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  1. The Generosity of Swimmers (March-April 2018)

    by , February 28th, 2018 at 01:09 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    It’s well established that many open water swims start with a group of swim friends on a shoreline gazing dreamily into the distance until someone says, “I wonder if we could swim from here to ...”

    Charity swims seem to evolve when a swimmer or group of swim friends who have encountered hardship— often the hardship of a loved one, but sometimes a stranger—is standing around saying, “We should do something!” And of course, a swim event is hatched.

    In a world where the GoFundMe movement has gotten out of hand (no, I won’t fund your European vacation, trip to Burning Man, or wedding), there are scores of creative examples of the generous spirit of our tribe. Swimmers don’t really need an excuse to swim, but they’re happy to connect their favorite recreational activity with a passion for people and planet.

    At and in the mainstream media, you can read about swimmers who swim across lakes for wetlands preservation, down rivers for water quality, or in the ocean for sea turtles. This is by no means limited to open water swims—there’s a plethora of pool examples: fundraisers for equipment or repairs, holiday swims with an admission price of canned food for the local food bank, or fundraisers for a teammate who’s fallen on hard times.

    In the profile feature of this year’s open water issue, Elaine K. Howley writes about Kitty Tetreault, a swimmer and race director who’s dedicated years to helping Swim Across America in its fight against cancer and was diagnosed with cancer herself (page 16). She received treatment at a research center that’s been the beneficiary of her efforts.

    The generosity of swimmers isn’t just financial. Managing editor Daniel Paulling writes about three different USMS clubs that have made significant impacts in their communities with adult learn-to-swim programs, funded by grants from the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation. Coaches, instructors, and swimmers in these programs have received more than they’ve given of their time and talent.

    Pastor Rob Bruendl rallied his entire flock after one of his parishioners drowned during a church outing. He became an adult learn-to-swim instructor, and now he’s making sure everyone in his church knows how to swim (page 46). And ALTS instructors with both the Bozeman (Mont.) Masters Swim Club and the Queer Utah Aquatic Club have discovered club growth and personal growth in helping adults learn to swim (page 36).

    These and other stories remind me that I’m fortunate to be swimming shoulder to shoulder with thousands of USMS members across the country who give their time, money, and passion to causes that make a difference in the lives of others.
    Tags: alts, sslf
    Staff Blogs
  2. Shifting Sands (March–April 2017)

    by , March 1st, 2017 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    The March-April issue is traditionally our open water issue, in which we feature a variety of open water swimmers and adventures, and you’ll find some excellent ones inside.

    In our cover story, Elaine K. Howley explores marathon maven Sarah Thomas’s lifelong journey to a record-breaking 80-mile swim down Lake Powell from Utah to Arizona in October 2016. Accompanying the feature are beautiful images created by fellow marathon swimmer Ken Classen.

    In this issue’s Splashback piece, Howley also explores the somewhat obscure history of Bert Thomas’s 1955 swim across the cold and treacherous Strait of Juan de Fuca and introduces us to Andrew Malinak, a USMS member who’s carrying on the tradition of marathon swimming in the Pacific Northwest.

    USMS partner SwimTrek shares a few images of exotic trips—the kind of trips that appear on a lot of bucket lists these days—in Lens (Perspectives, page 4).

    Terry Heggy gets some open water efficiency advice from longtime marathon swimmer and coach Marcia Cleveland in “Ask the Coach,” on page 8 in the Training and Technique department. Also in T&T, Elaine K. Howley gives us some tips on how to prevent cramps in open water as well as what to do if you get one. She also gets some training advice from frequent open water race champion Ricardo Valdivia.

    But great open water content isn’t the only thing in this issue. The March-April issue has evolved in recent years to include inspirational adult learn-to-swim stories.

    Our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation promotes a national campaign to recognize April as “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month,” now in its fourth year. With each passing year, as more swimmers and coaches become certified ALTS instructors, we’ve found that their stories are every bit as inspiring as the stories of their students who are learning to swim.

    In Swimming Life (page 6), Gretchen Sanders introduces us to Charlie Simmons, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and certified ALTS instructor. Simmons learned to swim as a young African-American boy in the 1950s, and ended up becoming a legendary swim instructor in the Army, teaching, swimming, and soldiering all over the globe. He’s now retired and wants to continue teaching adults to swim so that they can teach their children and grandchildren.

    A 10-year-old grandchild is who inspired Larry Crockett to learn to swim, and Linda Brown-Kuhn shares his learn-to-swim story, along with the stories of Cynthia Bradshaw and Fang Schmitz, in “Discovering a New World in the Water” on page 36.

    Recently published at is a first-person ALTS story, with accompanying video, told by both student Mari Soliman and instructor Megan Lassen. USMS has certified more than 800 instructors in the past two years, with 400 more coming onboard in 2017.

    Lastly, Elaine K. Howley, our managing editor, award-winning writer, and resident marathon swimming expert, has accepted an exciting new opportunity. Fortunately for us and for SWIMMER readers, she’ll still be writing the great stories she’s been known for over the past eight years.

    Our new managing editor, Daniel Paulling, a lifelong swimmer and award-winning sportswriter who’s covered Major League Baseball and NFL and SEC football, has just arrived. We look forward to working with him to bring more swimming stories to life in these pages and online. He and the rest of the publications staff can be reached at

    Know of a great story? Pitch it here.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 03:26 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  3. USMS Is for Everyone (September-October 2016)

    by , September 1st, 2016 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Three years ago, I wrote here about how we, as an organization, needed to continue dispelling the myth that “Masters” Swimming means you’ve mastered the sport of swimming before joining USMS. (“The M Word,” May-June 2013). I’ve also written about our efforts to make learn-to-swim classes available to as many adults as possible. (“Milestones,” November-December 2014, “April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month,” March-April 2014, and “Fear of Water,” September-October 2011).

    Diverse populations have been a topic, not only diversity in race (“The Swimming Race,” January-February 2010), but also in age (“Age Is a Whole Bunch of Numbers,” March-April 2016) and sexual orientation (“The Inclusive Sport—It’s All Good,” September-October 2010).

    I’ve written about the labels “fitness swimmer” and “competitive swimmer,” and how they don’t often make sense (“Classification,” September-October 2013). Likewise, the differences between triathletes and swimmers, which are often nondifferences (“Triathletes and Swimmers,” July-August 2012.)

    So when I write, “USMS is for everyone,” I’m really not exaggerating.

    This August, our marketing team got creative and tried a few new things to welcome potential members and generate interest in the sport of swimming. First, we lowered the price of membership by $19 for the remainder of 2016 when purchased with a full 2017 membership.

    Next, we created “Try Masters Swimming Day,” and encouraged members to invite friends and family to swim practice on August 15. And we encouraged coaches to invite local lap swimmers to try a workout. Our partner, Colorado Time Systems, is even donating a Pace Clock Pro to each of the five clubs who register the most new swimmers in the month of August.

    But it takes a village.

    At Spring Nationals I had the pleasure of meeting St. Pete (Fla.) Masters swimmer and legendary pitchman Anthony Sullivan of OxiClean fame. I asked him if he would tell his story for SWIMMER readers. He immediately turned my request for an interview around with a request of his own: “Swimming has done so much for me and I want to give back. What can I do for USMS?”

    Well, if you’ve been on our social media channels in the past month, you’ve seen he’s been busy encouraging membership in a way that only he can—with a hilarious and fun infomercial-style video touting Masters Swimming as “The Greatest Workout of Them All.” He’s also sponsored a contest in which a grand-prize winner will receive a one-year USMS membership and some cool (signed!) OxiClean and Masters Swimming swag.

    And we did land that interview; Managing Editor Elaine K. Howley’s profile on Sullivan, “As Seen on TV,” is on page 18.

    Also in this issue (Swimming Life, page 6, by Gretchen Sanders), we meet Mamenasha Tesfaye and Thaddeus Gamory, both lifelong swimmers who are passionate about helping adults—especially people of color—learn to swim. Both are recipients of Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grants. We also meet two of their students: Randa Azab and Martha Paniagua, whose lives have been forever altered by learning to swim.

    Finally, in “Olympians Among Us” (page 36), Katie O’Dair introduces us to a few of the many Olympians who use swimming to stay healthy and continue enjoying the sport they love. Although these swimmers have clearly mastered swimming, their stories, just like all of ours, originate from having taken that first leap into the pool one day long ago.

    So, ask your friends and local lap swimmers: “What are you waiting for? Masters Swimming is for everyone and the water’s fine—come on in.”

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 10:41 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  4. Ask the ALTS Lead Instructors

    by , April 6th, 2016 at 02:01 PM (Ask the ALTS Experts)
    This issue's questions answered by Lead ALTS Instructor Bill Meier

    Q: I have a student whose legs sink, no matter what I try. Any tips?

    When trying to float on either their front or back, some students will find that their legs don’t float to the surface. This lack of buoyancy is natural and as an instructor, reassure your student that she'll be able to counteract this. Remind your student that head position will have a direct effect on the position of the body in the water. When the head is raised higher out of the water, the legs will sink. Have your student try to float with her head deeper in the water. For some students, the legs will come up if the head is all the way under on a front float. If the legs are still resting on or close to the bottom of the pool, ask the student to kick gently. If this doesn't work, which would put your student in a very rarefied group, have your student put on a pair of fins to make the kick more efficient and keep the toes pointed.

    Q: My student wants to learn sidestroke while keeping her face out of the water,but she keeps tipping onto her front. What can I do to help her correct this?

    Have your student grip a kickboard from the top so her whole arm is supported by the board. If fins are available, have her put them on. With the arm holding the board extended above the head, the student should lean on the board so that the shoulder of the arm holding the board faces the bottom of the pool and the other shoulder is out of the water, pointing toward the sky or ceiling.

    Now, the student should be floating sideways in the water and begin flutter kicking side to side, not up and down with her ear on the side of the kickboard as she looks up toward the sky or ceiling. Once the body position and kick have been established, introduce the scissor kick, reminding the student to "kick, glide, kick, glide." Next, add the pull with the free arm.

    Finally, take away the board, explain the whole stroke, demonstrate this yourself, and ask your student to try the same motion without the board. Once she's comfortable with the motion, take away the fins, and she should be swimming sidestroke.

    Q: My pool has a significant drop-off about 10 feet from the wall. My students freak out when they see the water getting deeper. How can I convince them that it's OK to keep swimming?

    If your student assures you that she's not afraid of deep water, but then freaks out when the bottom falls away, let this happen only once.

    Tell your student to get out of the pool and ask her to tell you about what she just experienced. Then explain that the water that supported her in the shallow end will do the same in the deep end--the only difference is the distance between her feet and the bottom.

    Next, with you in the water holding a floatation device that can support two people, have your student enter the water by the ladder. Move to the side as she holds on to the ladder. Remind your student that you are there to help, if needed.

    Have your student do a supported front float, asking her to look around the pool while her face is in the water. Remind her to focus on the positive. Once your student relaxes, have her glide short distances diagonally at the corner of the deep end, extending the distance as her comfort and confidence increases. Swim along the side toward the shallow end, explaining that she or can stop and hold the side at any point. And don't forget to congratulate your student on her remarkable progress.

    Send your questions to Education Manager Holly Neumann!

    Updated April 12th, 2016 at 02:07 PM by Adult Learn to Swim

    Tags: alts
  5. The Joy of Masters Swimming

    by , August 13th, 2015 at 04:15 PM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    Tuesday, August 4, was a busy and important day for us. Many of our staffers and volunteers were traveling to Cleveland for the 2015 USMS Summer National Championship to support the 963 Masters swimmers who would be competing.

    Nationals week is both fun and stressful for our staff. On the fun ledger, we get to spend time with our volunteers and sponsor partners, cheer for the first-timers, and share inspiring stories and images via social media. Of course our Spring and Summer Nationals come with stress: Livestreaming is an all-day, manually operated job that can have unexpected delivery challenges, and most of the physical set up and breakdown starts daily before dawn and goes well into the nighttime hours.

    Something else happened on August 4. I got the first glimpse of its impact when my phone buzzed at 5:15 a.m., with an image of the front page of the Wall Street Journal Health & Wellness section headline “The Joy of Masters Swimming.” With a 2,400,000 circulation, WSJ is the largest printed newspaper. Throughout the day, as I was driving to Cleveland for the Summer Nationals, I received a steady stream of texts and phone calls. Coaches, partners, and members who saw the story offered congratulations and praise for the article’s message.

    Although I had spent a good deal of time on the phone with the reporter Kevin Helliker, I didn’t know what he was going to write and I didn’t know that the piece would be on the front page. During our conversation, Kevin observed that the USMS business model is distinctly different than other participation sports such as triathlon, Tough Mudder, and Color Runs. Those organizations have seen large participation increases due primarily to an event growth strategy.

    USMS, by contrast, still offers relatively the same number of events at about the same level of participation as we did 10 years ago. In fact, the number of USMS open water sanctioned events is down from just five years ago. Yet, since 2005, USMS membership has increased from 42,490 to more than 63,000 members. Which provoked Kevin to ask this question: “Has USMS growth been intentional or by accident?”

    Well, the answer is intentional, but with the long view, and without compromising the experiences we are providing to our members.

    With resources provided by our Board of Directors and House of Delegates, we’ve made sustained and conscious investments into areas that are creating a more inclusive USMS. We rebranded in 2009 with an identity welcoming to any adult who wants to swim. Content in SWIMMER magazine and at resonates with all swimmers: those new to swimming, triathletes, those rediscovering swimming after a long break, and competitive swimmers. Nearly 1,500 coaches and instructors have attended our Masters coach certification teachings in the past four years. Our Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Program, launched this year, has certified 230 instructors. The past two years, our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation program partners have served nearly 5,000 adults with introductory swim lessons.

    So yes, it’s our intention to grow, but to do so mindfully with inclusive programs for our members, and by supporting our coaches, instructors, and aquatic directors—the influencers who are having a direct impact in the daily experience that our members have through our 1,500 local Masters Swimming programs across the country. By doing so, we hope to foster a welcoming culture so more adults can experience the joy of Masters Swimming, as shared by the excellent Wall Street Journal piece, and as narrated by Rowdy Gaines in “Masters Swimming is a Journey." .”

    Updated August 13th, 2015 at 04:31 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
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  6. Listing your ALTS program on the USMS Website

    by , April 15th, 2015 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Can I list my Adult Learn-to-Swim (ALTS) program on the USMS website?

    A: Yes. USMS strongly encourages you to list your ALTS program as a community resource for adults researching swimming lesson options. Individuals will be able to search your listing by geography and proximity to your program's zip code.

    To add your program, visit the website's Places to Swim page and click on the region on the map where your program is located. This will direct you to a listing of pools your Local Masters Swimming Committee. Make a note of the LMSC you'll be affiliated with, as the LMSC is the local organizing subsidiary of USMS.

    Click the Add a Place to Swim link on the lefthand side; this will take you to a page where you can enter the information about your ALTS program.

    • Your name and email address must be entered in the first two fields, but this information will not be published. The USMS database administrator needs your contact information if there are questions about your listing. Only the contact information you enter in the Contact Information or Miscellaneous fields will be published with your listing.
    • Use the drop-down feature to find and select your LMSC.
    • In the optional fields for USMS Club Name and USMS Club Abbreviation, enter your club's information as it appears in your official USMS club registration.
    • If you have a registered USMS program listed on the Places to Swim page, you may add a separate listing for your ALTS program. Separate listings may be entered for multiple locations offering your ALTS program.
    • In the LapSwim/Workout Times or Miscellaneous fields, enter the times when you'll be offering swim lessons.
    • If you have a website, enter the link in the Website field.
    • In the Map URL field, enter a link for your facility's location. Use an online map service such as Google Maps or Yahoo Maps to generate this URL.
    • In the Miscellaneous field, you can add up to 255 characters worth of specific information about your ALTS program, such as:
      • Instructors and their credentials. If the instructors are USMS-certified ALTS instructors or hold other certifications, list this information. If instructors have special talents, such as working with fearful swimmers, add it to the instructor's bio.
      • Lesson schedule.
      • Cost.
      • Invitation. Invite the new student to call and speak with you or a representative of your program. Many adults need to know they will be learning from somebody who exhibits empathy, trustworthiness, and friendliness. You may want to also consider offering the option for potential students to meet with the instructor prior to scheduling their first lesson; this may help fearful students feel more comfortable.

    Once all the fields are filled in, click the "submit new listing" button. Your information will be sent to the USMS database administrator for review. After the review process, which normally takes less than 24 hours, your listing will appear on the Places to Swim page. If you need to change or update any of your information, click on the "Modify" link located below your listing.

    Updated June 12th, 2015 at 02:24 PM by Editor

  7. USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Certification Program

    by , November 15th, 2014 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What's the difference between the USMS Adult-Learn-to-Swim Instructor Certification program and the "April is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month" initiative?

    A: As part of the USMS vision to be the premier resource for adult aquatics, in 2015 USMS began offering a one-day certification course to teach instructors how to teach an adult to swim, become water-safer, and meet the five water competencies established by the American Red Cross. The certification class will be taught by leaders in adult swim instruction and is open to any registered USMS member meeting the prerequisites. The class schedule and more information about the course are now available. Additional dates and locations will be added to the schedule throughout the year.

    Once a member successfully completes the USMS ALTS certification class and becomes a USMS certified ALTS instructor, he or she may begin teaching swimming lessons and teach other adults how to teach an adult to swim. Only those members who take the USMS ALTS certification course can become certified.

    In 2014, USMS began promoting the month of April as "Adult Learn-to-Swim Month." Each LMSC was asked to encourage their clubs and workout groups to invite adults to the pool and give swim lessons to nonswimming adults. USMS engaged a public relations firm to bring our message to the media. Multiple publications, including the New York Times and USA Today, printed our message. Radio and television stations also broadcasted interviews and special interest stories related to adults learning to swim. Governors from across the country proclaimed April as Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.

    Going forward, our hope is that every aquatic facility will have a USMS-certified ALTS instructor on staff giving swim lessons to the millions of adults who do not know how to swim and are not water-safe. In addition, we will strive for every USMS club and workout group to have at least one individual who is a USMS-certified ALTS instructor teaching fellow USMS members how to give the gift of swimming as a meaningful volunteer experience in April and every other month.

    Updated March 14th, 2018 at 02:05 PM by Bill Brenner

  8. Milestones (November-December 2014)

    by , November 1st, 2014 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    To say that 2014 has been a banner year for U.S. Masters Swimming is a bit of an understatement.

    Our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation launched the inaugural “April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month” campaign, gaining national attention from articles in USA Today and the New York Times, coverage by TV news stations, and radio interviews broadcast in hundreds of markets. Although we’re beyond excited about the publicity, what truly motivates us is the impact that learning to swim has had upon thousands of adults across the country.

    Take Richmond, an ethnically diverse community in Northern California that sits on more than 30 miles of waterfront. Coach Benicia Rivera of the Richmond Plunge Masters used SSLF grant money to fund an adult learn-to-swim program. She documented its progress, interviewing her new swimmers about what learning to swim has meant to them—how it’s affected their lives on a day-to-day basis. Although she sent us the video as a thank-you for the grant, we’re deeply grateful for her dedication, as well as the accomplishments of all the coaches and instructors who are enabling significant, positive change in the lives of many.

    Our coach certification programs continue to help coaches develop their skills and inspire their swimmers. Certification is also helping aquatics directors and instructors create new Masters Swimming programs in their facilities. By the end of 2014, we’ll have certified more than 680 new coaches this year alone. In addition, the Coaches Committee certified the first 10 Level 4 coaches this year—a significant accomplishment for the experienced coaches who met the stringent requirements for advanced certification.

    New educational opportunities are coming in 2015. Adult learn-to-swim instructor certification will provide education for anyone who wants to teach adults the fundamentals of swimming.

    And in 2014, we crossed the 60,000 mark in membership for the first time. More than 16,000 of you are first-time USMS members this year. Welcome to what the SwimToday campaign has dubbed the #FunnestSport! USMS is proud to be part of this inaugural campaign, which is headed up by USA Swimming and leading industry sponsors and organizations.

    All of these milestones are important, and the best way we can think of to celebrate them is to continue to share the stories about the swimmers and coaches behind the milestones.

    We’ll also continue to bring you technique articles, relevant health and nutrition information, product reviews, training advice from competitive and experienced swimmers and coaches, and much more in SWIMMER. Back issues can be read online and on mobile devices via your MyUSMS account at Our STREAMLINES eNewsletters are archived at, and you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And newly organized this year, three staff blogs, including these editorials, can be found in the blogs section of the USMS Discussion Forums at Our executive director shares behind-the-scenes information about USMS, and the education director’s blog is a treasure trove for coaches and club administrators.

    So whether you’ve registered for your 20th year or are new to USMS, we’re honored to have shared this exciting year with you and we can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.

    Updated September 21st, 2015 at 08:36 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  9. The Adult Learn-to-Swim Story

    by , July 1st, 2014 at 12:00 AM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    In 2011, U.S. Masters Swimming adopted a strategic plan that set forth a vision to be the premier resource for adult aquatic fitness in the United States and make fitness through swimming available for as many adults as possible. This meant we no longer wanted to be the best-kept secret in the adult athletics and fitness world.

    Research published by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association shows that swimming for exercise is one of the most desirable fitness activities for adults. Other research, from the Centers for Disease Control, shows that 37% of American adults cannot swim the length of a standard pool, which puts them at risk of becoming one of the eight adults or young adults who drown every day in this country.

    USMS’s resources and expertise uniquely positions us to address both society’s interest in swimming for fitness and the serious problem of adult drowning. In 2012, we launched our charitable arm, the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation to advocate and raise awareness, and to secure contributions so we can provide resources to our local partner programs across the country that are teaching adults to swim.

    Our hope is twofold: offer adults the basic life saving skill of swimming and instill in them the confidence and desire to continue swimming in a Masters Swimming program and experience the lifelong benefits of swimming. Hence the foundation name, Swimming Saves Lives.

    The focus on adult learn-to-swim lessons is our stake-in-the-ground cause. To generate awareness and rally our 60,000 members, many who are volunteering to teach other adults, we declared the month of April, “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.” USMS volunteers and staff began applying for proclamations in states across the country to have the month officially designated. In 2014, we received 12 proclamations.

    We knew our cause had the potential to spread and bring about real change in communities across the country. And we knew that the individual stories of the learn-to-swim participants—who were having life-changing experiences—were the key to that process. In January of 2014, we engaged Allison Moore of Get Moore PR to help us shape the message and generate mainstream media coverage.

    Allison’s decades of professional journalism helped her see our story with fresh eyes and consider it from all angles—most importantly—the angles that would generate interest from writers, editors, and producers in the consumer space. She and her team went to work promoting the April is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month campaign into media outlets across the country.

    Allison created a radio media tour that kept me busy speaking to radio stations about the adult learn-to-swim initiative. She also recognized that one of our members, Olympic gold medalist Misty Hyman, could be a big asset in the campaign, so she booked a series of radio interviews for her as well. In total, Misty and I spoke to 51 radio stations in different regions and thanks to a couple of syndicated shows, our message was heard on 1,500 radio stations nationwide.

    Another one of our members and Masters Swimmer, Olympic gold medalist, and NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines, helped us create a public service announcement and Allison pushed that out through her PR channels. To date, the Rowdy Gaines television PSA has been broadcast 125 times in 28 states, reaching an audience of over 61,496,000.

    And yet another Masters Swimmer, Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana and the current president of Purdue University, kicked off the month of April swimming alongside new adult swimmers in the Purdue pool, with media in attendance, getting the word out about how important it is for adults to learn to swim.

    The Adult Learn-to-Swim story found its way to Darlene Hill of Chicago’s FOX News affiliate. Darlene took our message to heart: She didn’t know how to swim, so she decided to take her first swimming lesson on camera, bringing even more attention to the importance of drowning prevention for adults.

    We were seeing the adult learn-to-swim story pop up all over the country, and we knew we’d tapped into an important public concern when The New York Times, USA Today, and ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer reached out to us based on the coverage and pitching efforts of Allison and her team of talented professionals.

    Jane Brody, NYT’s health writer, wrote “The Stroke You Must Have,” which referenced a family member who had drowned. Michelle Healy of USA Today wrote “Learning life-saving strokes at any age,” and ABC World News Tonight filmed an adult learn-to-swim lesson in New England.

    To say that the cause resonates is an understatement. Masters Swimmers across the country are eagerly signing up to teach and share the joy of swimming with other adults.

    So how can you get involved? Well, two ways. One, encourage your Masters Swimming program to apply for a grant or become a Swimming Saves Lives Foundation partner. The grant application deadline is July 25, 2014. Two, make an online contribution.

    To be sure, April 2015 will be Adult Learn-to-Swim month. As we get into winter and spring of 2015, we will roll out an education program for instructors and programs that want to participate.
  10. National Volunteer Week (May-June 2014)

    by , May 1st, 2014 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    The second week of April was National Volunteer Week. Not only did this dovetail nicely with our “April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month” campaign, but National Volunteer Week has been around almost as long as USMS has. Established in 1974, the week serves to encourage people to get involved in their communities. Points of Light, the volunteer organization that has sponsored the week since its inception, has this on its website:

    “National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change—discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.”

    There’s no doubt that our members have been a force for good in communities across the country. Local USMS volunteers work all year long to make Masters Swimming the best possible experience for their members. We’re grateful for the people in every club and workout group who make things happen on a daily basis for their fellow swimmers. And it works—we have the letters and emails to prove it.

    But it doesn’t stop there. Our national-level volunteers build upon the hard work of the local volunteers and make it possible for USMS to accomplish great things. The Coaches Committee works tirelessly to train and support USMS coaches who are on deck every day changing lives. Many of the letters we receive are because a coach has had a significant impact on someone’s life.

    The number of hours the Championship Committee dedicates to our national meets rivals their day jobs. The Sports Medicine and Science Committee provides valuable healthcare information at those meets, in addition to reviewing medical and science articles and topics throughout the year for all our publications. The Officials and Rules Committees are always deeply involved in our events—be sure to thank your meet officials when you see them on deck.

    The Fitness Education Committee administers the USMS fitness events and searches for ways to connect with noncompetitive swimmers. The Open Water and Long Distance Committees oversee all things open water and our longer pool events. And probably the most relevant for National Volunteer Week, the Recognition and Awards Committee exists to celebrate and honor our USMS volunteers and recognize their service to our members. The History and Archives Committee collects information and images from all our events, so that the Masters Swimming journey is preserved for our future members.

    It doesn’t stop there—running an organization this large also requires countless hours put in by the less visible, but critical, Audit, Compensation and Benefits, Finance, Governance, Investment, Legislation, LMSC Development, Policy, Records and Tabulation, and Registration Committees. Our Board of Directors and Executive Committee and Swimming Saves Lives Foundation are also all-volunteer, and their vision has helped bring USMS to new heights.

    If you have the time, get involved at your local level—you’re needed there. And if you’d like to volunteer at the national level, you can find more information at

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:34 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  11. April Is Adult Learn-To-Swim Month (March-April 2014)

    by , March 1st, 2014 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    My mother claimed that I learned to swim before I could walk. I was the first one in and the last one out of the pool in our backyard and the surf at Stinson Beach. I can’t ever remember not feeling completely comfortable and safe in my watery playground. Like many kids, I dreamed of being a mermaid or a dolphin, and I vowed to be the first gill transplant patient so I would never have to return to the surface and the big scary world of humans.

    My story isn’t unique; many of our nearly 60,000 members learned to swim as young children: lessons at the Y, summers at the lake, surfing, swim team, or just a lifelong love of playing in the water and parents or geography that made it possible.

    If you had the good fortune to enjoy opportunities to become safe, comfortable, and skilled in the water, you might never have considered what it would be like to learn right now, at your present age. Or what it would be like to know that if you fell in, you could become one of the 10 people who drown every day in the United States.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, 37 percent of American adults can’t swim the length of a 25-yard pool. And of the 10 people who drown every day, eight of them are adults or young adults.

    The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, USMS’s charitable arm, wants to change these numbers. The foundation has declared the month of April Adult Learn-to- Swim Month, and has launched a nationwide campaign to promote the lifesaving benefits of swimming for adults. The governors of Indiana, Nebraska, and Washington have signed proclamations in support, and we’re working on getting more states onboard. You can learn more at

    Since 2012, the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation has provided more than $70,000 to programs that offer adult learn-to-swim lessons in their communities. Bill Meier, coach of the Simon’s Rock Pacemakers workout group of New England Masters, was teaching adults to swim even before his program became a Swimming Saves Lives partner. One of his favorite students is Chris Pompi of Adams, Mass.

    Pompi, a father of three, was 38 years old when he went to Meier for swim lessons. “When I had kids, I realized that I needed to be able to swim in case anything ever happened to them in the water. And, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite—making them take lessons but not knowing how to swim myself.” Yet he kept his lessons a secret from his family until he was competent in the water.

    “I just never learned as a kid,” Pompi says. He remembers hanging out at the Jersey Shore as a young adult, but not joining his friends in the water. “I stayed on the beach, soaking up the sun, and when we went out on a boat, I wore a lifejacket. All my friends and family could dive off the boat and have fun. I just watched in envy.”

    Now Pompi, a civil engineer, enjoys swimming with his three children and is grateful for all Meier has done for his family. “I think the world of him, and so do my kids.”

    The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation exists because of the generous donations from our members. There’s an opportunity to donate when you renew your USMS membership, or at anytime by visiting If you’re able to give, you can be part of the team that’s trying to change the truly big and scary numbers of adults drowning.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:37 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  12. 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

    Staff Blogs