Staying Smartt: Girls’ swim team prepares amid COVID-19

Posted 8/4/20

Bob Smartt’s 25th year coaching girls’ swimming will be different from his first 24.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, swim meets will consist of fewer teams, with no more than …

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Staying Smartt: Girls’ swim team prepares amid COVID-19

Posted

Bob Smartt’s 25th year coaching girls’ swimming will be different from his first 24.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, swim meets will consist of fewer teams, with no more than three schools allowed per contest. Additionally, only two swimmers are expected to be permitted in each lane during practices to enforce a degree of social distancing.

While the regulations have changed, the Powell High School girls’ swim coach’s preseason approach has not.

“The pandemic hasn’t affected anything with how we prepare,” said Smartt. “It’s good to have them back in the pool.”

Smartt is entering his fourth season as the head girls’ swimming coach at PHS. He spent the last two weeks of July preparing his team for the 2020 season with a camp at the Powell Aquatic Center.

Two weeks is the most a swim team can practice in the preseason, so Smartt used the time to key in on the fundamentals.

“It’s good for our newcomers who I don’t know,” Smartt said. “We teach the four strokes and get them better at each one so we’re ready for the season.”

Another concept Smartt preaches is pacing. He explained that, when a swimmer doubles their speed, the water’s resistance is cubed, creating a serious obstacle.

A couple years back, Smartt and the program invested in a tool that put pace at the forefront: the LED Pacer System. These long strips have a light — which can be set to a certain pace — that travels across the length of the pool. This allows some of the newcomers and less-experienced swimmers to understand the concept of keeping a steady pace.

“It’s very helpful,” Smartt said. “This is one of the best tools we could have, and it should help them hit the ground running.”

For his more experienced swimmers, Smartt teaches tips from the sport’s best.

“I use the USA Swimming website and find YouTube videos of the world’s best swimmers,” Smartt said. “I just learn from their techniques and the drills they do and try to apply them here.”

For years, Smartt coached at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, which holds its swim season in the winter. He juggled both roles for a couple of years but ultimately retired from his Colorado gig in 2019.

Smartt’s previous school in Colorado is a 5A program, with more than 40 girls in the swim program. Most of them did club swim, too, so he wasn’t their only coach.

At a smaller school like Powell, not many of the girls compete at the club level, so Smartt’s impact is more tangible.

“I feel like I’m more influential here,” Smartt said. “My teams often had great success in Colorado, but many of those girls had other coaches, so I wasn’t their only helper. Here, I make more of a difference.”

In the weeks leading up to the regular season, Smartt won’t be allowed to coach his squad. Instead, he’ll be traveling through Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Beartooth Pass. It will be a brief reprieve before he begins his 25th season coaching swim.

But while he’s on vacation and away from the team, the coach expects his girls to continue their hard work.

“I give them drills, and it’s up to them to complete them,” Smartt said. “I can’t really control that since I’m not allowed in, but I trust that most of them will keep pushing before the season.”

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