Masters. What does this term mean? In the PGA the Masters is the most prestigious golf tournament, held for the best players in the world. The winner of this infamous tournament is awarded a green jacket, coveted by all. The winner wears this green jacket with pride as he thanks his family, trainers and sponsors in a once-in-a-lifetime press conference. Grown men shed tears over this jacket. This green jacket has come to represent The Masters; however, this is not the Masters to which I am referring. The Masters to which I am referring includes grown men and women, of every age, shape, size and athletic ability wearing swimsuits, enjoying one another's company, laughing, splashing and, oh yeah, swimming. These Masters enjoy a beer with their teammates, they place friendly bets about breaking records, and these Masters are not afraid to try a new event just for the heck of it. These Masters are driven by the sheer joy of exercise, fitness, the water, the fun they have with their teammates, competition or just learning a skill that they've never tried before.

The green jacket may only be for the elite, but Masters swimming was designed for all. Often U.S. Masters Swimming welcomes "newbies." What is a newbie? A newbie is an adult man or woman who has never swum, never dived or never competed. U.S. Masters Swimming prides itself on its newbies and offers a virtual high-five to those brave enough to slip into a swimsuit for the first time in, well let's just say a long time, brave enough to venture outside of their comfort zones and brave enough to go where very few adult men and women have gone: a swim meet. Mary Grider, 51, a self-declared newbie, recently entered and successfully swam in her first meet. In her own words, Mary's experience is described below.

I've been to the mountaintop and I return with news for the, er... emerging adult Masters swimmer who has yet to compete in their first swim meet, and who might be reluctant to do so because, oh, I dunno, because you don't want to be seen coming in dead last and coughing up water: It's not that bad. I went to my first swim meet yesterday, a month following a no-show at what was supposed to have been my first meet, and I'm here to tell you I've seen the light. My concerns that rooted me in fear a month ago after I read the heat sheet the day before the event were so far off base, it's a bit embarrassing when I think back on it. When it comes to the world of Masters swim meets, I learned that the biggest rounds of applause were reserved for those who struggled as they painstakingly swam up and down their lanes, and for those with stories of triumph to tell, or for those who were currently undergoing therapy for devastating illnesses that would cause most people to stay home. Masters swim programs encompass folks of all shapes and abilities, where everybody - from world record holders - to AARP-aged newbies like me - has a place. One of the nicest things I witnessed was when a gentleman approached an elderly lady who recently overcame her fear of the water and learned how to swim, telling her what a wonderful job she did. That's the kind of crowd you'll be dealing with.

Let me tell you a little bit about some personal experiences I had from this first meet. First, I signed up for easy stuff - 50 free, 50 back, 100 free and 100 back. In addition, our coach, perhaps fearing I'd have another "I'm not worthy!" meltdown and stay home, placed me in two relays. We had to wait for a bit before getting the go-ahead to begin our warm-ups and, luckily, my teammates and I had our own lane. Warm-ups didn't go so well. As much as our coach tried to assure me that both the "T" at the bottom of the pool and the flags strung above it were identical in their placement to our pool back home, I couldn't judge my flip turns well at all. During warm-ups I must have flubbed over 50 percent of my turns. Oh, but I was spot-on with one of my flips. Oh, yessiree. I was practicing my backstroke, rolled to my belly, flipped, nailed it! And the moment I pushed off the wall (blinded, of course, because, well, you're on your back... ) I crashed smack dab into my coach, who was swimming behind me. She was unbelievably gracious about it. Thank you, Nadine! And there were no concussions.

As luck would have it, one of my events was the very first one of the afternoon - the women's 200 yard medley relay, and I swam backstroke, so I was the first to get into the water. Great, I thought. This is the first event so everybody here is going to be watching, and I'm not exactly a gifted swimmer. The horn went off and I tore off the block like an alligator was swimming after me. I came flying into the first wall and using the flags, rolled to my belly, flipped, got it!! And I kept frantically repeating to myself things like: Keep those arms moving, Come on....just one more length!... faster!!.... My hand hit the wall (not my head!, Ooo, another triumph) and my teammate then immediately dove off the block. Quickly somebody said, "Mary! Get out of the water!" Oh, yeah.. oops, sorry. One feature of this pool that I'm delighted I don't have to deal with on a daily basis is that you couldn't touch the bottom and there was no ledge for you to place the ball of your foot to get some lift-off as you hoisted yourself out of the water. I'd practiced lifting myself out during warm-ups and managed to get a knee up on the deck, albeit ungracefully, bruising my shin in the process. Well, I hoisted myself up and just hung there for a moment before mustering the strength to finish the task. (Ok, fine, somebody rushed over to ask if they could help me and the embarrassment must have been the extra push I needed.) Where did the strength in my arms go? I felt like I'd just swum the English Channel! And my heart rate...Let's not even go there. Oh dear, this was only the first event, and it was only 50 yards. I'm sunk.

Well, I wasn't sunk. That may have been my first event, but that was the only event that I allowed myself to think those thoughts.

By the time I stepped up onto the block for my second event, my nervousness earlier in the day was replaced with a sense of excitement that comes with knowing that I was about ready to do my best in the next race. By that time, you see, I'd been watching events closely for almost an hour and was now, finally, becoming aware of what my coach had been trying to get me to understand - that in Masters swimming, you don't have to be perfect. Imagine my surprise, for example, when during one of the men's races a gentleman did a really nice flip turn, but was so far away from the wall his feet didn't make contact. His buddies were sitting near me when he walked over after the race and, in very ho-hum fashion, shrugged off the miss with a "I'll do better next time" attitude. He wasn't putting on an act of indifference, it's just the culture of the event; and with that, the veil was lifted and my eyes were opened. I could have hugged him.

So, to those of you reading this who've said that you would never enter any athletic event where you'd come in last, or swim in a Masters meet because you weren't talented enough, you have nothing to fear. By swimming in a Masters event you'll experience the camaraderie of being on a team, yet when you get right down to it, the focus is on your personal performance, not with how well you fared against the others in your race. You'll cheer on your teammates, as they will for you. And then, of course, I highly recommend you go out as a team afterwards and eat. It's really a perfect ending to a day you won't soon forget.

U.S. Masters Swimming salutes Mary on her accomplishment, her courage and her willingness to serve as an inspiration to all newbies across the country. Good luck, Mary, in your future swims.


Arizona SCY State Championship Results

BEST Swim Club hosted the 2009 Arizona Short Course Yards State Championship this weekend. What a meet it was, over 180 masters swimmers from across the country participated and swam well. New teams were also participating for the first time as well as the usual suspects...

For the results, go to this page to download them. In another few days they will also be available as a PDF on the main website.

Good swimming everybody and best of luck to those going to YMCA Nationals and USMS Masters Nationals! Special thanks the crew at BEST for putting on another great event.


Swimming Against the Tide

Lisa Freed of New England Masters started swimming as an age-grouper and hasn't stopped since. Lisa remembers "swimming to the first rope and back" at her local beach club as a child. Lisa swam through high school and college. While attending Union College, a former all-boys college, she joined the swim team. At that time, the swim team was predominantly male with only a few girls. There was no women's swim team coach and no women's swim team recognition. "I guess we were just persistent," Lisa responded when asked how she and the other young women on the team convinced the school to separate the men and women, create an official women's swim team and hire a coach. This was an early sign that Lisa would continue using diligence and determination throughout her life.

Shortly after earning an undergraduate degree, Lisa returned to graduate school. While at Harvard, she used the pool for recreational fitness swimming. She met others swimming for fun and fitness and eventually joined the local Masters program. "Still, 20 years later, that group of people that I swam with is my greatest friends. I was young, much younger than some of the swimmers, but they sort of adopted me into their group." Lisa considers herself a competitive swimmer and though it is sometimes "scary," she competes in various types of Masters swimming competitions and events.

One event that has grown very close to Lisa's heart is the Breast Cancer Coalition Against the Tide open water swim. Lisa and her now ex-husband David (whom she met swimming) always looked for events in which to participate that also served as charity or awareness events. When Lisa came across Against the Tide, she knew that her connection to the event ran much deeper than her love of swimming because Lisa is the only woman in her family to have not been diagnosed with breast cancer. Lisa's mother, who battled breast cancer multiple times, serves as Lisa's motivation for the swim.

Though her first experience with the event was 11 years ago as a participant, Lisa's involvement has evolved. "A few years ago BCC discussed different ways to attract more Masters swimmers. Well, the only way to attract more Masters swimmers is to understand who Masters swimmers really are. This is where I came in," said Lisa. "They just started asking my advice." Soon thereafter Lisa began volunteering more of her time and efforts toward fundraising. "Yes, I do try to fundraise for the event, but growing the event, sharing the experience and getting more bodies in the water is really my goal."

Lisa, one of BCC's most successful fundraisers, says that this event is really "family friendly. Breast cancer is so prevalent in my family and in the community that I really wanted my son to have a good understanding of the disease and what he can do to help." Lisa's son has attended the event every year and last year was honored by BCC for his commitment. "At 11 he already has an idea of what the cause is all about," shared Lisa.

Lisa's efforts are great and expand far beyond swimming and into raising awareness and fundraising for the disease. Cape Cod has a greater occurrence of breast cancer than other parts of the United States, and Lisa is determined to help BCC understand why. BCC works closely with Silent Spring Institute to understand environmental causes of breast cancer. "It is kind of full circle. We are swimming in open water, nature, to raise money to help us understand the toll our daily activities take on our environment," said Lisa. "The pond we swim in is incredibly clean, clear and warm. It is perfect for a first-timer and a great way to start the swim season," exclaimed Lisa.

Lisa, who briefly participated in triathlons and other fitness activities, always returned to the water. "I can zone out, compete, focus or think, depending on my mood. No matter what, I leave feeling good. I love swimming in general, but I especially love this event because it is not just about me, but it is about my family, friends and the other women that are swimming for the same cause."

Breast Cancer Coalition Against the Tide is scheduled for June 20, 2009, and August 15, 2009. For more information visit www.bcc.org/swim


Swimwear Rule 102.14


In light of new swimsuit testing and approval being conducted by FINA according to its recent "Dubai Charter", the following is U.S. Masters Swimming's official interpretation of Swimwear rule 102.14:


FINA approval or rejection of new swimwear introduced after September 30, 2007, will be accepted by U.S. Masters Swimming for U.S.M.S. sanctioned and recognized competition.

The following interpretation regarding the use of two suits during competition is effective immediately. This interpretation conforms to the recent interpretations issued by FINA (03/15/09) and USA Swimming (03/18/09).


For purposes of Article 102.14 of U.S. Masters Swimming Rules of Competition, Swimwear, the use of more than one suit at a time during any U.S.M.S. sanctioned or recognized competition is prohibited.


1. Question: Can I wear a regular racing suit that is not a body suit?

Answer: Yes, suits introduced prior to September 30, 2007, are legal for U.S.M.S. competition.

2. Question: Can I wear my LZR at nationals in May?

Answer: At this point questions about suits (those introduced after September 30, 2007) for nationals cannot be answered because the new list of FINA-approved suits has not been published nor is there a set date for publication of that list by FINA. Until FINA publishes the new list of approved suits, the current status of approved or rejected suits is in effect; therefore, your LZR is currently approved for competition until the new FINA list is published. However, should U.S.M.S. officially receive information that any of currently marketed suits introduced after September 30, 2007, have been rejected by FINA, those suits will no longer be considered legal.

3. Question: Why can't questions about suits for nationals be answered now?

Answer: According to the Dubai Charter (published by FINA 03/15/09), manufacturers must resubmit their suits for approval by March 31, 2009. The suits will be retested under a new system for buoyancy (no more than 1 Newton), material (no thicker than 1 mm), and construction (no trapping of air), just to mention a few criteria. At the point of publication by FINA of newly approved suits, the questions about legal suits for nationals can be answered.

4. Question: How will this impact Masters competitors?

Answer: That LZR, TYR, or Blueseventy suit you bought after September 30, 2007, is legal at this moment, but it could be illegal after the new FINA-approved swimsuit list is published. Regardless of the new list, that old Fastskin that you have will be legal since it was introduced prior to September 30, 2007.

5. Question: My coach is forcing me to swim the 1650 Free as a training swim. Can I wear a drag suit over my jammers?

Answer: No. Although wearing an extra drag suit may not be perceived as having an advantage, the interpretation is that only one swimsuit is permitted.

6. Question: Does "one suit for competition" mean I can only wear one suit for the whole meet?

Answer: No. You can change suits during the meet, but you can only wear one suit at a time. This restriction applies only to the actual races (competition). You can wear more than one suit during warm-up and warm-down. This restriction applies to all types, makes, and models of swim suits, but it is not intended to apply to athletic supporters or modesty type wear (a single pair of "briefs" or "bikini bottoms or top" or a sports bra worn to ensure modesty and privacy).

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Kathy Casey, Chair,
U.S. Masters Swimming Rules Committee


Unlikely Coaches Create a Solution

When Academy Masters Swim Team struggled to find a coach, it looked to the local high school for some assistance. No, it wasn't the high school coach that came to the rescue; it was the high school swimmers that prevailed as this team's heroes. "Academy Masters Swim Team (AMST) officially received its not-for-profit designation letter in February of 2007. That first year we hired professional coaches but we operated at a deficit. In the spring of 2008 we hired two high school swim team students to be on deck and run workouts. Last year, we had a small surplus," said Cindy Morse, AMST member.

AMST is in a small community located on the Big Island of Hawaii and has roughly 20 to 30 Masters swimmers.

An unlikely solution to a common problem among Masters teams is not only helping the Masters program to stay afloat financially, but it is providing hands-on experience for future USMS Coaches of the Year. When AMST initially saw its financial losses, it began writing numerous grant applications, which only created exhausted volunteers and headaches. When the grants fell through, the Masters swimmers "turned to the lifeguards that were already on deck for the Masters workouts," recalled Cindy. She continued, "The students already had jobs as lifeguards at the high school pool facility," and they soon transitioned into the role of coach.

"The biggest challenge that we face in a small community is finding experienced adult coaches who are willing to work for limited pay so early in the morning," Cindy shared as she explained her experience. When AMST knew that it had to find a way to meet the needs of its swimmers while maintaining a sound financial plan, AMST approached the high school swimmers. Cindy shared, "We started on a trial basis with a couple of them coming in together to coach. This gave them some support and helped them to run two sides of the pool. After a few weeks, the boys split up the week, alternating Monday/Wednesday/Friday and Tuesday/Thursday. This schedule seemed to work best for them, as it allowed them to make more money for each work day and also afforded them some much needed sleep."

AMST has experienced sustained membership since implementing their creative solution to their coaching problem. Cindy and AMST also see the value in providing coaching experience to young coaches. "Offering a venue to promote more coaches will certainly benefit the swimming community at large. I think it gives the students valuable experience ... sometimes teaching is a great way to learn," exclaimed Cindy.

Other programs often pull in unlikely coaches to assist in the operation of a workout. Olympic coach David Marsh shared similar insight into recruiting volunteer assistant coaches. "An assistant coach doesn't need technical knowledge to be helpful. A coach's child, a high school swimmer or even other Masters swimmers can volunteer to take times, explain the meaning of terminology or read the workout off of the white board for the athletes in the water."

AMST's success since installing their high school coaching program is not only seen in the financials, but also on the pool deck. "It helps boost their confidence and the extra income is nice, too," Cindy said, referring to the benefits of the program for the high school students. The Masters swimmers also benefit from the program; the enthusiasm and enjoyment these young coaches bring to the pool deck is sure to heighten the level of fun at the pool.

Click here to read more about David Marsh's advice to Masters Coaches.


Creating an Event from Scratch

I recently wrote an article for USMS about how to create a new event. You can go to the link here or keep reading...

Several years ago, I got involved with my Local Masters Swimming Committee (LMSC) because I saw opportunities to help make our organization better. There are so many ways to contribute one’s time to clubs, LMSCs and U.S. Masters Swimming at the national level. I am now the chairman of my LMSC and recently began turning my attention toward adding competitions for our members. I would not declare myself an expert at organizing events; however, I decided that creating these competitions for our swimmers was worth venturing outside of my comfort zone; after all, my job is to serve our members …

The Challenge

My objective was to create new events for our swimmers. My LMSC already had an open water swimming series in the works and was in discussion with teams regarding hosting meets in the future. With so much activity already occurring, I thought that a relatively short postal swim (500 yard freestyle) would be a good event to add to the calendar that would not exhaust our coaches, swimmers or volunteers. So, with no experience as a meet director, I decided to create a new event, The Phoenix 500 Postal.

The Process

Step #1
My first step was to talk to other people who had organized postal swims in the past. I wanted to get their perspective of running a similar event. I wanted to model their success and I wanted to understand their mistakes to be sure I would not make the same ones. I reached out to these seasoned meet directors and immediately realized how much effort was involved. With hundreds of paper entry forms, checks and other information pouring in over the course of only a few months, the task of hosting a postal event immediately seemed daunting.

There had to be a better way.

After extreme brainstorming and researching various meet management and logistics options, I decided to create an event that used technology and providers to do the majority of the work. The event would also use U.S. Masters Swimming partners and sponsors whenever possible, along with local resources that had worked with our LMSC before. I wanted this event to serve as a model for future events in my local area.

Step #2
Establishing event details was my second order of business. I collected all of the required verbiage, distances, rules, names, links and other data regarding U.S. Masters Swimming and postal swim procedure. These details would serve as the majority of my meet information and registration form. But before I could complete these documents, I had to copy required sections of our sanctions form and write the other parts. I looked at other postal events and meet registration forms to get an idea of what should be included. After a couple of hours, I thought I had what I needed to move forward.

Step #3
The third step in creating this new event was getting a sanction. This was an easy process; the one-page form is online and only takes a few minutes to complete. I emailed our sanctions chair to let her know that this form and the event details were coming her way soon. I wanted her to review everything to ensure it complied with U.S. Masters Swimming requirements and was error-free. She responded within two days with a sanction number and listed the event on the U.S. Masters Swimming web page. The ball was definitely rolling and we were well on our way to hosting our first ever 500-yard postal event.

Step #4
Step four required my creative self to surface. Though I had the event details, the distance and the sanction number, I was missing one very important piece of the puzzle: a name for the event. The idea of racing continued to flood my thoughts as I brainstormed about the theme of this event. I thought of events like the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and other popular races, which led to the branding of our new event: The Phoenix 500 Postal. Once I had settled on a name, I purchased the domain name www.phoenix500postal.com from Uzipa so I could direct traffic to that site.

My vision of this event was a well-branded and “professional” look and feel, so I was determined to present it in that manner. I had prior experience with a marketing professional and reached out to him to help me with the branding of The Phoenix 500 Postal. Within a couple of days he had a series of designs from which I could choose our logo. We worked together to make some revisions, and a few days later the final design emerged. The design was not only going to brand our website, but it was going to be used on the medals, T-shirts and other places where we planned to identify the event. This marketing professional became so intrigued by what I was doing that he even started swimming with one of the local clubs!

Step #5
Event registration was the fifth component of creating The Phoenix 500 Postal. I called Club Assistant because I knew that they were highly recommended by U.S. Masters Swimming and had just read their article in the U.S. Masters Swimming coach’s newsletter, News from the Deck. We worked together to create an online entry form for the event so that swimmers could sign up for the event online. Club Assistant also helped us by setting up a merchant services account so we could accept debit/credit cards. After a few weeks of testing and tweaking, we had the event online and ready to accept entries.

Step #6
My sixth step is an ongoing commitment and is what I call the “make it or break it step to creating an event”: promotion. The event needed to be promoted for people to know about it. I listed the event on the U.S. Masters Swimming website as well as on the U.S. Masters Swimming discussion forums, on a local triathlon site, on our LMSC website, on our blog and on Facebook. I also sent emails to all of the members of our LMSC. I told anyone and everyone that would listen about the event and encouraged everyone to participate. I even convinced Club Assistant staff members to swim in the event!

Step #7
Step seven is simple: Make it special. Because Hasty Awards is a U.S. Masters Swimming corporate sponsor, I contacted them regarding medals for this event. They will create branded awards for us by using Mylar inserts and will mail the medals out to the awardees after the event has concluded. This process will eliminate one of the many manual tasks most meet directors have to deal with while also making the event special for participants.

So, within seven simple steps I was able to create an event that I am sure people will enjoy and add to their annual calendar, and the best part of this experience was … all of it was paid for by sponsors. One of my Masters swimming teammates owns Bonded Logic, a local business that makes all-natural cotton insulation. I asked if his company would be interested in being the presenting sponsor for this event, and he said he was thrilled about the opportunity: “YES!” he replied quickly. His brother, another local business owner, also eager to become involved, agreed to become the title sponsor for the next postal swim we will host later this year! So all of the upfront costs for this event have been paid for; any revenue that comes in from these events will be profit for the LMSC.

The Result

The Phoenix 500 Postal is up and running; you can enter online at www.phoenix500postal.com. Everything is running smoothly, and as we promote this event, more and more swimmers continue to sign up. From now until the end of short course season, there will be little to do other than encourage people to participate. Entries are starting to flow in and administration has been a breeze so far. I would already consider it a successful event.

Lessons Learned

What have I learned by creating The Phoenix 500 Postal?

Lesson 1: Everything takes longer than expected.
No matter how well you prepare, a new event involves many elements you cannot control. Your estimated schedule will slip by several weeks at least as you attempt to put all the pieces together. Relax, this is normal and you will be fine. Learn from this and use this knowledge to make everything run better next time.

Lesson 2: Make things simple for everybody involved.
Walk through the event in someone else’s shoes. What will it look like from a participant’s perspective? Is registration easy? Are event details complete? Spell everything out clearly and make it simple to participate. Anticipate questions and have answers or systems in place to address them.

Lesson 3: Add value for the participants.
Why would somebody spend time and money on your event? What value does it give them? If your event is fun, interesting, relevant, etc., you will draw more participants. Nice awards, apparel and goodies help, but ultimately your event should be an experience that is compelling to be part of because it is operated well and enjoyable from a swimming perspective.

The Takeaway

We all have the opportunity to contribute to U.S. Masters Swimming and add value to our membership. Whether it is a postal swim, meet, open water swim, clinic, social or other event, use your skills and talents to make it the best you can. It will be a learning experience that will yield positive results and provide valuable experience that you can apply elsewhere in your life. Good luck with your efforts, and hope to see your swimmers be a part of the inaugural Phoenix 500 Postal!


SPMA Regionals

If you are going to Clovis for SCY Nationals and want to get one more meet in, consider the SPMA Regionals at Mission Viejo. This is a top-notch facility that has hosted USMS Nationals and a host of other meets over the years. You can enter online here, also feel free to go to their website to get more information.


A 20-something's Plea to U.S. Masters Swimming

The Division I NCAA Championship meet is one of the finest displays of teamwork, dedication, guts and glory. Hundreds of 18- to 22-year-olds come together with their coaches, athletic trainers, massage therapists, athletic departments and other support staff to put it on the line, leave it in the pool and give it all they've got. Last week I had the opportunity to witness the 2009 Women's Division I NCAA Championship meet. I saw fast swims, shattered records, high fives and smiles. On day three of the marathon-of-a-meet, I saw tears. The senior girls shed tears, the parents of senior girls shed tears and even the coaches of the senior girls shed tears because each of them knew that a chapter in the life of that athlete had ended moments earlier. "I had a good swimming career," I overheard one girl manage to squeeze out between sniffles with whom I assume to be her mother in the women's locker room after the meet. As I choked back tears myself, I was quick to say, "In my world, one's swimming journey has barely started at the age of 22."

I attended six sessions of the NCAA Championship meet and I saw hundreds of swims and the only thought that ran through my head was, "How are we going to show these women that this is just the beginning? It doesn't have to end here."

Senioritis. This emotional state occurs in seniors ready to move on, seniors who are sick of homework, studying and, yes, even swimming. They are ready to ditch their strict diets and intense practices and they are convinced that life will be easier, more rewarding and fun if they can just get themselves through the final semester of college and out into the "real world." As a 27-year-old who had these same ideas five years ago, I can understand their angst and sense of urgency. However, today as I long to find time to work out, I miss my teammates and crave an athletic department to hold me accountable. I shake my head and want to yell to all of these seniors, all of the girls that I watched swim their alleged "last meet" last week, "DON'T STOP SWIMMING! Don't give up on the fire to beat the person in the lane next to you. Don't hang your suit up quite yet. There is a place for you."

There may be no way to cure the symptoms of this more-dangerous-than-we-think state called senioritis. However, each Masters swimmer out there has the power to minimize the pain. Many of us know collegiate swimmers. We swim at or near college campuses. And each of us has the responsibility to share our experiences with these athletes. Very few of the women who competed in the meet last week scored any points for their team. Some of the women competing in the meet swam in a single event, and even more college swimmers sat at home watching the meet via live streaming on the Internet because they had not qualified. My heart broke for these swimmers, but my most intense feeling was not sadness but a sense of urgency on our part as members of the largest Masters aquatic organization in the world. I was almost panicky as I thought of time passing in the lives of these athletes who think that their swimming career is over. We, as U.S. Masters Swimming, talk about building our membership base. We work hard to add benefits and value for you. We secure corporate partnerships and continue to deliver news and information. Now is the time that each of us, members of the staff, members of the Board of Directors, coaches, volunteers and Masters swimmers, must make a commitment to the next generation of Masters swimmers. So, raise your right hand and repeat after me (yes, I know you are at work, sitting at home or maybe even at a coffee shop and that this act may draw attention, but the good it will do for the swimming community will far surpass your momentary embarrassment): "I will reach out to a 20-something swimmer. I will share my experiences that I've accumulated within U.S. Masters Swimming. I will make sure that that 20-something understands that there is no pressure, that there are no strict diets, weigh-ins or test sets that determine your placement on the team. I will invite him or her to my workout. I will help to grow U.S. Masters Swimming one 20-something at a time."

This week, the Men's Division I NCAA Championship meet will be held in College Station, Tex., at Texas A&M University. Like the women last week, many men will declare this their final meet. Let's not allow this declaration. Reach out to your children, your children's friends, your former college coaches, athletic departments or the college swimmers you pass by on the way to the pool deck and remind them that this is not the end of their swimming journey, but merely the beginning.

Courtesy US Masters Swimming. Click link here for original article.


GMM with AVD

Catch this extended segment of Gold Medal Mel with local radio personality (and former Olympic swimmer) Amy Van Dyken.

Hmmmm, maybe she can be convinced to swim again...for fun and fitness.


Keeping Athletes Engaged at Every Level

by Ashley Gangloff

Coach David Marsh, Olympic Coach and former collegiate coach with 12 NCAA titles under his belt, shares his secrets about how to run a successful practice and cater to athletes of every skill level. David now works closely with SwimMAC Masters in Charlotte, NC and his wife, Kristin, is also a Masters coach. He explained that it is possible to help each and every swimmer accomplish his or her goals. Whether a goal is to swim from one end of the pool to the other without stopping or to swim from one end of the pool to the other in under 30 seconds Masters coaches can design a workout to fit the needs of a broad range of athletes. The following elements are keys to success for any coach of any athlete.

"First you have to decide what the primary focus of the workout is going to be," said David. "You can divide the group based on skill level or goals, however, do not divide into more than four different groups. Each group can have a slightly different workout based on skill level and goals," continued David. "As a coach, try to be ‘present' for the main purpose of each group's workout. If one workout is designed to end on 4 x 50 all out at the end of the set, be there for these swims, call out times, and provide feedback."

Get Organized
David emphasized the importance of proper lane organization when asked what to do with 50 athletes ranging in skill level. "Arrange athletes in lanes based on their goals," David said. He also provided a tip, "Print out a picture that represents the various goals of your athletes, maybe use a picture of a fitness swimmer, a U.S. Masters Swimming logo, and a picture of a triathlete. Paste each picture on a card to place at the end of each lane. This way when your swimmers arrive for practice, rather than referring to one lane as a ‘slow lane' or a ‘fast lane', swimmers can place themselves in the lane that is most appropriate for his or her own goals."

Recruit Volunteer Assistants
By having numerous "coaches" on deck, swimmers at each level and in every lane will receive feedback, an important element in gaining confidence and improving. "An assistant coach doesn't need technical knowledge to be helpful," said David. "A coach's child, a high school swimmer, or even other Masters swimmers can volunteer to take times, explain the meaning of terminology, or read the workout off of the white board for the athletes in the water," David explained. "Masters swimmers tend to crave feedback. Give it to them. You may need help to do so, but make it a priority to provide times, explanations, and feedback. "

Bring a Bag of Toys
Bring a bag of toys to create a fun atmosphere and an atmosphere in which beginning swimmers will want to return and evolve as a swimmer. "Fins are fun," said David. "If newer swimmers are getting lapped or feeling overwhelmed because they are swimming next to more experiences athletes, let them use fins. By compensating elements that are not yet strengths, a swimmer will feel more confident and a coach may be able to continue to assign the same workout to a variety of skill levels," he explained. David went on to describe other "toys" to use in a workout. "Throw a tennis ball into the workout to work on head alignment or challenge new swimmers with a snorkel, have your athletes swim with a stretch cord either for resistance or excelled speed," shared David. "It is a Masters coach's responsibility to make the environment fun and inviting."

Provide a Picture
"Allow for the more experienced swimmers to get out and coach the beginners. This will not only allow new swimmers to benefit from their peers' experiences, but will also give the opportunity for the more elite athletes a chance to see commonly made mistakes. Teaching is the best way to learn," according to David. "Do the same with the less experienced athletes. Have the beginner swimmers or triathletes get out and watch the competitive swimmers train. Point out various technique elements such as streamline positions or flip turns. Your beginner swimmers will enjoy and be motivated by watching their peers."

Walk and Talk
"Simple: walk up and down the pool deck and talk to your athletes, no matter what skill level they are at, what lane they are in, or what their goals may be," said David. "Masters swimmers choose to be at practice so it is important to respect their desire for coaching and feedback. Actively coach each athlete no matter what lane, skill level, competitiveness or goals."


Sun Devil Invite Results

The results from last Sunday's Sun Devil Invitational are now available on the website. There was some fast swimming on a beautiful and sunny spring day. If this was any indication, we are going to see more excellent swimming during the last weekend in March at BEST. Thanks for the Sun Devil Masters for hosting this meet and for all of the competitors and volunteers who made it possible.


Swimming Sisters

Sisters Rebekah, Ruth and Elisabeth, ages 54, 47 and 45, respectively, have been swimming together for years and continue to support and push one another to set and accomplish goals in the water. Swimming runs in the family of these sisters, who have seven other siblings. Frank K. Elliot, Rebekah, Ruth and Elisabeth's father, was an All-American swimmer and world record holder in the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1940 and encouraged all 10 of his children to swim. Rebekah, the eldest of the sisters, learned to swim at the age of 6 and at 14 passed the legacy on to her sister Elisabeth by teaching her how to swim; Elisabeth was 5 years old. Because of the age difference between the sisters, as well as the rest of the siblings, no two siblings were ever fiercely competitive with one another, however the Elliott swimmers made up the better part of the age group swimming program. We held our own in our respective age groups," shares Rebekah.

Rebekah, who claims "I don't swim against them, I swim behind them," shares that there is not too much sibling rivalry among the sisters. Each sister has her strengths and her weaknesses. The sisters, who have motivated one another for more than 40 years, continue to do so through regular phone calls and emails. The sisters try to plan a trip or a competition together once a year. "Swimming has been a way, and excuse, for sisters to reunite," said Ruth.

Last year, Rebekah, Ruth and Elisabeth swam in Bermuda's 2008 Round the Sound 2K open water competition. Elisabeth says, "None of us had done much open water swimming in the past. What better place than Bermuda?! The race seemed less daunting for us beginners knowing that we were in paradise." The race included various events such as a 2K, a 4K and an 8K swim; all three sisters agreed on the 2K distance. Rebekah recalls the start of the race: "They took off like torpedoes, while I kept my tortoise-like pace." Ruth and Elisabeth decided to use one another throughout the race for support and a little bit of teamwork. ""Ruth and I decided that we would stick close together throughout the race - we weren't focused on competing as much as enjoying the swim. We got separated at the beginning, but after about five minutes we reunited. Initially, we thought we'd take turns drafting off each other, but at some point my stroke started feeling very comfortable and I kept thinking about a comment that Rebekah made before the race. [She said] ‘One of you two can win this - you should go for it,'" shares Elisabeth. Elisabeth and Ruth finished first and second in the Masters event and Ruth finished 13th. "Knowing she was right behind me motivated me to swim harder," shares Elisabeth.

Rebekah, who started her swimming career on the Laurelwood Swim Team when she was 7 years old, now swims for "the camaraderie and exhilaration of it all," she says. Rebekah just started competing in Masters pool competitions in 2009. She has competed in two meets and already is looking forward to a third Masters pool meet in March, as well as another open water event in Asheville in September.

All three sisters are registered members of Asheville Masters Swimming, but still remember when their mother "had all of us children in diapers in the baby pool before we could walk," according to Ruth. Ruth is a U.S. Masters Swimming coach and coaches two or three mornings per week. On mornings she is not coaching, she is swimming. "It has been so much fun to start planning for our next adventure away from the everyday pressures of work and family."

Elisabeth, who says, "If I don't get a chance to swim enough [during the week] I feel terrible, both mentally and physically," juggles a husband, two school-age children and a full time job. She also has her sights set on more competitions in 2009. "We are hoping to reunite at the Albatross Open in Maryland in March. We've discussed returning to Bermuda and I am pushing for a trip to the Long Course Nationals in Puerto Rico next year," exclaims Elisabeth.

Though these three swimming sisters compete, and are darn good at it, there is a fourth swimming sister, Nancy, who swims for fitness. Last time I checked, four people were enough for a relay...


Top 100 Open Water Swims

Have you ever wondered what the Top 100 Open Water Swims (in the world) are? The people at 10kswimmer did and they compiled their list. Check it out, you will see a couple of familiar events listed there...


Peaks Athletic Club

There is a new masters team in Fountain Hills! Peaks Athletic Club now has a masters program at their facility, which is right down the street from the fountain. They train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6pm, offering small group workouts with lots of personalized attention. If you are ever in Fountain Hills or north Scottsdale, stop by and check them out.


A Masters Swimmer’s Return to College Swimming

In 1977 Suzanne Heim-Bowen was a founding member of the women's swimming team at California Polytechnic State University, San Obispo, Cal. (Cal Poly), but only competed for two seasons during her college career. With remaining eligibility, Suzanne enrolled in classes and joined the swim team at Diablo Valley College, a two-year community college, in early 2009 at the age of 50. Suzanne maintains her full-time job as a school psychologist, attends a full schedule of college courses, and manages to swim with not one, but three, teams in her local area!

"My husband is one of the water polo coaches at Diablo Valley College and was approached by the captain of the swim team," said Suzanne. She continued, "The captain knew that I was a distance swimmer and asked my husband if I had eligibility left." The Diablo Valley College swim team needed a miler to assist them in their quest for a conference title this season and hopes of landing a top three place in the state. Suzanne, a renowned distance and open water swimmer, was a perfect solution. "When my husband told me about the conversation he had had at the pool, how could I say no?" exclaimed Suzanne.

Suzanne, whose college swimming experience never seemed complete, was thrilled to get the opportunity to be a part of the team and the team was even more enthused to have such an experienced swimmer in their lanes. "They have really accepted me," shared Suzanne, who joked, "They call me the team mom. I guess I should be happy that they are not calling me the team grandma." Because of Suzanne's demanding schedule, which begins with college classes at 6:30 a.m. and moves into work, practice and then more classes, she continues to swim with her local Masters program, Walnut Creek Masters, during the week and swims with her college team on the weekends and over holidays. Suzanne's first college meet will be in two weeks. The Diablo Valley College swim team's season lasts roughly 13 weeks in total.

The level of enthusiasm among the college swimmers provides Suzanne with a great environment in which to train hard and have fun. "The team does cheers, high-fives one another, and provides support during tough sets," said Suzanne. "I am doing pretty well against the college swimmers [in distance sets], but don't ask me to sprint against any of them ... they are amazing," replied Suzanne when asked how she was holding up compared to her teammates.

Diablo Valley College, like many community colleges, welcomes athletes of various skill levels. "There really is a place for everyone," Suzanne explained. Suzanne is not only getting support from her teammates, but has provided insight and encouragement to them as well. "One girl discussed her plans to move on to a four-year college in the future; however, she said that she would not continue swimming. I reminded her that even though she will not compete on the college team at a four-year college, that there is always a place for her within U.S. Masters Swimming. I shared my Masters experiences with her and encouraged her to stay in the water. I am thrilled to get the opportunity to raise awareness about Masters swimming," said Suzanne. Suzanne continued by explaining the level of respect among various USA Swimming teams, U.S. Masters Swimming teams and college teams in her local area. "It is like an evolution of swimming," continued Suzanne. "When an athlete is finished with one team he or she can move on to the next. There is always a next step for anyone who is interested in continuing their swimming career." Suzanne is an incredible advocate for U.S. Masters Swimming and continues to inspire young athletes everywhere to continue to have fun in the water.

Suzanne, though juggling a busy schedule, will be attending multiple U.S. Masters Swimming events this year. She intends to compete at the 2009 U.S. Masters Swimming Short Course Nationals as well as various open water events throughout the year.


USMS 1-Mile Open Water Championship

You can swim the USMS 1-Mile Open Water Championship the day after Short Course Nationals ends! Clovis Swim Club is hosting this event at Millerton Lake just outside of Fresno, which makes it convenient for all you distance people going to Nationals. Go to the event page here to learn more. Good luck!


Dryland Training: A Nonspecific Approach

by Rich Abrahams
February 9, 2009

As a general rule, if you want to go fast in a race, your training should mimic the conditioning and technique required by your focus events. For example, the type of energy required to swim a 50 meter race is very different from the type of energy required for a 1,500 meter race. The technique required for breaststroke is very different from that needed for freestyle. The emphasis of your in-water training should be specific to whatever events you want to excel in.

Does this methodology apply to dryland training? Well, sometimes yes (more about this in another newsletter), but personally, I feel that concentrating on nonspecific swimming activities is best for the long run, both for your specific swimming goals and your general health and fitness. I especially question dryland exercises that try to mimic swimming motions: You're already exercising these muscles in the water in the most specific way possible.

One of the most important reasons to be "anti-specific" is muscular balance. When one group of muscles becomes much stronger or fitter than the opposing (or antagonist) muscles, injuries are more likely-if you've ever worked with a physical therapist for a swimming-related shoulder injury, you know what I'm talking about. The focus is on strengthening those muscles that act as stabilizers to the bigger, stronger working muscles. This methodology doesn't just apply to shoulder stability. Many work like crazy on their abs or quads, but how much effort is expended on lower back or hamstrings?

The hottest thing in college swimming dryland training these days is focusing on developing athleticism. The three areas of concentration are exercises that use your own body weight as resistance (for example, push-ups, pull-ups), exercises that add an element of balance (fit-balls, yoga) and exercises that work on acceleration of the body (or body part) or a weight. (box jumps, medicine ball throws). Better athletes will be better swimmers. They'll be fitter, stronger, more stable and more explosive.

Most of us agree that as Masters swimmers we have a much longer "window" in which to participate and achieve our goals than age-group or collegiate swimmers. I've been at it for over 34 years and hope I've still got a long way to go. Because Masters swimmers are in it for the long haul, we've got plenty of time to exercise, train and swim to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Sure, if you're a serious competitor and you've just aged up you may want to adjust some of your dryland training to be more swimming specific leading up to your major competition, but the nature of our sport allows us to diversify our dryland activities. Diversifying your dryland training can be easy: change your resistance training often. Consider participating in cycling, Pilates, running, group exercise classes or racquetball, among other fun, athletic activities. Diversifying your dryland activity will keep you balanced, it will keep you refreshed and renewed, it can add another element of play to your life, and it will keep you swimming fast, remaining healthy and looking great throughout your life.

About Rich Abrahams

Rich swam collegiately for Northwestern University where he was an All-American and NCAA finalist. Rich has been a member of U.S. Masters Swimming since 1975. He currently hold 8 world and 16 USMS records.


Go with Visa

VISA Features U.S. Masters Swimming in Global Campaign

VISA is a brand synonymous with the Super Bowl, World Series, Daytona 500 and now U.S. Masters Swimming. We are pleased to share that U.S. Masters Swimming is the exclusive swimming organization featured in VISA's new global Go with VISA campaign. The campaign will run throughout the duration of 2009 and be promoted by VISA in TV, print and the Internet.

How Did This Happen?
In January, VISA and U.S. Masters Swimming began talking about a top-secret campaign that VISA was planning to launch in March. VISA saw the passion of our membership, they saw we were growing, and thought we'd be a terrific fit for the new Go with VISA campaign they were developing. The campaign is focusing on fitness, social and community activities, all of which fit the culture values of U.S. Masters Swimming.

Once it was agreed we'd be part of the campaign, we worked closely with VISA's ad agency to develop a concept, look and feel for our "tile" within the campaign.

Drum Roll Please...
On Monday night, the go.visa.com site went live. VISA's new campaign, Go with VISA, can also be found at www.visa.com/go. Go features numerous activities from "Go pick up a hobby" to "Go catch and cook a fish" to, of course, "Go join a swim team," which includes a link directly to www.usms.org. According to VISA, "[Go] is a tiny word that sets everything in motion." Not only is U.S. Masters Swimming a perfect fit for this campaign, but its members are practically poster-children (er ... adults) for this motto.

Rob Butcher, executive director, commented on U.S. Masters Swimming's participation in the campaign: "One of our initiatives is to grow partnerships that extend the reach and promotion of adult swimming. We have more than 1,000 organized U.S. Masters Swimming programs across the country and hundreds of experienced coaches operating those programs. We are increasing promotion of adult health, fitness, wellness and competition through aquatics. By associating U.S. Masters Swimming with this VISA campaign, a brand with global reach, we are able to meet this goal."

U.S. Masters Swimming is experiencing double-digit membership growth over 2008 and we expect our numbers to continue to rise. U.S. Masters Swimming's involvement with campaigns such as Go with VISA are catalysts in raising the popularity among the fitness population looking for a fun, healthy and affordable means of exercise and interaction.

So, What Does This Mean for You?
Thank you. Thank you for being active. Thank you for enjoying exercise. Thank you for serving as motivation and inspiration for adults around the globe. Thank you for showing up to the pool every week. Thank you for being you, a swimmer.


Inverness Masters Take the Challenge

Earlier this year, assistant Coach Marcia Anziano, chair of the U. S. Masters Fitness Education Committee, challenged the Inverness Masters swimmers to try one of the programs offered by her committee. One of the program that tracks how far you swim, Go the Distance, is free to members and while tracking distance offers some great milestone awards that can be purchased along the way. The second program challenges swimmers to try all 18 pool events, but does not require that they be done at a meet, they can be done during regular workouts.

Many of the swimmers responded positively to the second program, known as the Check Off Challenge. So the Inverness Masters are taking this challenge on as a group. Many have ordered their shirts. Details about this event can be found at http://www.usms.org/fitness/content/checkoff. Each year this event has a different theme that is presented on a t-shirt. You simply purchase the shirt and you are on your way to lots of challenges. Every pool event is shown on the shirt, and once you swim it, you mark it off with permanent marker. The goal is to mark all 18 events.

The Inverness swimmers will begin in March checking off the shorter events, the 50's of each stroke, the 100 and 200 free, and the 100 IM. After Nationals, prior to summer, they will work to complete the 100 back, 100 breast, and 100 fly.

During the summer months, when workouts are focused on distance and open water, they will target the 400, 800, and 1500 free events.

At this point, they will have completed 13 of the 18 events, with 5 difficult events to go. Many of you swim some or all of these events at meets during the year and probably think that this is not a big accomplishment. But think of all the swimmers that you train with that never attend meets, many of whom revert to freestyle during your workouts. These are the very swimmers that are going to work to meet this challenge. Working together with their teammates, supporting one another, they hope to reach these lofty goals.

Moving in to the Fall, Inverness turns it's focus back to pool competitions, and last year introduced the month of "Stroketober". "Stroketober" extends from late September into early November. It is during this time that focus is put on each stroke, and it will be during this time that the swimmers will meet the challenge of swimming the 200 back, 200 breast, and the 200 fly!

During the remaining part of the year, the team will be challenged with the 200 IM and the 400 IM. The plan is there to support all that want to meet the challenge to be able to do so. With support from their coaches and fellow teammates, swimmers that now only think about such things as a 200 fly, hope to be able to complete it themselves.

I am sharing this as it is not too late for you to take the challenge along with your teammates. Hammerhead Aquatics of Florida, the workout group sponsoring the 2009 event, and will mail shirts each month, so it is not too late to take up the challenge. Just check it out on the web and let the challenge begin.


Short Course State Championships

The Short Course State Championships are being held at the end of this month (March 27-29) at Brophy Sports Campus in Phoenix. You can download the meet form here, be sure you get your entry in before the 20th. Come on out and swim at this fast facility.

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