“There is, logistically, a lot of changes.”
Although swimming and diving head coach Derek Sapp is describing the recent adjustments he and his men’s and women’s programs have had to make, this is the lifestyle everyone is living under COVID-19: adapting to an everchanging, unknown world on the fly.
Despite the inability to meet in person as a team since March, Sapp and his student-athletes have had to adjust to training and communication immensely. Although there may be a lack of resources in this current era, both programs stuck to simplicities to continue their progression in the pool.
“The big thing we kept reinforcing at home was just to stay active,” Sapp said. “Some of them had access to pools with their club teams, other ones had access to different dryland equipment, whether it was med balls or different things like that at home. The big thing was staying active, even if it was getting up and going for walks.”
Lack of equipment may have been a difficulty for some of the swimmers, but the pandemic has strengthened the relationships of the teams, especially with veterans and younger athletes.
“They have had different group chats going on throughout the summer, which was good because in a lot of cases they got to know the incoming freshman a lot better than they would have under normal circumstances,” Sapp said. “It was a different avenue, but whether it was a Zoom call or group chats, I feel they did a really good job getting to know them before they got onto campus.”
Even though the programs are “in flux” as Sapp considers the situation with scheduled meets in the winter, he said he is thrilled with those new faces entering the locker room in the Richie Regan Recreation and Athletic Center.
He said he is not only very excited about the men’s and women’s classes—both of which have a lot of talent—but also about the people who are returning and “how we were able to end our season in the Big East and really build on that.”
Sapp said, “We were able to end on a really high note, where people are coming in with the attitude, and just overall, they are a really positive group. Every day in practice they are encouraging each other, which we have talked about a lot.”
He said he expects that leadership to continue, especially from the matured student-athletes, and they are leaning on the upper class in both teams, looking for sophomores on.
“Everyone who has been here at least a year, knows what to expect, knows what to understand,” he said. “Even though this year is different, a lot of the standards and expectations stay the same.”
As Sapp continues to guide the programs, he said he is also instructing himself on how to change in order to enable himself to be as effective as possible in his head coaching role.
“We have to be patient,” Sapp said. “As a coach, you cannot just look at the athletic performance, you have to look at the whole picture and understand the past five, six months. There are a lot of changes, a lot of different things going on that you may have to change your approach, whether it is what practice looks like on a daily basis or if it is how you are talking with people. Being flexible and understanding things can change at any time, and you have to be able to adapt.”
Robert Fallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.