DHS boys swim team adapts to COVID-19 with the addition of new coach

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DHS swimmer dives to begin a race at the Turner swim meet on Dec. 16.

Lynlee Hutchison, Editor in Chief

As another winter sport is underway, the De Soto High School boy’s swim team takes on multiple new challenges this season. 

Along with the many COVID-19 restrictions noticed by the athletes, the team also welcomes new head coach Brian Kirkpatrick. Being a new member to the district this year and having a history with swimming, Kirkpatrick saw the coaching availability as a great opportunity.

“I had been a high school coach before, but I graduated from college and had gotten a teaching job in the district at Mill Creek Middle School,” Kirkpatrick said. “I learned that there was a swim coaching job available, and I thought ‘hey that’s perfect.’ I could keep coaching and teach and those have always been two things I have wanted to do. It worked out really well.”

Kirkpatrick has already had a warm welcome into the program as the boys have already noticed his devotion to the team.

“He is a lot tougher, which I feel like is something the swim team needs. The practices take a lot more endurance than my previous years, which I think is good for the team,” senior swimmer Nick Rodgers said. “It helps us build up intensity for meets.”

Sharing similar thoughts, sophomore swimmer Kaden Neal expresses his respect for coach Kirkpatrick.

“He [Kirkpatrick] is always into making sure you are working your hardest and getting the most output of what you are doing. Making sure you are always improving is a big thing he focuses on,” Neal said. “I have improved pretty much every meet, and I know a lot of the other guys have done the same.”

As COVID-19 has continually had an effect on every sport and activity this 2020-21 school year, swimmers in particular have had to make strict adjustments. 

“It [COVID-19] definitely has made things feel a lot more procedural and regimented, and the way we do practices is a little different than normal,” Kirkpatrick said. “Everyone is masked up if we are on the [pool] deck, but once the guys are in the water instead of having everyone start from one end of the pool, every other lane is starting at an opposite end of the pool, so that’s making it easier for the guys to continue keeping distance from each other while in the water because they obviously can’t wear masks while in the water.”

Implementing safety precautions has not only affected the look of this season, but partially has had an impact on the energy and adrenaline that is a part of the competition as well. 

“At meets, it is really different. We are not even allowed to be in the pool area; we have designated seating areas where the team sits so we aren’t allowed to cheer on our team,” Rodgers said. “We also are not allowed to have spectators, not even parents if they wear a mask.”

The boys’ swim team has not let the effects of COVID-19 be used as an excuse, as coach Kirkpatrick sees this as a great learning opportunity for the guys.

“It is a cool opportunity for the guys because usually that big atmosphere of a swim meet is what helps you get motivated but now it is more up to them to motivate themselves. I think it is a cool thing that is important for them to know how to do,” Kirkpatrick said. 

The team has high expectations for the duration of their season and are working hard to see their success shine through each and every meet. 

“For the boys’ team, every time we put a DHS cap on we want it to mean something. Our goal is to be the kind of team that people want to swim against; the guys who show up and work hard, and are always trying to improve. We race against ourselves, we race against the clock, and last we race against the competition,” Kirkpatrick said.