By, Adrianne Hutto & Lauren Raziano, Asst. Production Editor & Social Media Editor
COVID-19 has spared no one and nothing in its wake, and this can be seen through the unsteady shifts made in Manhattan College’s athletic department. Toward the beginning of 2020, the swimming and diving program was left without a diving coach — a reality that still hasn’t changed. Following
this, the swim coach stepped down in early May of this year. The result of this was a loss
of structured practices, time spent in the pool and overall morale in general.
After nearly a year and a half without a diving coach and the absence of a swim coach since the end of last semester, the program has finally been assigned new leadership. This news allows the team to finally get back to regularly scheduled lifts and attend competitions, the first of which will be next week at the Fairfield Invitational.
The new coach for the program, Eric Rasmussen, graduated from Ithaca College and has been coaching college swimming for about 30 years at NJIT, York College, Saint Peter’s, Loyola College, and as an assistant at Manhattan from 2010-2013. The opportunity came about through his relationship with former MC swim coach, Walter Olsewksi, who mentioned that there was an open coaching position at MC.
Going into the interview process, Rasmussen was aware of the coaching challenges the team was facing.
“I didn’t know the exact situation with the divers but, diving at this level of college competition diving is always rough,” Rasmussen said. “Diving coaches are often very part time and that’s a tough position
to fill in a lot of situations.”
Rasmussen acknowledged that filling collegiate level coaching positions can be very difficult to fill, which is why the college had some difficulties.
Next Monday, the team will begin practices at the Riverdale Country School, allowing the players to finally get time in the pool.
“So for the overall team we have a schedule in place, and we’re just finalizing a couple of dates and start times but it looks pretty set,” Rasmussen said.
While this does put the team a step in the right direction, the diving team will not be able to practice dives there as the facility is not equipped for it.
“There aren’t a lot of places with diamond facilities, unfortunately Riverdale does not have diving boards,” Rasmussen said. “So we’re looking around to see if we can find a place where we can get
them at least a couple of days a week where they could go and do some training and kind of continue along. Like I said, when you don’t have your own facility, it is a tough scheduling situation.”
The swim team has its first competition this week, however, the diving team will not be participating in this event.
“The divers and I spoke about it and the idea that they were going to compete,” Rasmussen said. “Having not trained in a year and a half is silly, we would never try because the potential for injury would
be too high. You wouldn’t want to do that and they were comfortable with that.”
Additionally, the delay in finding a training facility and a new coach had pushed back the start of their practices.
“College swim teams are often training very shortly after you get back on campus,” Rasmussen said. It’s not unusual for a college swim team to be in the water by the first week of September.”
Rasmussen encourages his team to shift their perspective on competing. Rather than focusing on winning and losing, Rasmussen is concerned with personal improvement.
“I think one of the things that always drew me into the sport and also drew me in as a coach is the idea of personal improvement,” Rasmussen said. “You might not be able to win the league, or you might not be able to make the Olympic team or whatever it is that you know people are judging you by. But the reality is that if you start out and your times are this fast and you’re able to improve, improve, improve and then you’re faster when you’re finished, or when you end your career, those are good accomplishments.”
The Quadrangle spoke with Lexington Passamonte who is a senior diver for the swim and diving team at Manhattan College. Because Passamonte is in her senior year, having a regular season is even more
Passamonte explained that prior to the pandemic practices were stringent and consistent from week to week.
“Before COVID we would go to practice 5 times a week,” Passamonte said about the schedule which includes sessions at NYU, Asphalt Green, and Fordham on a weekly basis. “Actually, our previous coach quit right before COVID so we haven’t had a coach since then.”
Now, the team is lucky if they make it to the pool each week.
“And I know that the swim team has been struggling to get into the pool even though it’s been said that we were going to be in the pool,” Passamonte said.“ They were supposed to be in the pool weeks ago and they just never have.”
However, it is the diving team that has received the least attention. Without a coach or pool time, the team has struggled to fully practice their skills.
“I’ve been talking to him [Rasmussen] a lot and he’s mentioned that he’s reaching out to some people and he’s actually going to reach out to our previous coach to see if he knows anyone he can talk to who wants the position,” Passamonte said.
Although far from ideal, there’s at least some training mechanism in place.
“But one good thing we have going is we have a trampoline in the back of Draddy and he’s letting us use that and we have time that we can go,” Passamonte added.
Without a head coach to guide the team, Passamonte fears how their performance will be at upcoming competitions.
“We have a meeting coming up next week and the divers won’t even be diving at it just because we haven’t had any practice in so long,” Passamonte said. “So, how are we supposed to get up there and compete against other schools?”
As a senior, Passamonte hoped to attend the MAACs this year and improve her times from her last pre-COVID showing.
“I definitely hope that we can go back and be our best,” Passamonte said. “Last MAACs I placed in the top 8, so that was a big deal for me, and I was really hoping that last year I would have been able to do the same but obviously we didn’t have MAACs so we weren’t able to do that. So, hopefully I’ll be able to get back to where I was and do the same.”
The Quadrangle also spoke with swimmer Katelyn Hall, a senior on the team who explained how the team has struggled to get time in the pool.
“Unfortunately, our team has struggled to find pool time during the pandemic regardless of the coaching status,” Hall said. “Last year there were only about 5 weeks that we had trained as a result of limited pool availability.”
However, Hall insists the team’s determination is not deterred by all the uncertainties.
“Luckily, our team has always been disciplined and driven,” Hall said. We are ready for a fresh start with a new coach and want to use this opportunity to take the program in a positive direction for future years.”
The team is ready to make up for lost time, especially the seniors who are in their last season. “While it is discouraging to have delayed our season, I think the team has become more eager to train than ever
considering that we have spent so much time away from the pool,” Hall said. We are ready to make up for lost time and gain the most out of this season as possible.”
There is a lot to come for the swim and diving team this year as they navigate the hurdles of practice schedules, finding pool time, and having no diving coach. With the new coach and their first competition next week, things are finally picking up again for the swim team.
“Don’t get bogged down with wins and losses, don’t worry about the day to day, worry about keeping your focus on the big picture,” Rasmussen said regarding his message to the team. “It’s just important to get out there and race.”