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Scientifically illiterate swim parents

Topics/tags: Rants, short

On Saturday, the Grinnell/BGM swim team hosted a multi-team invite in Grinnell College’s Osgood Natatorium. For those who haven’t been there, the Nat, as some refer to it, is a pretty awesome swimming facility. The pool has ten 25-yard lanes going in one direction and, with some reconfiguration, can support some number of 50-meter lanes [1,2]. There’s an upper-deck of stands, where the fans sit, on two sides. It feels pretty spacious, but someone told me that we made it just a bit too small for some state competition that I can’t remember.

Like most pools, the Nat is warm, perhaps even hot. That’s appropriate. You don’t want the swimmers to get cold. Is it hotter than other pools? I don’t think so, but sometimes it feels that way. I’m pretty sure that there are regulations on how warm it has to be. Let’s me see. Article 12 of Section 3 of the NCAA Rules say that

The water temperature should be between 79 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit [26° and 27°C] for competition. When possible, the air temperature at deck level shall not be more than four degrees Fahrenheit below the water temperature.

That means that the temperature at deck level should be a bit warmer than 75 degrees, which is warmer than most people keep their spaces. However, as we learned in science class, hot air rises. So I assume that it’s a bit warmer in the stands than it is on the deck. And, it’s a wet heat rather than a dry heat.

Here’s the problem. To deal with the heat, some parents decide that it makes sense to prop open a door to the stands to let in some cool air. But, well, cooler air falls. So when they let in cool air, the deck area gets cooler, the heaters kick on, and everything gets hotter again. For the folks not near the open doors, it’s even hotter [3]. Propping open the doors is a selfish move; while it may make it cooler near you, it makes it hotter near everyone else, and it wastes energy.

I try to tell people that when I remove the garbage cans that they’ve used to prop the door. But when I walk away, someone else decides to prop it open again.

Perhaps I should make signs: Prop a door, contribute to local and global warming. Signs that need explanations are rarely helpful. But maybe with a short paragraph.

When you prop the door open, cold air enters the area and falls to pool level. The thermostat is at pool level, so the heater then kick on, making the room hotter. Please don’t prop the doors!

Better yet: Prop a door, freeze a swimmer. [4,5]

Postscript: I had some difficulty naming this musing. The first version was clueless swim parents. But that’s a bit broad. The next was annoying swim parents. And they are. But swim parents can we annoying for many reasons. So I’ve settled on a more precise description.

[1] As far as I know, NCAA Division III and high-school competitions generally use 25-yard lanes and the Olympics uses 50-meter lanes.

[2] The 50-meter lanes have been useful for the Grinnellians who train for the Olympic Games or the Commonwealth Games.

[3] I’m beginning to worry about Grammarly. It suggested more heated as a replacement for hotter because I used hotter too much.

[4] This new poster text was inspired by a swimmer who wrote

As a swimmer who froze behind the blocks on several occasions, the air feels plenty cold enough when you are wet. It doesn’t need to be any colder.

[5] And yes, it still needs the explanation.

Version 1.0 released 2018-12-09.

Version 1.1 of 2018-12-09.