Kasey Gonzalez has been in pools her whole life. She began swimming competitively at age 5 and has worked at waterparks as well as municipal, HOA, and public and private campus recreation pools throughout her career. Now, as Trinity’s director of aquatics, Gonzalez draws on her experiences to help ensure the health and safety of the University’s swimming and diving student-athletes.
One of Gonzalez’s main concerns is providing safety and educational trainings for Trinity coaches and student-athletes about the dangers of underwater breath-holding drills. Swimmers participate in these drills to ‘train’ their lungs to become stronger and hold more air—their logic being “the less you breathe, the faster you go,” she says.
But the dangers of these drills far outweigh any advantages. While holding their breath, swimmers can suffer hypoxic (low oxygen) blackouts, which can lead to long-term heart, brain, and lung deficits, bouts of unconsciousness, and even death.
Gonzalez presented on hypoxic blackouts, which she terms “The Modern Day Swimming Controversy,” at the NIRSA Region IV Conference in Olathe, Kansas, this past October.
“I wanted to bring more information to the public about the risks of these activities since they have been the status quo for so long,” Gonzalez says. “Becoming knowledgeable [and educating others] in the aquatics industry shows people the real-life consequences [of these drills] and hopefully breaks the barrier with older or more experienced coaches. The number of drownings per 100 has gone down since awareness about [hypoxic] blackouts has spread in the news, society, and the swimming world overall.”