Long time Coach Says Pool Roof Crack is the Last Straw

Julia Escobar, Editor-in-Cheif

 

Venice’s aquatic program is currently in shambles, not only affecting the aquatic teams and coaches, but also the wallets of LAUSD  and the city.

After heavy rains struck Los Angeles last November, a massive crack was created in the roof of the Venice Indoor Pool building and flooded the locker rooms and electrical room. This setback hasn’t allowed aquatic teams to host games or to use the seventh lane while practicing. 

Engineers have deemed the roof problem too severe for fixing. Rather the entire building needs to be demolished and rebuilt, according to an email from a school parent. The Parks and Recreation Department has offered to put up $3 million for the rebuild if LAUSD puts up the other half. The city owns the pool, while LAUSD owns the land, according to the email. But there has been no real talk and as of now the district is not willing to put up the other half to rebuild.

Ms. Sophie Sabbah, who has been the longest standing aquatic program leader in Venice history, is so distraught by the delays that she has decided to step down after the end of this season.

“I’ve been with the school for 18 years. I’ve been fighting for this for 18 years. I am stepping down as head coach of all aquatic programs. It’s time to pass the torch,” said Coach Sabbah, who has coached the swim, water polo and dive teams. 

“Our only real path forward is to pressure the district to fund the rebuild of the pool as they originally included in the massive construction project,” wrote parent Suzanne Dehmel in an email. 

Although there is some speculation about the pool getting rebuilt, what is certain is the roof getting completely removed and redone, according to Coach Sabbah. Starting sometime in March, the pool will be closed for more than three weeks for it to be fixed. Currently the plan for the swim and water polo teams is up in the air.

“Hopefully the pool will stay open as long as possible so it won’t hurt my season too bad,” said Coach Sabbah. “It’s just a matter of time before we get shut out and then the pool’s down. So there’s an opening up of Pandora’s Box of issues once they take that roof off, so I am not as optimistic as I used to be,” she said.

“The kids are gonna have to practice on their own,” said Coach Sabbah. “And I’ll still take them to swim meets. But my plan is to put them on the front lawn and air swim.”

The pool was built in 1963 and has never been updated. In recent years many problems have stopped the teams from playing. 

“The breakdowns have been occurring with some regularity over the past several years and it is really so demoralizing to the water polo and swim teams to be unable to practice,” said parent Diana XX. “Last winter we were carpooling the girls to Westwood as much as possible but there were still woefully few practices involving actual water last girls water polo season.” 

The pool constantly not being in playing condition for swimmers has not only affected their playtime but also class time. 

“It really sucks that we can’t have a pool,” said senior Ali Diaz. “It’s frustrating to miss class to go to other schools.” 

There are also situations where the opposing team also doesn’t have a pool so they either have to change the game or play at a completely different school.

“Games like on Jan. 31 against University High School who doesn’t have a pool, but also Venice not having a pool makes it extremely difficult.” said captain Anne Combredet. 

These setbacks haven’t just affected the players but also the coaches. One of the main reasons that Coach Sabbah will be stepping down is because of how time-consuming it will be to practice elsewhere. 

“I cannot travel with the team off to another pool,” said Ms. Sabbah. “It’s not feasible. Our bell schedule doesn’t allow for it. And when would the kids do their homework? At 10 o’clock at night? When would I see my child? At 10 o’clock at night? I have no choice.”