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SWIMMER Editorials

  1. Fear of Water (September-October 2011)

    by , September 1st, 2011 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    For the many experienced or lifelong swimmers in U.S. Masters Swimming, it can seem inconceivable that there are people who are terrified of getting into a swimming pool. What many of us take for granted—a safe, welcoming water world where one only has to pop up for air whenever the need arises—spells terror for some.

    Plenty of pool swimmers are afraid to swim in open water, but that’s a little different. Being afraid of sharks can even seem logical (especially if you tuned in to “Shark Week” recently). Some swimmers just prefer clear water, where there is no question about what the bottom looks like or what icky things may be floating around or underfoot. These swimmers still have the ability to enjoy the water and keep themselves safe. Most properly educated swimmers have a healthy respect for the water, not a debilitating fear.

    Nonswimmers with a deeply embedded fear of water have little or no chance of survival if they find themselves in the drink. Their panic will kill them, and possibly any would-be rescuers. They know this, so they avoid water, using tactics that are so subtle, they are often well into their adult lives before anyone notices that they have never been swimming. But they know the truth, and many of them carry guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy.

    Some of these people recognize the danger and their missed opportunities, so they ensure that their children learn to swim early and don’t suffer the same fate. Others pass their fears onto their children, creating another generation of risk and lost opportunities. In “Swimming Life,” we meet some USMS members who are making a difference in the lives of people who can’t swim. Melon Dash has spent her entire career teaching fearful adults how to swim. Taking up where traditional swimming lessons have failed, she specializes in the most terrified students. She runs her nonprofit with the goal of ending preventable drowning. Dash has touched more than 4,000 lives, giving these people the chance to enjoy and be safe in water.

    Dash is not the only Masters swimmer who feels this way. In fall 2010, Coach Diane Bartlett and her team, Grand Strand Masters Swimming, focused their efforts in their community. Recognizing a need, they banded together for a week to offer free swim lessons to children and adults in their underserved South Carolina town. With a little help from a USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grant, 26 adults and 94 children are well on their way to becoming competent swimmers.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:51 AM by Editor

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  2. Inspiration (July-August 2011)

    by , July 1st, 2011 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    In the May-June issue of SWIMMER I thanked the team of writers, editors and our new publishing partner for joining me in striving to bring you a top quality publication. You may have noticed that one name was conspicuously absent from that list, primarily because it would take an entire year of editorials to properly recognize him. I’ll do my best with one.

    I first met Phil Whitten when a good friend and lanemate framed the cover of the September-October 2009 issue as a gift for me, celebrating my first issue with SWIMMER. A profile of Whitten had been long scheduled for that issue and after reading over all the features, I felt strongly that he should be on the cover. Having the noted author and former editor-in-chief of Swimming World, Swimming Technique and SWIM, the precursor of SWIMMER, shaking his finger at me with a sly smile was a little intimidating, so of course I hung it right over my desk.

    My first face-to-face meeting with Whitten was later that month at the 2009 USMS convention in Chicago. My nervousness at meeting him soon disappeared as we chatted through lunch about future articles for SWIMMER. The warmly polite and unassuming man I dined with couldn’t possibly be the same lauded journalist and “voice for the sport” that turned the swimming world on end in 1994 in a multipronged assault on the Chinese national swim team after they showed up for World Championships bulked up on steroids. Using his media savvy and any platform he could scale, Whitten cried foul, initially a lone voice in a sea of apathy and nonbelief. Eventually, his allegations were proven and one of the benefits of his tenacity was the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

    Whitten is also a hero in the college swimming world. During a time when men’s college swim teams were being cut down with scythes sharpened with a misinterpretation of Title IX, he wrote a manual titled, “How to Save Your College Swim Team,” and helped many teams avoid the knife. P.H. Mullen, the author of “Gold in the Water,” wrote extensively about Whitten’s accomplishments in a 2005 article for Swimming World, which is available at swimmingworldmagazine.com/interactive/PhilWhitten.pdf.

    Editorial accomplishments and superhero status aside, Whitten writes a mean article. His knowledge, skill and dry humor make his pieces must-reads. In the past two years, he has contributed articles on a variety of subjects. In 2010, we were excited to publish new research from Dr. Stephen Blair on the mortality rate of swimmers compared to runners, walkers and sedentary males. Whitten was there to make sense of the research and present it succinctly.

    Never one to shy away from controversial topics, he has written about aerobic and hypoxic training in Masters swimming, the Aquatic Ape Theory and legal doping. He is currently working on another doping article, still timely for anyone interested in sports, as we see athletes disgraced on a regular basis.

    I am eager to see what he comes up with next.

    Whitten’s wagging finger still hovers over my desk as a daily reminder that integrity, ethical journalism and compelling content are expected and should be delivered to the reader with each and every issue.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:52 AM by Editor

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  3. Teammates (May-June 2011)

    by , May 1st, 2011 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Many of you have let me know that you are enjoying the improvements to SWIMMER over the past year and a half. It makes my day to get that kind of feedback. For those of you who have sought me out on deck at a meet or written to me, I hope I have let you know how much your kind words mean to me. Two things I can’t properly convey in my responses are the pride and gratitude I have for the team that is making it all possible, so I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize my teammates.

    Elaine K. Howley and Jim Harper, both of whom have articles in this issue, have written many of our feature articles. They have a way of viewing a story from an angle that almost anyone can relate to, and then writing it in an engaging style. They bring people’s stories to life in an honest and respectful way that reminds us we are all on one humongous swim team. Elaine is a Triple Crown marathon swimmer in Boston who loves coldwater swims. She works as a freelance writer and editor with experience in the business, financial and engineering worlds. Jim is a swimmer and swim coach in Miami and a freelance writer who also specializes in writing about the environment. Look for a feature from him later this year on environmental changes that are affecting our oceans and, consequently, open water swimming.

    Susan Dawson-Cook is our travel expert and will be ferreting out the best places to visit when you travel to our national championship meets. She also often attends the meets as a competitor and contributes the wrap features afterward. Be sure to check out her piece on Summer Nationals in this issue. Susan, who hails from Tucson, is an experienced fitness professional who has recently released a fitness DVD and has written a romantic adventure novel.

    Bill Edwards has been involved with SWIMMER for several years as managing editor for our previous publisher, Douglas Murphy Communications. He is now a freelance writer and editor, an English professor and a somewhat reluctant swimmer. He has an extensive journalism background and loves history—he will be researching and writing the Splashback department for us on a regular basis.

    Last year we were lucky enough to find our staff writer, Laura Jones, when she pitched a story. She loves open water swimming, rescues pit bulls and was an attorney until she decided to give up business clothing. She has written for the Washington Post and numerous other publications. A personal trainer as well, she has written extensively about medicine and fitness. She researches and writes The Healthy Swimmer department and several columns in Training and Technique, including our brand new in 2011, The Dryland Difference. She is also working on a novel with a swimmer as the main character.

    Meg Smath is a familiar name to many of you who are USMS volunteers. Meg has been proofing and copy-editing SWIMMER for many years, and her contribution is critical to its success. A Masters swimmer in Kentucky, Meg works as an editor for the Kentucky Geological Survey and is The Last Word on where that comma goes.

    Packaging up all this great content into a beautiful, readable format is no small feat, and we are thrilled to be working with Anthem Media Group. The lead designer on their team is Annie Sidesinger, whose experience and degree in magazine design will be instrumental in taking SWIMMER to the next level graphically.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:52 AM by Editor

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  4. Shaken, Stirred, and Sorry (March-April 2011)

    by , March 1st, 2011 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    As many of you are aware, in the January–February issue we published a letter written by member Glenn Welsford that spoke of his religious intolerance of the LGBT community. Mr. Welsford penned the letter in response to the article we published in the September-October issue of SWIMMER profiling Tyler Duckworth, a gay swimmer and reality TV star. In the same issue, we presented a book review of Jeff Commings’s autobiography, "Odd Man Out," which chronicles his life as a gay, black swimmer. I also wrote about diversity in my editorial for that issue.

    During our editorial review prior to publication, we felt that Mr. Welsford, while entitled to his beliefs, is clinging to an antiquated viewpoint in a society truly coming of age—one in which all its members are afforded equal respect—something that USMS, a subculture within this society, does very well.

    Our intent in printing the letter was not to give any individual a platform to “spew hatred,” but to allow a member’s opinion to be discussed and defused. Many of us don’t feel that Mr. Welsford’s viewpoint can survive in our rapidly integrating society. In reading his words, I felt they were intolerant, but I didn’t see them as a hateful personal attack.

    A dispassionate lens may not always be the best way to view things, especially when serving a large, diverse, passionate group of people. As the editor, it was my responsibility to be sensitive to how some readers may react. And in that, I failed; and offer my sincere apologies.

    Regardless of our intentions, the right thing to do was apologize to those who were hurt or angered by the publication of the letter. We did so in timely responses to all readers who wrote in, and by publishing a formal apology on the home page at usms.org.

    We received letters from readers, both gay and straight, who strongly disagreed with the printing of the letter—they did read hatred in Welsford’s words, not just intolerance. We also received letters from readers, both gay and straight, thanking us for printing the letter, for various reasons. They appreciated our willingness to print a controversial response to what some consider a difficult topic—one that we introduced with the original articles.

    This has been a learning experience for us here at SWIMMER. We remain committed to providing you with a quality publication that covers the wide range of interests of our members, including competition, open water, fitness, training and technique, health and nutrition, history, product reviews and profiles of our diverse members—the fascinating people who make up U.S. Masters Swimming.

    We are unable to print all the letters we received, and we didn’t want this incident to prevent us from publishing letters on other topics, so we have extended the Letters department for this issue (“Letters” starts on page 3 and is continued on page 44) and we have published an extended version online.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:53 AM by Editor

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  5. Product Testing (January-February 2011)

    by , January 1st, 2011 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Many of you have written to tell us how much you have appreciated the metamorphosis of the Swim Bag department in 2010. Taking what used to be advertising space and turning it into reviews about the products has been a learning experience for us all. We have also received great feedback about the product testing videos we post on our YouTube channel.

    Some of you have criticized—saying we have been too harsh or too easy on one product or another, or that our reviews are not technical enough. We sincerely thank you for all your feedback. We read all comments and use them to help shape our approach as we move into our second year of product testing.

    We have made a commitment to you to publish useful information about products currently marketed to swimmers. We have also made a commitment to the manufacturers and retailers—not to always say positive things—but to give each product they send us a fair and thorough testing and review.

    Products on the market today are as varied and individual as the swimmers who use them. What is effective for one swimmer may be unusable for another. Some swimmers have no problem spending a lot for what they want; others simply cannot afford to. Our goal is to sort through the differences in the brands and provide information that will be helpful to you when it comes time to replace your goggles, suit, fins, etc.

    Because of the differences among swimmers, we have gathered a motley crew of testers. Some are highly competitive; others swim for exercise and camaraderie. All possess a passion for getting the most from their gear and a healthy sense of curiosity. These are the folks that were taking apart household appliances when they were kids to see what made them work.

    We have testers in different parts of the country, which was essential for this issue’s review of cold-water swim caps, as you will read on page 46. Temperatures had not dropped sufficiently in the Gulf of Mexico in October to give cold-water caps a good test.

    Several members of the staff and local Masters swimmers here in Sarasota have become some of the most committed product testers—evident as we head into our third week of wetsuit testing for the March-April issue. Air and water temperatures in the Gulf are now in the high 50s, which, for those of us who are used to the mid 80s, is pretty shocking.

    Our testers spend a lot of their personal time on these reviews, interrupting their training regimens to try the products, comparing the different brands, filling out surveys and more, and I am truly grateful for their efforts. I also want to thank the manufacturers and retailers who have provided us with the products and trusted us to review them fairly.

    We will be shooting a wetsuit testing video in January that will drop when the March-April issue is published. We hope you will enjoy another year with us and, as always, feel free to contact me directly at editor@usms.org with your comments and product review suggestions.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:53 AM by Editor

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  6. On the Road (November-December 2010)

    by , November 1st, 2010 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    This fall, I had the extreme good fortune to travel and meet USMS members and coaches in the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding communities. Each club has a unique flavor and each coach a different style. All were amazing. In speaking with the coaches and swimmers, I learned more about what makes our sport so special. During November, look for video interviews with swimmers and coaches from these clubs on our YouTube channel, at youtube.com/USMastersSwimming.

    First stop was the Marin Pirates Masters, with Head Coach Cokie Lepinski and Assistant Coach Susie Powell. They brought a basket of Finis Tempo Trainers to the pool and we did the entire workout with them. The kick sets left my legs feeling quite rubbery, but the enthusiasm level was palpable and infectious—we had a great time.

    The next day was with the Los Altos Mountain View Masters. Coach Jose Bonpua had both age group and Masters in the pool. While I swam in a designated Masters lane, he kept a sharp eye on me. When I thought he wasn’t looking and backed off a little, he encouraged me to drop to an interval I often avoid at my home pool. His attention made me feel like one of the kids, which, at 46, is a lot of fun.

    Courtside Club, a tennis and sports resort in Los Gatos, has its own registered USMS club. Their coach, Dave Meck, normally coaches age groupers in Santa Clara, but zips over to Courtside to coach Masters as well. Most of the swimmers there don’t compete in meets, but their solid commitment to fitness, fun and their coach was evident.

    The Strawberry Canyon Aquatic Masters practice at Cal Berkeley, whose aquatics director, Danksi Perez, also swims on the team. She spoke of a sense of community in the swimming world and how much having a team and structured practices means to her. SCAM had lanes to accommodate every level of swimmer, with printed workouts for each lane and Assistant Coach Jeremy Cohen manning the deck.

    Next stop was inland, due east. At Davis Aquatic Masters, I arrived just in time to find out that it was sprint backstroke week there—anathema to a distance breaststroker—but I persevered and learned more about the stroke I love to hate. Head Coach Stu Kahn welcomed his group with a video of Aaron Peirsol looped on a poolside TV cart, and instructions on what to pay attention to in the video and in the water during the main set.

    Lastly, another Marin County team, North Bay Aquatics, welcomed me to their Saturday morning workout at a local high school. Assistant Coach Michael Sugrue kept me honest as my stroke fell apart on a descending set that I started too quickly.

    Special thanks to all the coaches and swimmers I met for embodying the spirit of USMS and providing great Masters swimming experiences in their communities.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:54 AM by Editor

    Tags: clubs, coaches, travel
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  7. The Inclusive Sport—It's All Good! (September-October 2010)

    by , September 1st, 2010 at 12:00 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 10:54 AM by Editor

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

    by , July 1st, 2010 at 12:00 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 10:54 AM by Editor

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  9. Aging Gracefully with USMS (May-June 2010)

    by , May 1st, 2010 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    There’s always a lot of talk about age in Masters swimming. We don’t look our age—and some would argue, don’t act it—we age well, we age up, we age group. And then there are the adages: “Age is just a number,” “The older we get, the faster we were,” and “We don’t have to get faster, just older.”

    There’s a certain je ne sais quoi to the adult swimmer, something the nonswimmer can’t quite define. Most hit the pool deck in their swimsuits with confidence, no matter their shape, size, or age. Sort of like learning that it’s OK to send your food back in a restaurant—something many don’t feel comfortable doing until their 40s—we have a wee bit of entitlement as we stroll around at meets discussing our races with our teammates and competitors. After all, we have worked hard, in life and at practice, and we made all the necessary family arrangements back home. When we get to the meet, it is time to have fun.

    And we’re good at it—just ask the 592 swimmers, aged 18 to 91, who participated in the YMCA Masters National Championship on April 15-18 in Ft. Lauderdale. First-timers at the meet were amazed—remarking that everyone just looked so happy: big smiles, lots of cheering and laughing. There were throngs of noisy swimmers at the turn end shouting encouragement to their teammates, getting their splits, counting their laps—no matter what age. A nonswimmer friend, who noticed the complete lack of attention paid to age in this regard, remarked that Masters swimmers must have the best-kept secret in athletics.

    The secret is getting out.

    In the January-February issue of SWIMMER, Jim Thornton wrote about staying happy, and how aging Masters swimmers, on average, appear to be happier than nonswimmers. In this May-June issue, lifelong swimmer and noted author Dr. Phillip Whitten explores research into the physical side of aging swimmers. Again, Masters swimmers appear to come out on top—living longer, not surprisingly, than sedentary people and, something that did surprise researchers, longer than walkers and runners. Although the research is fairly new, it has sparked curiosity in the research community dedicated to aging and will undoubtedly be further explored.

    While we let the experts figure it out, we’ll continue to have fun; it’s how we roll.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:55 AM by Editor

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  10. Spring Is in the Air (March-April 2010)

    by , March 1st, 2010 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    It is said that in spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love; so wrote poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I would posit that for USMS members, a young (and we are all young) swimmer’s fancy turns to competition. As Spring Nationals looms, we have included technique articles to help you prepare for Atlanta: Craig Keller at AGUA Masters has broken down relay transitions for us, Olympian Rada Owen gives us a quick tune-up on head position, and Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen reminds us of some critical training points.

    On many swimmers’ minds, however—the elephant seal in the living room—is the demise of the tech suit. Neros, LZRs, and the rest of the gang’s last hurrah is coming (at least for this year) and everyone has a different opinion. As I pondered what I might write on the subject, I remembered a thread on our Forums where members have posted their thoughts. Some are eulogies to their suits, others express good riddance, and some are creative haiku and poetry. There is even a full-length holiday song, “T’was the Night Before Zones.”

    With apologies to Lord Tennyson, enjoy in good humor.

    • “Tech suit you were so good to me. You helped me keep it together when I was falling apart. Despite the rips and wardrobe malfunctions, we had some pretty good times together and it’s sad to think you’re really gonna split …” –Ande
    • “I hate you tech suit. You hurt me. You were so sleek and pretty, full of promises. You made me look good. Together I thought we could go where we had never gone before. It was a lie. You are a liar. Maybe I share some blame. I thought that money would keep us happy, but you and your ilk weren’t satisfied … We weren’t a team, you owned me … I was addicted to you. I couldn’t be happy without you. It was wrong. I see you crumpled up in the corner like a lost soul. I hear you tempting me. I miss your snug embrace. I think we can still be friends.” –Stillwater
    • Dear LZR, It is said that death is life’s way of saying you’re fired. Well you’re fired. –Lefty
    • Tech suit, I am glad I never knew ye. –Couroboros
    • Ah FINA had to mess
      With the tech suits for the rest
      But for me, the big dipper
      They took away my zipper –Swimshark

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:55 AM by Editor

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  11. The Swimming Race (January-February 2010)

    by , January 1st, 2010 at 12:00 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 10:55 AM by Editor

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  12. The Swimming Subculture (November-December 2009)

    by , November 1st, 2009 at 12:00 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 10:56 AM by Editor

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  13. SWIMMER Hears Your Feedback (September-October 2009)

    by , September 1st, 2009 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    This May, many of you responded to a member survey. The survey, which we will conduct annually, was designed to measure reader satisfaction and expectations with regard to our member communications, including SWIMMER magazine, our usms.org website, and the e-newsletters. Some of the survey results surprised us; others confirmed ideas we had. The important thing is that you have spoken and we are listening and responding.

    Overall, the feedback on SWIMMER was positive, which reflects the good job our former editor, Bill Volckening, and the Publications Management Committee, have done shepherding the publication over the years. Bill’s dedication and service are appreciated, and his and the committee’s groundwork will serve as a solid base from which to spring. As all things eventually do, SWIMMER will evolve. One thing that will remain present in our approach, however, is our responsiveness to our readers. As always, we encourage your feedback anytime. You can write me directly at editor@usms.org.

    Starting with this September-October issue, we are introducing a new guest editorial concept for SWIMMER called “Both Sides of the Lane Line.” In this column, we’ll publish two reader essays supporting different positions on issues that impact the world of Masters Swimming. Also in this issue, you’ll find that the Training and Technique department contains several new columns, designed to cater to the different types of swimmers within our organization. Whether you consider yourself a highly competitive pool swimmer, a beginner, a fitness swimmer, an open water aficionado, or any combination thereof, we want you to find information in SWIMMER that matters to you. With a diverse group of swimmers in our membership, it is essential that we continue to strive for a balance of content that accurately reflects our readers’ interests.

    Looking ahead, we hope you’ll see SWIMMER as a trusted resource, providing valuable information about the many events, products, and services we have to choose from as Masters swimmers. Next year, our Swim Bag department will take on a new flavor with independent product reviews. Our team will be taking a proactive approach to research when it comes to equipment, local meets, open water events, swim travel, and more. We hope to draw from the vast pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals who make up our membership. After all, one of the best things about being a USMS member is having thousands of teammates who are willing to share their wisdom and experience.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:56 AM by Editor

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