It’s become a rite of spring on Daniel Island.
Daniel Island Flying Fish members flock to one of the island’s pools for practice under the watchful eye of coach Rose Van Metre.
Some arrive via car. Some arrive by bike. And, some need a ride to practice because these members of this swimming family are 10 years away from getting their driver’s license.
But the local swimming season, which culminates with the City Meet in late summer, will not happen this year, another event that fell to the wayside because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s so disappointing,” said Van Metre, the team’s only head coach since the Flying Fish’s inception in 2004. “I don’t know how to put it into words. Being a parent, teacher and coach, I see kids and how social they are. Now, they are in this situation. It is so heart-breaking.
“The swim team is really family, and I’m going to miss it,” Van Metre added. “I’m going to miss them. You know you have to be safe and put everyone’s safety first. But, how do you explain that to a 6 year old?”
Van Metre teaches at Bishop England and also coaches the Bishops’ swimming teams. She’s been around the pool for most of her life, and realizes shutting down pools and swimming meets was the only choice.
“The pool deck can get a little crowded and crazy during a meet,” Van Metre said. “You have young children, teenagers, coaches, parents and grandparents there. That’s a lot of people, in all age groups, on a pool deck.”
While soccer players and football players need only an open field and a baseball player only needs a batting cage, swimmers still need water to practice and compete.
But there are ways swimmers can refine their skills without a drop of water.
Van Metre pointed out the benefits of swimming, which includes building endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. Swimming provides an all-over body workout, as most of an athlete’s muscles are used during swimming. And it’s a great way to relieve stress.
“Cross training is important in this situation,” she said. “There are activities you can do on land that builds endurance and builds the lungs. You can also work on technique out of the water. This can give you time to work on technique and become a better swimmer.”
Swimming provides a workout. It also develops friendships.
“That’s what I miss most, seeing the kids at the pool,” Van Metre said. “Usually, you get to see how much they’ve grown in nine months. You always look forward to that.”
Van Metre hopes the team can build esprit de corps this summer whether it be a get-together or, perhaps, a virtual meet. But safety will trump any plans.
Van Metre hopes the swimming season can return in 2021.
“I swam in the City Meet and my kids swam in it as well. It’s been a big part of the Charleston area for more than 50 years,” Van Metre said. “Every Tuesday and Thursday you could see the kids at the pools learning how to become better swimmers. They also learned life’s lessons. For us not to have it is sad. They won’t get those lessons they can use the rest of their lives.”