Michigan swim clubs in limbo as pandemic limits access to indoor pools

Most pool club teams practicing in Michigan located inside closed high schools

Swim clubs in limbo as pandemic limits access to indoor pools
Swim clubs in limbo as pandemic limits access to indoor pools

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – Swimming is one of the safest athletic activities during the pandemic, but some who practice the sport feel stuck.

That is because many indoor pools housed inside schools are closed. This situation has some local swim clubs left with very few options.

While girls high school swimming just wrapped up, Michigan club teams swim all year round. That has been a challenge for one senior at Cranbrook Schools who has her sights set on the Olympics.

Justine Murdock who swims for Atlantis swimming club never thought she would have trouble finding a place to practice.

“And it’s hard because swimming is one of those sports that you really need to be practicing all the time like you take a couple days off and I automatically can feel the difference in the water,” said Murdock.

It has been a strange year of going from one pool to the next to try and gear up for the biggest race of her life, the Olympic trials in June.

“We are trying to figure it out so there will be changes all the time...I might not be getting home at 10 p.m. at night. It is what it is. I’m able to be in a pool and that’s all I can really ask for,” said Murdock.

Her coach says swim practice is safe and socially distant but the problem is most pool club teams that practice in Michigan are in high schools which have been closed.

“We haven’t really built a ton of aquatic centers and specifically 50 metre long course aquatic centers, so that, that way we can help our kids that have Olympic goals and introduce kids to really what an Olympic pool is,” said Johnny Austermann, head coach of the Atlantis swimming club.

Murdock and her teammates consider themselves lucky to have a somewhat consistent practice schedule for now at other local high schools, but her coach believes the pandemic has shown that Michigan is in need of more aquatic centers to produce additional Olympic talent.

“We’re fortunate because we were one of 30 percent of the clubs in Michigan to actually get some swimming time through the whole summer and up until now. But a lot of clubs are hurting because they’re just getting into the water,” said Austermann.

But Murdock isn’t going to let this weigh her down. This year has helped her train even harder.

“I think that whole experience has allowed me to kind of grow into this mentality. A little more of taking every swim and every practice as it comes in really working in that practice because it could be the last practice before we could be shutdown again,” said Murdock.

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You can watch Kim on the morning newscast weekdays from 4:30 to 7 a.m., and frequently doing reports on the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.