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SWIMMER Editorials

  1. Age Is a Whole Bunch of Numbers (March-April 2016)

    by , March 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    At a recent coaches meeting at my home pool, we were strategizing relays for an upcoming meet and surveying our swimmers in their various age groups and our head coach said: “Our team is aging.” After glaring at him for saying the word “aging” on a day I didn’t feel like contemplating it (is there ever a good day?), I had to agree with him.

    We looked over our roster and, yep, our teammates— friends we’d been swimming with for the past 10 years— were all, well, a decade older. Our graying gang was gaining crows feet and losing hair right along with the rest of world, and we had 10 years of event photos to prove it.

    This trend isn’t unique to our club. Between 1987 and 1993, the three largest age groups in USMS were 25-29, 30-34, and 35-39. Between 1994 and 2001, that shifted to 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49. The 2000s saw two more shifts in the same direction, and in 2015, the three largest age groups in USMS were 45-49, 50-54, and 55-59.

    You can see where I’m going with this. Of course our volunteer leadership and national membership team are crunching these and other numbers, including U.S. Census data, in an ongoing effort to better understand and serve our members. And our marketing team is taking a hard look at these numbers and other research—attracting younger members is an increasingly important endeavor for us.

    But what are we doing, as individual swimmers, coaches, and clubs, to encourage younger adults to join us?

    Other coaches I’ve asked this question of have creative solutions. Some have reduced rates so that younger swimmers who are paying off college loans or raising young families can afford dues. Others recruit newly minted adults from their age-group programs and returning college kids on break. Not only does this encourage younger swimmers to join USMS, it can also be an effective way to win meets—as every coach knows, the deeper your roster, the more categories in which you can score.

    It’s essential and comforting that motivated and knowledgeable people are working on these important issues, but my mind tends to wander (more so nowadays) to the less tangible aspects of our subculture—the empirical ether where those of us who are fascinated by the sociological aspects of it all live.

    And when I think of the younger swimmers who have joined us along the way— some of whom have become dear friends—I know that it’s just way more fun to be at swim practice and events with swimmers of all ages. It never occurs to me that there’s really much of an age difference until we’re at a restaurant and someone gets mistaken for someone else’s mother (please don’t ask).

    And there are older swimmers with whom I’ve developed friendships. Not in the sometimes patronizing sense of older and wiser—but in the sense that I simply enjoy their company. Period.

    So yes, we might be ripe for statistical speculation, but in a real-life, every-day, get-your-butt-to-workout, swim, laugh, gossip, party, prank-each-other sense, our community is stronger and much more enriching when we have swimmers of all ages sharing the fun, chaos, and beauty of it all.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:27 AM by Editor

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  2. Planet Swim (May-June 2015)

    by , May 1st, 2015 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    The other day, some friends and I were talking about how different our lives were since we’d started swimming. Everyone had a different story about how they’d come to join our local Masters group. I started because I wanted to do a triathlon but I hadn’t swum competitively since childhood. Someone else said his wife, an accomplished swimmer, had introduced him to it. Several joined because they saw adults in the pool when they took their kids to swim practice and thought, “Hey, that looks like fun.”

    Regardless of how we came to be part of our local club, everyone agreed: Even if they couldn’t remember the exact moment or reason they decided to join, it was one of the best decisions they’d ever made. And they weren’t referring to winning medals or being in the best shape of their lives—they were referring to the people they’d met along the way.

    In U.S. Masters Swimming’s annual push to have April recognized as Adult Learn-to-Swim Month, much is made about the physical health benefits of swimming. Not only because learning to swim can literally save your life, but also because once you learn, you can use it as a lifelong form of healthy exercise. With more adults jumping in the pool for the first time, it’s important for this information to get out.

    But it’s really exciting to think about what these new swimmers will be talking about a few years down the road. Sure, if they stick with it, they’ll get healthier— that part’s inevitable. But if they’re fortunate enough to have a fun group of likeminded adults in their community, they’ll find out soon how the social benefits of swimming come into play.

    For many, joining a Masters club is like a reunion—as if all the people from your planet have been waiting for you to arrive, but your ship was delayed, and then it took you a while to find them on Earth. I still haven’t figured out why this phenomenon persists, despite thinking, reading, and writing about it a lot.

    The camaraderie thing is understandable for the lifelong swimmers—shared memories of green hair, predawn workouts, and wearing pajama pants to school—but what is it about discussions during the morning kick set on topics such as the welcome-to-50 colonoscopy that makes people open their homes and their hearts to people they’ve just met?

    At the risk of too much navel-gazing, I continue to believe that there’s something special about the people who are attracted to this sport. Or maybe chlorine creates some sort of covalent bond, in which swimmers with completely different backgrounds share the awesomeness and generosity-of-spirit electrons. Who knows?

    Regardless, I continue to enjoy meeting people from Planet Swim, even by just reading about them in the pages of SWIMMER and at usms.org. In this issue, we meet two swimmers, Mark Grashow (page 9) and Taylor Krauss (page 18), who both, for different reasons, felt pulled to the African continent. There they’ve made significant differences in the lives of those affected by extreme poverty or violence.

    We also meet swimmer Nancy Prouty (page 30), a scientist studying deep-sea corals to unlock the mysteries of Earth’s oceans—a world farther away, in terms of understanding, than the moon.

    At usms.org, you’ll meet swimmer Tselane Gardner, whose learn-to-swim journey led her from personal trauma to teaching others.

    If you’re new to Masters Swimming, welcome; we’re glad you’re here.

    Updated September 21st, 2015 at 09:32 AM by Editor

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  3. The B Word (July-August 2014)

    by , July 1st, 2014 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    The screech of that 4:45 a.m. alarm is rude. Very rude. But you comply, trying to forget about what awaits you at the pool. If it’s suitable for aggressive workout swimming, the water will feel chilly. Jumping in it is the second worst moment of the day. The moon is out, your teammates resemble a zombie horde, and if you’d stayed in bed dreaming, you’d still be gliding across a polished wooden floor with a tall, handsome stranger, kickin’ it with a fly Viennese waltz.

    So what to do when you <gasp> no longer want to get out of bed before dawn and jump into a cold pool? Is taking a break an option?

    Nonswimmers have no problem filing Masters Swimming Burnout under first-world problems. “Why would anyone want to get up that early anyway? Now you can ____________ (garden, join your homeowners association, take polka lessons),” they suggest helpfully.

    But once you’ve invited swimming into your life, it’s hard to politely show it to the door like a distant relative, effuse about what fun you’ve had, and tell it you can’t wait to see it again next year.

    Many swimmers demarcate their lives into BS (before swimming) and S (swimming). In this lifelong sport, I’ve yet to meet anyone who wants to consider the permanence of AS (after swimming), so that leaves BTS (between swimming).

    So how does one behave in a BTS period? For starters, you might want to consider how you’ll be meeting the exercise need that your swimmer’s appetite demands. Super. That will be running and cycling, with a side dish of P90X and a giant slice of Zumba for dessert, please.

    What about reducing the number of practices? Maybe if you swim three times per week, instead of five or six? If you’re a sprinter, no problem, you might even maintain your current 50 freestyle time for another season with that plan, although you will lose your spot on the B relay. If you’re a distance swimmer, your prospects are more dismal. You’ll enter the 800 free at nationals with good intentions and feel terrible the entire time, especially when you see the scoreboard.

    Even with a reduced schedule, you’ll still want to stay in touch with your swimming friends, especially your lanemates. But is it proper etiquette to show up for the Saturday post-workout breakfast with dry hair? It happened once on our team a few years ago. We still speak of it only in hushed tones.

    What is it about swimming that makes it so hard to have a BTS hiatus? Is it the feeling we get at that perfect moment, right about the 175-yard mark after first jumping in? The chill is ebbing and your skin and soul are crackling—you’re about to reach the nirvana of weightlessness, perfect technique, and that delicate balance between effortless gliding and the grind awaiting you when the warm-up ends. (If only you could fast-forward to breakfast at that point.)

    But you stick it out, and as the practice is ending, the sun is rising, the ghoulish pallor of the zombie horde has magically transformed into a flushed, healthy glow and bright smiles, and that amazing sense of accomplishment and renewed vigor reminds you that you could have been sweating it out in a hot yoga studio or waiting for your turn on the leg press at the gym.

    But you weren’t, because you’re a swimmer. And whether you’re in the thick of a BTS period or not, once a swimmer, always a swimmer. This lifelong sport sticks around like a houseguest that never leaves. And in all honesty, that’s just the way we want it, isn’t it?

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:33 AM by Editor

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  4. Growing Pains (November-December 2013)

    by , November 1st, 2013 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Knowledge, sometimes born from debate, is good for sports
    I know next to nothing about sports other than swimming. I’m an anomaly in almost any crowd—my friends tease me for not knowing what a first down is or look aghast when I suggest that the stuff you endure at a live baseball game is manufactured to distract you from the low energy level (Hey! It’s time to stand up and sing now!).

    Baseball, basketball, and football are so popular that many, many people know the rules of those games. Yes, there is controversy (betting, steroids, the NCAA, etc.), but the technical rules are generally understood (seemingly by everyone except me) and you can find lively, informed debate at watercoolers and in sports bars and broadcast booths around the country.

    Swimming is pretty far behind the ball sports in terms of mainstream understanding, but intensive media coverage of the swimming events of the past two Olympics means your office mate—whose only previous definition of an IM was instant messaging in the 1990s—is now on a first-name basis with marquee swimmers: “Can’t wait to see Michael and Ryan go at it in the 400 IM!”

    Not so much for open water, or more specifically, its lesser understood and gangly cousin, marathon swimming, which is currently experiencing growing pains thanks to the media coverage and subsequent controversy that surrounded Diana Nyad’s recent Cuba to Florida swim.

    It didn’t take long for debate to brew around Nyad’s swim; within days of her staggering ashore in Florida, marathon swimming insiders began asking questions that touched off a lengthy, ongoing conversation about rules, transparency, and the very integrity of the sport. What bloomed online is a debate that most people don’t have any way of participating in because marathon swimming is not a watercooler topic in most places.

    Still, most nonswimmers have heard of Nyad and her swim and comment frequently to us swimmers about it. It’s easy to see why her story has broad appeal: It touches on aging better, goal-setting, perseverance, and other inspirational themes that extend beyond the sport. And whether you know a lot or nothing about swimming, what she accomplished was impressive.

    But marathon swimming is a sport with a rich history, traditions, and technical rules, just like other sports. The small but vocal group of experts—many of them accomplished marathon swimmers—who are asking questions about Nyad’s swim have the opportunity to educate journalists, so that journalists, in turn, can educate the public when they start asking questions around the watercooler: Are you allowed to touch the boat? What is the difference between a marathon swim and an exhibition swim? What is the difference between assisted and unassisted? When do we stand up and sing?

    There will always be debate, and that’s a good thing, but knowledge is the key to informed debate. Let’s hope that Nyad’s swim and both its supporters and detractors bring a new level of understanding to a beautiful, sometimes brutal sport that tests the limits of both physical and mental endurance in ways most people cannot imagine.

    In this issue of SWIMMER, we’re excited to bring you profiles of two people who have been influential in helping us understand both marathon swimming and ball sports. Associate editor (and Triple Crown marathon swimmer) Elaine K. Howley writes about Michelle Macy’s amazing Ocean’s Seven feat in “Swimming Life” (Page 6) and frequent contributor Jim Harper writes about legendary sports journalist and Masters swimmer John Feinstein, who credits swimming with saving his life (Page 14). Reading his profile has made me want to read more about other sports. Feinstein is a gifted writer, and that’s something I can wrap my brain around, even if I don’t (yet) understand the seventh-inning stretch.

    Updated September 15th, 2016 at 05:07 PM by Editor

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  5. Classification (September-October 2013)

    by , September 1st, 2013 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    What is it with our propensity to classify everything? The desire to separate, organize, and name singles and groups of anything seems to be hardwired. I’m pretty sure the hunter-gatherers had collections of the things they hunted and gathered stored up in the Paleolithic version of the freezer-bag-and-Sharpie or the alphabetized spice rack. In the 1700s Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy (the science of naming stuff), wasn’t satisfied with only one label, so every known living thing got two or three names.

    Obviously, Linnaeus was onto something. Based on the highly unscientific data collector known as Facebook, the email we get, and the conversations we’ve had on deck, it’s not so easy to classify swimmers with only one name; many consider themselves fitness swimmers who compete or competitive swimmers who swim open water, etc. So why do we go back and forth over the labels, fitness swimmer and competitive swimmer?

    It’s undoubtedly another human trait to resist labels when they are placed upon us, and often with good reason. Since the dawn of time, humans have had a hard time with the concept of moderation when it comes to labeling—not all have used their powers for good. It’s fine when labeling meant: “This plant will cure your headache; this one will make you bleed out your eyeballs.” But when labels are applied to people, it can bring out the worst in Homo sapiens.

    Whatever type of swimmer you consider yourself, we’re all good. We just want to make sure we’re providing content and services that you find valuable. We’ve labeled this issue as the first “Fitness Issue” of SWIMMER. It is not strictly fitness articles—Pan-Ams was a competitive event and Rich Burns, featured in “From the Center Lanes” would probably not be considered a fitness swimmer by anyone. But it’s a way for us to hunt and gather content that appeals to those who swim for myriad reasons.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:38 AM by Editor

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  6. Open Water (March-April 2013)

    by , March 1st, 2013 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Variety, adventure, helping others, and inspiration. Mix well, repeat.
    Each year my swimming friends and I combine an open water swim with some down time. In 2012, we chose the St. Croix Coral Reef Swim. Although our 5 miles was shortened to 2 miles after Tropical Storm Rafael blew through the racecourse, it was a great experience. The host resort, the Buccaneer, was a fantastic place for the race and the down time.

    Future swims on our list include the Bermuda Round the Sound race and Race for the Conch Eco-SeaSwim in Turks and Caicos. We’ve even thrown some chillier swims up for discussion: This year’s 9+ Mile National Championship is in Vermont, and there’s chatter about putting together a relay for Lake Tahoe someday, or trying Alcatraz, the Tiburon Mile, La Jolla, Big Shoulders, or even one of the races in Alaska. The beauty is in the variety.

    A variety of open water enthusiasts have contributed to our 2013 open water issue. Author and swimmer David McGlynn writes about swimming across Death’s Door in Lake Michigan. He makes the excellent point that many open water swims start with a group of people standing on a shoreline looking toward a distant shoreline with an adventurous eye.

    It’s no doubt that a sense of adventure led USMS members Roberta St. Amour and Denise Stapley to audition for the 25th season of Survivor, set in the Philippines. Their stories are in “Swimming Life” on page 6. Also in Swimming Life, Patricia Sener and her Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers turn adversity into adventure as they recover from Superstorm Sandy, finding ways to help others in the process.

    Helping others is a mantra in the marathon swimming world, and successful swimmers consider it a point of pride to extend a hand and pay it forward. Contributing writer Elaine K. Howley, an accomplished marathoner and Triple Crown swimmer herself, has always admired the pioneering women who preceded her. In “Splashback,” on page 48, she looks at the accomplishments of the legendary Florence Chadwick and how she inspired others.

    Inspirational is often used to describe pro triathletes and USMS members Jarrod Shoemaker and Sara McLarty, both of whom are featured in this issue.

    However you like your open water, enjoy it, protect it, and help others enjoy it. You don’t have to live near the coast or travel to an exotic locale, although it’s a great way to spend a vacation. There are many lakes and rivers in landlocked states that are plenty exciting to swim in. There’s something special about being in natural waters, and it’s even more special when you share the experience with the people in your life who matter.

    Updated September 8th, 2014 at 05:43 PM by Editor

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  7. Triathletes and Swimmers (July-August 2012)

    by , July 1st, 2012 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    When I started Masters swimming, I was training for a triathlon. My nonremarkable age-group swimming career ended somewhere around age 12 or 13, and I didn’t really see myself as a swimmer anymore, since I had pursued other sports after my early days at the pool.

    So back to the pool I went. I found that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time learning an efficient freestyle—30 years had not erased the basics; swimming felt good and natural. I did a few triathlons, became a semidecent cyclist, but never amounted to much on the run. However, one thing became very clear: Training to be competent in three sports, done in rapid succession at varying distances, is exhausting.

    What about the person who takes on this challenge with little or no swimming background? Many triathletes start from scratch in all three disciplines, but most agree that swimming is the toughest of the three. Swimmers who can’t remember not knowing how to swim efficiently don’t understand how this feels unless, perhaps, they’ve taken up French or the violin as a midlife crisis hobby.

    Why is swimming so difficult? My guess is because it’s one of the few sports in which your brain has to first accept that you’re in a hostile environment—one in which failure to get to the surface to breathe means death—then you need to learn the rest of the sport: stroke technique, lane etiquette, how to use all those groovy plastic toys.

    Of course, most of us don’t think we are going to die while we’re swimming laps, but a part of our brains undoubtedly remains on alert as a survival technique. This nifty capacity to automate the mechanics so we can enjoy ourselves and focus on efficiency and power is a noticeable difference between swimmers who started early and swimmers who are new to the sport.

    In this issue, Jim Harper, who trained for and recently competed in his first triathlon, takes a lighthearted look at some of the differences between swimmers and our multisport brethren. He talks with some USMS coaches who have found innovative ways to ensure that triathletes in their programs are getting what they need to improve the swim leg of the tri.

    We’ve heard the jokes and stereotypes, watched the xtranormal.com videos of “Swimmer Guy and Triathlon Girl,” we’ve reviewed Jef Mallet’s excellent treatise, “Trizophrenia” in SWIMMER. As long as we can all laugh at ourselves, our differences shouldn’t preclude a shared enjoyment of the water and mutual respect for our different abilities and goals. Let’s continue to welcome triathletes to our ranks in USMS.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:48 AM by Editor

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  8. Family (March-April 2012)

    by , March 1st, 2012 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    While gathering articles and information for our annual open water issue, I was struck by the sense of community in the world of open water swimming. As vast as the world’s waters are, the passionate group of swimmers who inhabit them seems like a small family.

    Many open water swimmers, particularly marathon swimmers, know each other well. They share tips, exchange advice and accompany one another on long training swims. They reminisce over swims from the past and dream up great swims for the future. They are also competitive. In this issue, Elaine K. Howley, an experienced marathoner herself, looks at the how challenges are thrown down in “Farther, Faster, Colder, First.”

    As in all families, the members don’t always agree on everything. This issue’s “Both Sides of the Lane Line” presents two views of the media’s role in the open water world. Both are well thought-out and both convey the passion these swimmers feel for their sport.

    And whether arguing or agreeing, this open water family is always happy to share. When we needed some advice about what marathoners use to prevent chafing and protect their skin, several greatly respected swimmers shared their secrets. (See “What the Experts Do” in “Swim Bag.”)

    Learning from those who have swum before is deeply ingrained in the family. It’s as though swimmers undergo a transformation once they’ve tackled cold water, jellyfish and fatigue. They’re grateful for help along the way, and want the cycle to continue. Laura Jones interviewed Craig Lenning about his North Channel swim for “Swimming Life,” and he repeats the mantra we’ve heard from so many of these amazing athletes: Pay it forward.

    One family member who does that on a daily basis is Steven Munatones. He might seem like the godfather of this family, but he’s really more like the Kevin Bacon of open water swimming—only with one or two degrees of separation, rather than six—from everyone else. It’s become nigh impossible to research, reference, quote, edit or write anything about open water swimming without coming across one of his creations: the Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Openwaterpedia, Oceans Seven and many more.

    Munatones penned two of the articles in this issue: the technique feature, "Open Water Feeding” and “Splashback” on how marathon swimming became an Olympic event. His new book, “Open Water Swimming,” is reviewed in “Swimming Life.” His passion for the sport and for recognizing the accomplishments of the rest of the family comes through in everything he does.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:49 AM by Editor

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  9. What's Your Word? (November-December 2011)

    by , November 1st, 2011 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Recently we posted a question on Facebook: “What adjective best describes swimming?” We received nearly 100 responses. Not all were adjectives and some posters couldn’t limit themselves to just one word.

    Single words have a long history of summarizing our physical and emotional behavior. Stop. Love. Yield. Yes. No. Fire. (Insert your favorite curse word here.). We use single words to simplify—to reduce a complex series of events or a complicated emotional response into one neat and tidy package that gives us direction, inspires us, triggers action, or simply lets anyone within earshot know just how painful smashing our shin into that coffee table was.

    When describing something meaningful, our language offers a cornucopia of words—and there is no right or wrong. Some of the words our members use to describe swimming easily convey why they might get up before the chickens to get to the pool. Others clearly have a special meaning just for that person. “Exhilarating” was the most-used word.

    This tag cloud (thank you, wordle.net) shows the responses we received. The larger the word, the more times it was found among the responses.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Updated December 30th, 2016 at 01:11 PM by Editor

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  10. The Inclusive Sport—It's All Good! (September-October 2010)

    by , September 1st, 2010 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    We’ve all heard and experienced how wonderful swimming is. I don’t need to belabor that point. So many of you write to tell us how swimming has changed your lives. The lifesaving form of exercise that has allowed you to walk again, date again, go off your medications, etc. The physical benefits of our sport are pretty much universally accepted—and we love that.

    But what is it about the less tangible benefits of being around people who seem different from people in other sports? Why do swimmers seem to be a little more easygoing when it comes to acceptance and inclusiveness? Is it because as kids, swimmers train together—boys and girls? Until boys get to the 13-14 age group, they are often accustomed to being beaten by girls, who develop earlier. Does this make them more accepting and more respectful of women later in life?

    Are swimmers more tolerant of differences because of the unique differences within the sport? For pool swimming, there are four different strokes, contested at nine different lengths in three different courses, which add up to 53 different pool events. The muscular freestyle sprinter who just can’t master the breaststroke learns to respect the 98-pound natural breaststroker in the next lane over who sails past with ease, regardless of size or gender. And the differences in open water swimming are another whole world to explore: lakes, rivers, the deep blue sea; short and long distances. The physiological differences among people often guide them to the different strokes and events, and there is something for everyone.

    Maybe swimmers are more tolerant because of the “alone time in a group” phenomenon of a swim practice; each swimmer in his or her own water world, each with different goals and specialties, yet all working together as a group, sharing the water.

    In this issue, we meet USMS member Tyler Duckworth, lifelong swimmer, reality TV star, and gay man who has found that, with few exceptions, the swimming community doesn’t really care about his sexual orientation. In Jim Harper’s profile, we also learn that Duckworth has found more people outside the swimming community who have had trouble reconciling his sexuality with his athletic success.

    We also review another member’s newly published autobiography chronicling life as a gay, black swimmer. Jeff Commings, too, found that he was somewhat shielded from discrimination in the swimming world. Both of these men are accomplished swimmers who have been judged on their merits as athletes. Their differences, and the differences and inclusive nature of our members, are part of what make U.S. Masters Swimming such a great organization.

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

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  11. The Swimming Subculture (November-December 2009)

    by , November 1st, 2009 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    In Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, a subculture is defined as “an ethnic, regional, economic, or social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture or society.”

    One can indeed argue that Masters Swimming is a subculture in our society. Most of us have nonswimming friends and family that embrace us in spite of our strange proclivity for rising before dawn, braving unsavory weather, jumping into a concrete box of water and swimming back and forth for hours. This can make family reunions and cookouts with our nonswimmers interesting. Sometimes they view us as eccentric and amusing, but not really all there mentally. And some, in a less amusing light, albeit a sometimes-justified one, see us as selfish in our endless pursuit of that black line.

    Our fellow swimmers, however, offer us that no-need-to-say-anything sense of comfort that comes in the box with a subculture. The camaraderie is almost effortless, even for people stepping onto the pool deck for the first time. It always amazes me when I see a new swimmer approach with trepidation what many of us now consider our lifestyle, only to see them a month later joking and laughing with their lanemates as though they were lifelong friends. They bring their bikes to practice so they can ride together afterward, plan weekend trips with their families, and organize their free time around their new team of friends.

    As humans are sometimes wont to do, I used to think that my teammates and I had this special connection exclusively, that our team was, well, extra special. And of course it is to me. But, from reading all your letters and emails, and re-reading back issues of SWIMMER, it is clear that this phenomenon is widespread in the USMS community. And it goes beyond friendship or your standard social fare. Many of us know someone who has cooked and delivered meals to an injured teammate they barely know, or seen an entire team close ranks in support of a swimming family hit with a devastating loss.

    This subculture phenomenon is also prevalent in high-stress or high-demand professions such as medicine and emergency services. It would be interesting to know how many USMS members hail from professions like these, and who find solace in a different kind of subculture. One derived from a more pleasurable form of stress, where racing a teammate to the wall before dawn might not be the most important thing they have to do that day, but is every bit as rewarding.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:56 AM by Editor

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