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  1. Thanks, Coach! (January–February 2017)

    by , January 1st, 2017 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    If you’re fortunate enough to be swimming with an organized USMS program, complete with teammates and a coach, you’re experiencing Masters Swimming at its best. An organized club leader creates an environment in which several other things can occur.

    For starters, just having someone who’s made the commitment to get up earlier than early, to beat the swimmers to the pool and get things ready for morning practice, is often underappreciated. If you’ve ever swum in a program with no coach, or swum with a coach with spotty attendance, you know what I mean. If you get to the pool and get to jump in and start swimming—without wrestling tarps or dragging lane lines—all the more fortunate you are.

    Some coaches are swimmers themselves, and like to lead by example. Some do their best work without ever getting in the water. Most Masters coaches I’ve met have one thing in common: They derive a profound sense of accomplishment from helping their swimmers succeed.

    And success comes in different flavors.

    Whether you’re learning breaststroke for the first time or training to break a world record, a good coach approaches all your goals with equal zeal. Whether you show up five days a week and grind out every length with gusto or a few times a month as respite from a crazy schedule because being in the water is the only time you get to relax and you just want to float up and down the lane in a meditative daze, a good Masters coach is there for you. A great Masters coach accepts that these situations can occur for the same person.

    This kind of support has a trickle-down effect. In my experience, there isn’t a friendlier bunch of people than a Masters swim team, and a lot of that stems from good leadership. A smart coach taps the talent on the team for tasks that give rise to a vibrant social network, one that transcends scoring points at a championship meet and puts as much emphasis on each meet day’s after-party.

    And since swimmers are the nicest people on the planet, I don’t need to remind you to thank your coach—you probably already have. Whether you show your appreciation with home-baked goodies and gift cards or a smile and thanks after a workout, a good Masters coach needs to know how much your swimming experience means to you. Words and deeds that translate to “Thanks, Coach!” are what keep this cycle going.

    Thanks to all the great coaches who are making magic happen on pool decks across the country.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:27 PM by Editor

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  2. On the Road (November-December 2010)

    by , November 1st, 2010 at 01:00 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 11:54 AM by Editor

    Tags: clubs, coaches, travel
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