Girls sort through obstacles to continue female swim team


BP Photo by Ma'ayan Waldman

Shalhevet and YULA race a 100 free at the swim meet this past Sunday.

By Clara Sandler, Staff Writer

Shalhevet has no swimming pool, but juniors Maayan Waldman and Sarah Yadegari discovered in their sophomore year that that was not the biggest obstacle to their starting a swim team.

What really made it complex, they found, were the halachic issues surrounding girls swimming with men or boys watching, the tzniut (modesty) of girls attire in the pool, and boys and girls swimming together.

To resolve these issues, the girls formed a single-gender team, and arranged a special practice schedule. The team has 15 members.

“I think that there was a demand for a swim team at Shalhevet for a long time, and no one really took initiative and started it,” Ma’ayan said. “I think that now that we have it, it’s been a great opportunity for a lot of girls.”

Ma’ayan and Sarah came to Reb Noam Weissman to sort out the halachic issues.

“We spoke to some parents and asked for their feedback on how to make it the most halachically appropriate and sensitive and appeal to all female students,” Principal Reb Noam Weissman said.

First they had to figure out the swim practice times. To avoid any male spectators, they start at 8:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, after the pool that they practice in, the Culver City pool, closes.

Sunday practices were at the LAUSD’s Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, or LACES, located in Carthay Circle. There were no male spectators since the school itself is closed and Shalhevet rents out the pool for their practices.

Recently, Sunday practices were canceled to due the LACES pool not always being available. Instead, they occasionally have practice on Wednesdays at Venice High School.

Also, sometimes they practice out of the water, in their clothes. On Tuesdays they have one hour of land practice, and an hour in the water to gain strength and momentum.

“Land practice is really working the muscles and getting stronger, so we do a lot of running, sit-ups, crunches, basically 45-minute boot-camp,” said sophomore Rosie Wolkind. “When we’re in the pool, we do a ton of different stuff, different strokes, different drills, and we work on endurance, sprints.”

Last year, the girls only had one meet against crosstown rival YULA because most schools don’t have single-sex teams.

This year they will face YULA again on Sunday Apr. 10 and Friday May 15.

Earlier this month, they joined a YULA-hosted swim Shabbaton along with De Toledo of West Hills, Milken Community High School of Los Angleles, and Maayanot Girls High School of Teaneck, N.J.

Races took place on Thursday Mar. 17 and Friday Mar. 18 and there were special Shabbat meals at YULA. Overall, the team came in 4th place.

“Girls on the team have different levels of their ability,” said Rosie, “but the coach is really good at making it work for everyone and pushing everyone in their own way.”

The team’s coach is Allyson Ziskind, who was Ma’ayan’s coach in middle school; Ma’ayan recommended her for the position.

Despite swim being quite an individual sport, the girls said they see improvement in themselves and love working together. Co-founder Sarah Yadegari praised the team’s effort.

“Even though it’s a huge commitment and it’s definitely one of the more challenging sports, a lot of people have shown interest and they’ve been showing a lot of commitment to the team,” said Sarah.

Rosie Wolkind said the time spent it was worth it.

“If you know me, you know that I sometimes complain about it because it’s really time consuming, and sometimes because of my schedule I don’t get home until 10 o’clock,” Rosie said. “But it’s so worth it. Also, I get so fit and who doesn’t like that?”