Local swim club gets creative during lockdown

Lions Pool has not been open to swimmers since March.

Cayman’s swimmers have been out of the pool for two months, but the competitive fire at Stingray Swim Club has been burning as fiercely as ever.

Although beaches are now open, public swimming pools across the Cayman Islands having been closed due to precautions over COVID-19, Stingray Head Coach David Pursley has been keeping his swimmers focussed on fitness (and fun) through daily virtual workouts and an ongoing club competition.

“Athletes need something to strive for to keep the motivation to train. If I was going to expect rigorous training from them, I needed to make it competitive with incentives. So far, the response has been awesome, and I hope the energy from the team continues!” Coach Pursley said.

Each week during the “Lockdown Challenge”, Stingray swimmers earn points for activities ranging from exercise (i.e. running or cycling) to special assignments (creating home cooking or gymnastics videos) to tasks that are, admittedly, a bit silly (making a trick shot video, bobbing for apples, during your best impression of Coach Pursley). 

The Watsons built a replica of Lions Pool.

“The SSC Board is truly thankful for the herculean efforts of our head coach. It has simply been amazing seeing the efforts and talent our swimmers have,” Stingray President Marlene West said.

Some of Coach Pursley’s favourite moments of the Lockdown Challenge have been from challenges that have had little to do with swimming.

“My favourite part of the challenge is seeing the swimmers creative side. Sometimes, even with all the hours we spend together, as a coach you miss what is really behind the cap and goggles. The challenges are bringing the swimmers out of their comfort zone and giving them an opportunity to showcase their creativity,” Pursley said.

When they’re in the pool, the swimmers compete for gold, silver and bronze medals. But during the Lockdown Challenge, they are competing for prizes that taste as sweet as victory itself — ice cream.

Jake and Michelle Bailey enjoy their winnings.

For the Lockdown Challenge, swimmers are broken out into groups according to their age and experience level. This ensures parity and encourages all swimmers, the youngest and oldest, to participate actively in the workouts and challenges. As an added bonus, there is also a category for family members who are looking for exercise and entertainment while the COVID-19 restrictions and curfews are in place.

Each week, the winner of each category receives a tub of ice cream in the flavour of their choice, delivered directly to their door using best social-distancing practices. 

So far, winners of the weekly contests include Jake Bailey, Michelle Bailey, Angela Bard, Owen Bard, Taylor Bloxham, Alex Dakers, Sammy Haworth, Chase Watson, Noah Watson, Riley Watson and Marlene West. 

“During quarantine and doing these weekly challenges Coach David made, I learned I actually enjoyed cooking, which is good because I’m going to need it at university! I never really did it before because I was always busy with school or swimming, but now that I have a lot of time on my hands I’m learning new skills,” said Allison Jackson, who is set to attend the University of Northern Colorado on a swimming scholarship in the fall.

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So deep! So emotional! Feel the vybe!

A post shared by Stingray Swim Club (@stingraycayman) on

Sarah Jackson gets emotional as she thinks about not being able to get in the pool.

“Some of the other challenges push me to get out of my comfort zone, like making a music video, which is good for me as I usually stick with what I know, so it’s helped me grow as a person. I also learned to not take things or people for granted, so thanks to my teammates, from the bronze group all the way up to senior, and Coach David for making this quarantine much more enjoyable and fun by joining in with these challenges,” Jackson added.

Riley Watson said, “Competition is fun and makes it easy to work harder, but my favourite part is laughing at my parents doing silly daily challenges … Well that and I really love ice cream!”

Stingray’s Lockdown Challenge and virtual workouts have earned international attention, as Coach Pursely was invited by the Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas (UANA) to discuss the dryland training he has designed for all age groups.

Additionally, Coach Pursley has drawn on connections to the international swimming community, giving Stingray members the opportunity to attend virtual meetings with guest speakers including former Olympic swimmers.

“I think we have made the most of the lockdown so far, but there is no doubt the swimmers are ready to be back in the water in some form or another. The energy for these challenges has been tremendous but certainly won’t last forever,” Coach Pursley said.

“We have some very hungry swimmers with lofty goals, and our hope is to never deny any opportunity to reach those goals. We are looking forward to when it is safe to swim again,” he said.

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