Ryan Chiao, Photo Editor

Along with most Yale student-athletes, members of the Yale swimming and diving team have been facing an unfamiliar semester. With the recent cancellation of winter sports, the team will not be able to compete together in the 2020-21 season. The team has been trying to make the most of their training despite being geographically scattered and having varying enrollment statuses.

As the fall semester progressed, Yale was able to move from Phase 0 to Phase II, which allowed small group activities, for a few days. But a cluster of positive results on the men’s hockey team led to a return to Phase 0 on Oct. 13. For the remainder of the semester, Yale cycled between Phase 0 and Phase I, which did not allow the Yale swimming and diving team substantial pool time. Members of the swimming and diving team spoke to the News reflecting on their enrollment decisions, training this season and attitude toward future competition. 

“It’s definitely different — COVID-different,” Izzi Henig ’23, who is taking two consecutive leaves of absence for the fall and spring semesters, said. “I have been able to land relatively on my feet and I feel pretty good about the decisions I have made so far.”

The pandemic seems to have scattered the swimming and diving team more than others, such as the volleyball or men’s ice hockey teams, where most team members remained enrolled and in New Haven this fall. All eligible members of the volleyball team and all but one eligible member of the men’s hockey team are enrolled in New Haven this semester. By contrast, at least 10 members of the swimming and diving team took a leave of absence, with many spending their semesters away from the Elm City. 

Henig remained home in California this fall, but said she has been able to swim with her club team from high school. She has tried to maintain contact with her teammates from Yale, who have been active in the team group chat, which she says has helped her stay up to date with the team and how everyone is doing. Aside from that, there have also been many Zoom meetings, and, among teammates who are on-campus or otherwise live near each other, socially-distanced hangouts.

Being back home and swimming with her high school team has been different and unexpected, but Henig said that being able to see and reconnect with them has been great. 

Jessica Whang ’23 is enrolled remotely from New York, and she has also been swimming with her club team from high school. To keep in contact with her team members, she has been doing dryland workouts over FaceTime. 

“I think it is so important to connect and to stay together,” Whang said. “ I know that this year has definitely been full of challenges, but the team and the coaches have all done a great job working together to get through a time like this.”

Even in these difficult times, the team — including the members enrolled remotely, on a leave of absence or on-campus — has been trying to adapt. Whang told the News that the situation was difficult for everyone at the beginning, but now, they are all making small adjustments and finding ways to stick together. 

According to Henig, finding motivation has been difficult this year, but she said that motivation manifests itself differently for everyone.

“I think that people are motivated in their sport by different things, whether it is competition, training, being with teammates, the coaching staff,” Henig said. “There are a million reasons to be a varsity level athlete, and so there are a million reasons to stay in it even when the competition isn’t around.” 

For Henig, the prospect of future normal seasons keeps her motivated. She anticipates being able to wear her Yale cap and race with her teammates again.

Henig will be staying home next semester, while Whang plans to return to campus. 

Another team member, Nathaniel Hickman-Chow ’23, who is enrolled remotely this semester and plans to do the same in the spring, looks forward to getting together with classmates next semester to train and take classes together remotely, away from New Haven — either virtually or in-person in a different city.

“With all the shutdowns, it does not seem like training will be any easier back on campus,” said Hickman-Chow. “So we decided that it would be best to train either back at home or together in a city where restrictions are not as strict.”

The Ivy League canceled all winter varsity sports competition on Nov. 12. 


Nicole Rodriguez | nicole.rodriguez.nr444@yale.edu