College lack of transparency muddies pool saga

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Elora Becker/The Occidental

The reason I chose to join the swim team at Occidental was linked to promises of a new pool.

As a walk-on, I did not have a formal recruiting trip. Instead, our old swim coach, Steven Webb, called me one afternoon in April asking me to swim for Occidental. On the phone call, he made many enticing promises about why I should join his team. The biggest and most exciting one was a brand-new, state-of-the-art aquatics facility that would be open by the first day of swim season my sophomore year.

That didn’t happen. The issue is not just about convincing college administrators that Occidental needs a new pool. It’s about convincing them to be transparent with the swim and water polo teams about when the pool will actually be complete.

As I’m sure you can probably surmise, having a swimming pool is a key element to practicing and training throughout the season. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) swimming pool regulations, all collegiate pools suitable for competition must be 60 feet wide with eight 7-foot lanes. Taylor Pool only has six lanes; originally built in 1930, it remains one of the oldest collegiate competition pools still actively in use today for water polo and swimming. It’s clearly not in compliance with NCAA collegiate regulations.

As a result, Occidental’s administration has promised a beautiful new pool to swimmers and water polo players for generations. The school started construction in Fall 2017, and swimmers and water polo players — including myself — became ecstatic at the thought of a new pool.

Having a regulation-sized pool is critical not only for hosting swim meets and water polo matches but also for everyday practices. The current combined size of the men’s and women’s swim team is 44 swimmers and two divers.

Most Saturday mornings in the season, the swim team has one long practice that everyone attends. But this means that 44 swimmers are sharing just six lanes, putting seven athletes in five of the lanes and eight in the last one. As you can imagine, Saturday morning practices soon become chaotic and overcrowded. Instead of working on perfecting techniques and gliding through the water, swimmers are practicing in what feels like an open water environment. Having a new pool would allow the team to spread out and utilize these Saturday morning practices to their full potential.

Swimming is unlike other collegiate sports because our men’s and women’s teams practice together. The only other sport that mirrors our roster size and combined practices is the track and field team. Yet, unlike the swimming pool, the track was resurfaced last winter in preparation for track and field’s upcoming season.

Between the scandal with the donors of the pool and multiple rain delays, the construction of the new De Mandel Aquatic Center has not followed the intended schedule. The swim team was promised the new pool by the start of our season, with many tri-meets planned as a result of this incredible new complex. However, the administration has failed to follow through with its promises of a new pool this season. The most frustrating part about this entire endeavor is how long the school has postponed the new pool.

For me, the issue with the new De Mandel Aquatic Center is not the delay but the lack of transparency with the team. When I decided to walk on to the Occidental women’s swim team as a first year, I was told the new pool would be completed by the fall of my sophomore year. As a junior, I am disillusioned by any promised end dates due to the lack of clear communication between the administration and the athletes.

If the administration wants to regain the trust of the swim team, they must increase their transparency in regards to the pool: just tell us what’s going on. I understand why the pool has been delayed, but it would be nice to know the specific time it will open — if it ever will be. That way, we all have something to look forward to.

Elizabeth Brewer is a junior English and Politics double major. She can be reached at brewere@oxy.edu.