to any other pools with diving boards in the area, so we just had to do our best to stay in shape.”
When practices were allowed to be held, they had to change drastically to respect COVID-19 safety protocol. With 53 total swimmers and divers, it is impossible to practice as a full group. Separate training groups have been set to ensure that the athletes can train with their teammates in a safe space.
Campbell noted that since the group of divers is already fairly small, not much has changed regarding her practices in terms of having to accommodate social distancing. On the other hand, swimmers have had to separate into smaller groups when they practice in the pool.
“One person starts at the shallow end wall, one starts in the middle of the pool near the flags, and the last one starts at the deep end wall,” said Campbell, explaining why it is still completely safe to practice in water.
Furthermore, the precautions they take are so safe that if one member of the team were to test positive, the rest would not need to be contact traced, according to Campbell. This is a testament to the fact that swimming and diving can be done safely and responsibly during a pandemic.
Diving is described by Campbell as both an individual and team sport. She detailed how, although they go to meets as a team, once they are tasked with climbing onto the diving board, it is up to the individual diver to perform.
“The hardest part about diving is getting past the mental aspect. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a new dive or one you’ve done a thousand times. You might know you can physically do the dive and you’ll be fine, but getting over the fear and mental aspect is the hard part,” Campbell shared.
Despite the fact that there is no clear answer as to when she and her teammates will be all together again, the diving captain still makes sure to set goals for herself.
“Because our season has been so unpredictable so far, my only goal as of right now is to compete in the MAAC Championships in February,” said Campbell, hopeful for the future.
As the reigning MAAC Champions for the third year running, the women’s swimming and diving team is looking to secure their fourth-straight ring. Hopefully they will get that opportunity at the 2021 MACC Men’s and Women’s Championships, as they are still scheduled to happen from Feb. 10-13.