Just as high education had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, so did the students who run the social organizations that make the college experience so rewarding for many students.
UK student Emma Massa is president of the club swim team at UK. She has spent much of this school year dedicating her time to keeping the university’s club swim team’s morale as upbeat as possible amidst the current pandemic.
Massa, a junior, transferred to the UK from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois after her freshman year of college. Originally from Lexington, she was familiar with the city but still felt like being a transfer student meant she needed to make an extra effort to get involved on campus so she could find her niche.
One of her chosen activities was joining the club swim team. She was familiar with the sport after competing for a few years in high school. This helped provide an active lifestyle for herself and even allowed her to meet some of her closest friends. After a year of competing, Massa worked her way up to the position of president.
This position suited her outgoing, determined personality. Unlike past presidents, however, Massa faced a year of presidency under restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased the pressure on her to keep the club swim team fun and interactive.
“I know people look to me for energy and best behavior when it comes to the pandemic, so sometimes it can be tiring to always be positive and a good role model, but that’s my obligation as president,” Massa said.
Not only is Massa trying to keep the swim team’s attitude upbeat, but she is also tasked with keeping members themselves on the team.
“It can be hard keeping up with members of the team when you can’t keep in face-to-face contact all the time. The spread of information is harder than pre-pandemic, and I think swimmer’s feel disconnected from one another when they always have to wear a mask and we can’t do out-of-water activities,” Massa said.
The likelihood of swimmers staying involved on the team goes down when they are not connecting with their fellow swimmers, especially when a primary motive for joining campus organizations is to meet other students.
Additionally, it seems COVID-19 has diminished communication between various campus organizations. Coordinating with the University of Kentucky’s Seaton Center to establish available times for the club swim team has become more difficult, according to Massa.
That is likely because COVID-19 guidelines for campus centers often change and communicating such to all the organizations and individuals using the centers is no easy task.
Plus, traveling to competitions against other teams has been replaced with inter-squad meets in the Seaton Center. In this way, COVID-19 has increased the demand for campus centers’ availability, which only places more challenges on these facilities’ coordinators during these stressful times.
Despite the multiple factors that influence how the club swim team currently functions, Massa tends to feel accountable for the circumstances nonetheless.
“As a president, I can sometimes feel responsible for the lack of ability to do things outside of what we are allowed. I don’t want to do it anymore sometimes,” Massa said.
Maintaining motivation is one of toughest challenges of the pandemic. The lifestyle limitations that COVID-19 has imposed is a reality most people could have never imagined.
In a leadership position like hers, Massa often feels responsibility for issues she has no control over. No matter her position, though, her fellow swimmers seem to understand that these effects of the pandemic are not her fault.
Kate Chaudoin is a sophomore at the University of Kentucky who joined the club swim team for the first time this year after having swam all throughout high school.
“Emma has done such a good job running club swim right now. Especially because in a time like this, what we all need are people in charge who know how to communicate, and she is so active in the GroupMe group chat for club swim members, which helps to keep us informed,” Chaudoin said.
On top of communication, individuals need understanding during this time. Massa and other club swim team officers decided to waive monetary dues this semester for all swimmers. The last thing they want is for swim team members to have additional financial concerns amongst all else this semester.
“The actions she’s taken this semester for the program definitely show that she genuinely cares about all of the club swim members. When that comes across to people, it encourages them to stick around for now so we can eventually all shift back to normal together,” Chaudoin said.