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SWIMMER Editorials

  1. Part of the Story (November–December 2017)

    by , October 31st, 2017 at 09:34 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    We spend a lot of time helping share the stories of our individual members, but U.S. Masters Swimming has a story, too.

    In two years USMS will begin celebrating its 50th anniversary. Of course, our longtime members—some of whom were there at the beginning—are excited about this. But our celebrations will include all our members. If you just joined USMS, you are now part of the story.

    You might wonder how our history affects your swimming. For starters, you might not be enjoying a daily swim workout if it weren’t for the efforts of John Spannuth, Ransom Arthur, June Krauser, and others.

    In her profile of Spannuth on page 18, Elaine K. Howley takes us back to when adults over the age of 25 were advised to approach exercise cautiously, as though they might endanger their health if they worked out too hard.

    We know better now. Thanks to advances in medicine and research, we know that vigorous physical activity has life-prolonging effects. It’s also why nonswimmers are surprised when they find out your real age—many of you look a decade younger than your FINA age.

    Watching an organization spring up around the healthful pursuit of swimming has been fun for the early adopters, including Robert Beach of St. Pete Masters, who swam in the second masters meet—held in 1971—and hasn’t stopped since.

    Beach put his photo albums on long-term loan to the National Office, so we could scan and preserve them for generations to come. The images included in our profile on Spannuth are all from those albums.

    If you have a favorite image or two that tells not only your swimming story, but part of the overall Masters Swimming story, please reach out to us—we’d love to include copies in our archives and share them throughout the yearlong celebration in 2020.

    And they don’t have to be from the 1970s—we’ll be celebrating Masters Swimming through all five decades of our history, so whether you’ve been with us for 50 years or five months, you’re part of our story.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:24 PM by Editor

    Tags: history, photos, usms
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  2. Seasons (September-October 2014)

    by , September 1st, 2014 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Every year at the USMS annual meeting, during a House of Delegates session, the names of members who passed away during the year are read and a moment of silence is observed in their honor. Some of the names are those of well-known members; some are unfamiliar. Regardless, the reaction on the floor is the same: respectful silence and reflection.

    This year the names of two of Masters Swimming’s founding members, both Ransom J. Arthur Award recipients who passed away peacefully in the embrace of loved ones—within a few weeks of each other this summer—will be on that list: June Krauser, 88, and Paul Hutinger, 89.

    It would be impossible to capture here the impact June, known worldwide as “The Mother of Masters Swimming,” has had on USMS. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for her. Unlike many of our longtime members, I never had the opportunity to know her. Based on their remembrances, I know that I would have liked her very much: She demanded excellence in all things and spoke her mind, unencumbered by the burden of an overactive filter.

    Paul Hutinger, who served on the Sports Medicine and Science, Recognition and Awards, and History and Archives Committees, and his wife Margie, have been familiar faces on pool decks around the country for many years. When USMS established its first national headquarters, the Hutingers stopped by with memorabilia from the early days of Masters Swimming, including a poster advertising the first long-course nationals in 1972, and it hangs in our office today.

    Two other names that will be included on that list this year are swimmers who were taken abruptly during open water swims, of apparent heart attacks, within a few weeks of each other this summer: Bob Matysek, 58, and Chris Clarke, 45.

    Bob and his brothers, including Jim Matysek, USMS IT director and creator of our website, usms.org, have an annual family tradition of doing the Chesapeake Bay Swim together, and this was Bob’s 20th year. Something went wrong about a mile and a half into the 4.4-mile swim, and Bob was pulled into a rescue boat. Jim, who was in the wave right after Bob, swam past that boat—not knowing his brother was on board.

    A few days later, my close friend Chris Clarke, an avid open water swimmer and fierce competitor, and I were texting about Bob’s death and Chris wrote, “You never know when your time is up; live life every day!” A little more than a week later he too was gone, pulled less than a mile from the finish of a 2.4-mile race in a peaceful little lake in Indiana.

    Loss is part of life, and as cliché as it sounds, I do cling to the belief that Bob and Chris died doing what they loved. They don’t appear to have suffered—the pain resides in the hearts of those they left behind.

    Another way to honor those who precede us to that ultimate warm-down pool is to share their stories. We’ll be working with the History and Archives Committee to bring June’s and Paul’s stories back to the pages of SWIMMER and usms.org.

    We’ll also be working with the Sports Medicine and Science Committee and other medical experts to continue publishing articles on health issues that affect our members. Those all-important conversations between adult athletes and their physicians must continue. In addition, case studies on sudden-death incidents assist medical staff, event directors, and our Open Water and Championship Committees in planning.

    And no matter what, we’re not going to stop swimming. One September day in the future, our names will be called on the HOD floor and, just as June’s, Paul’s, Bob’s, and Chris’s will, we’ll want them to echo with the resonance of a life well swum.

    In the meantime, get to know your lanemates. Share an anecdote with a younger swimmer. Ask an old-timer about “that time back when….” Talk to your doctor. Honor the contributions of those who came before by contributing your own verse to the ongoing, powerful song of Masters Swimming and of life.

    Updated September 21st, 2015 at 09:36 AM by Editor

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  3. The M Word (May-June 2013)

    by , May 1st, 2013 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    What does the word Masters in Masters Swimming mean to you?

    Masters
    , in USMS parlance, merely signifies that you are an adult: age 18 or older.

    Over the years, we’ve heard different reactions: “It’s only for fast swimmers.” “It’s for swimmers age 50 and above.” “It’s only for swimmers who want to compete.” “It’s only for those who have mastered the sport.” “It’s only for pool swimmers.” And my personal favorite, from a young age-grouper at our pool, “It’s for old Sharks.” As perpetually young-at-heart athletes, many of us believe age is relative, but the reactions from new, would-be, and nonmembers runs the gamut.

    In the 1960s, when Dr. Ransom Arthur was promoting organized adult swimming for fitness, the word Masters was borrowed from Masters Track and Field and it stuck. Some of the age misconceptions about Masters swimming may stem from this—USA Masters Track and Field does have lower age limits of 30 and 40, depending on the type of event.

    Even Masters Swimming, which started as a committee of the American Swimming Coaches Association, migrated to a committee of the Amateur Athletic Union, and later morphed into the USMS we know today, had an initial lower age limit of 25. This was dropped to 19 in 1986, and then to 18 in 2002.

    Age limits aside, the M word has been a topic of discussion at USMS annual meetings. In 2007, a branding task force considered the idea of dropping it in favor of something perhaps more inviting. But with so much equity and tradition invested into U.S. Masters Swimming, it was decided after careful thought that we would maintain our heritage while repositioning our identity and promoting education and services that would encourage more adults to swim.

    Masters Swimming is open to anyone age 18 and older, regardless of age and ability. Some Masters programs even have adult learn-to-swim programs for those who have never set foot in the water. Our charitable arm, the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation (usms.org/giving), provides grants to clubs who create such opportunities for adults in their communities.

    Our Facebook page (facebook.com/USMastersSwimmingFanPage), is packed with links to mainstream media stories about Masters swimmers. This is an exciting development, and we urge you to pitch stories to your local media outlets—they’re always looking for good content and are usually happy to do a piece on your local program, your coach, or a teammate who has an interesting story. Be sure to send us the link when it’s published. Sharing these stories helps dispel misconceptions about the M word and helps us to encourage more adults to swim.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:39 AM by Editor

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  4. Swimming in Technology (November-December 2012)

    by , November 1st, 2012 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    While cleaning out a box of old files, I came across a manila folder—the darker, older kind with a metal, two-hole fastener at the upper right. Inside I found, meticulously handwritten on accounting ledger paper by my father, a complete record of my brief competitive swimming history—1973 to 1977.

    What a difference a generation makes. My son just checks USA Swimming’s Deck Pass app on his iPhone if he wants to know his times. USMS members have digital options as well—we can log in to our MyUSMS accounts at usms.org, view our Swimmer Info pages, and there, like magic, are our times and more.

    As staff writer Laura Jones conveys in her feature on event directors (“Take 5,” page 32), it takes dedicated volunteers to put on a good event—that has never changed. But knowing that meets of yesteryear were run with paper and pencil, and the results hand-printed or maybe typewritten, is hard to fathom. Most meet directors and volunteers I know would not want to go back to life before Hy-Tek.

    In addition to helping events run more smoothly, technology can benefit us at practice. Heart-rate monitors keep you in the zone. You can wear a wristwatch that will keep track of your yardage. And I can’t be alone in my amazement that some of these devices even know what stroke you're swimming. We take a look at these and other gadgets in Swim Bag on page 38.

    Open water swimming has its gadgets as well. You can affix a small GPS unit to your goggle strap and, when you get home to your computer, upload the data and see your swim: how far, how fast, what pace—even a map showing the zig-zags where you had sighting problems. (New contributor to SWIMMER, Kristin Bender, takes a look at the history of GPS in Splashback, page 48.)

    As much as I love the incredible computing power, convenience, and flexibility offered by today’s technologies, I miss one thing: the starter’s pistol. Its clear and commanding report is way cooler than the sterile *bemph* we hear now.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:43 AM by Editor

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  5. Happy Anniversary, USMS (July-August 2010)

    by , July 1st, 2010 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    The Georgia Tech Hotel and Convention Center was the scene for the 40th Anniversary celebration that functioned as this year’s meet social at the 2010 Short Course Nation al Championships in Atlanta. Longtime USMS members gathered with brand new members to celebrate 40 years of competition and camaraderie.

    The first national Masters swimming championships were held in Amarillo, Texas, in 1970, when Masters swimming was first being organized. Capt. Ransom J. Arthur, a Navy doctor who envisioned swimming as a way for adults to stay physically and mentally fit as they aged, collaborated with John Spannuth, then president of the American Swimming Coaches Association, to hold that first meet.

    The meet social developed as a tradition over the years. This year, more than 300 athletes and guests were treated not only to a delicious catered meal, but also an interesting history lesson. Robert Beach with St. Petersburg Aquatics presented a slideshow highlighting some of the early days of Masters swimming. Beach, 79, one of the original members of USMS, has amassed a sizeable collection of memorabilia and was happy to share his reminiscences.

    Beach is also the founder of the longest running short course Masters meet in the country, and quite possibly the world. After consulting with Ransom Arthur and Richard Rahe, another Navy doctor and early organizer of Masters Swimming in 1970, Beach organized what was originally called the Southern Short Course Championships, which later became the St. Petersburg Short Course Championships. The first meet in 1970 had 17 competitors, but these days the meet averages about 300.

    Swimmers who love pool meets owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneers of Masters swimming: Arthur, Spannuth, Rahe, and others like June Krauser, Hal Onusseit, and Buster Crabbe. And their supporters—the early meet organizers, volunteers, and athletes, who showed up, swam, and worked to put down the foundation for the organization we enjoy today. Some of these athletes are still competing and were on hand to help celebrate in Atlanta, including Beach, Ted Haartz, Paul Hutinger, Jane Katz and Bumpy Jones. If you are fortunate to meet any of these members, be sure to thank them for their contributions to our great sport.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:54 AM by Editor

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  6. The Swimming Race (January-February 2010)

    by , January 1st, 2010 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks drowning as the second leading cause of accidental death among children. According to the USA Swimming Foundation, approximately six out of 10 African-American and Hispanic/Latino children cannot swim. Children in these groups are about twice as likely to drown as Caucasian children. The rate of youth drowning deaths in ethnically diverse communities is two to three times higher than the national average.

    These grim statistics have fueled swim programs nationwide – programs with the goal of making sure all kids are water-safe. An article in this issue’s Healthy Swimmer brings us up to date on USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash program, which is providing seed money for learn-to-swim programs in underserved areas of the country. Program spokesperson, Olympian Cullen Jones, completed a six-city tour this past summer to promote awareness and kick-start programs.

    Programs and progress are encouraging, but a failure to examine the root causes of problems often creates more problems. The dearth of swimming skills among modern African-Americans has perpetuated a belief that blacks were always poor swimmers, despite evidence to the contrary. Kevin Dawson, assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, contributes some of his research findings in Splashback. Professor Dawson shares accounts of skilled black swimmers dating back to the late 1600s. From the Middle Ages onward, most Europeans did not swim at all. As these Europeans came in contact with Africans, they were amazed at their swimming abilities. So what happened? How did we get to today?

    Some believe that slaves born in the U.S. were not taught to swim because they would use it as a means of escape. This may have been true in isolated cases, but Dawson says what happened during Reconstruction and on through the civil rights movement has had a bigger impact. “Bodies of water that were previously used for recreation by blacks were often repositories for victims of racial violence,” Dawson says. Water became closely associated with terror and violence.

    When people are afraid of water, their children seldom learn to swim. Ergo, many generations of African-Americans did not learn to swim. In 1969, a now widely discredited study titled “The Negro and Learning to Swim: The Buoyancy Problem Related to Reported Biological Difference,” claimed that, due to heavier bones and muscle mass, blacks were not buoyant enough to swim well. Throw segregation into the mix, with little or no access to public pools and beaches, and the lack of pools in ethnically diverse communities, and the cycle continued.

    How does this relate to Masters swimming? USMS is proud to support the USA Swimming Foundation and its efforts to eliminate childhood drowning due to unequal opportunity. The Foundation has a presence in SWIMMER, and many USMS members donate directly. USMS is a supporter of the Foundation’s annual banquet, Golden Goggles. All of us in the swimming community can work together to make sure opportunities to enjoy and be safe in water are available to everyone, regardless of race.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:55 AM by Editor

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