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

    by , February 28th, 2018 at 02:09 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 usms.org 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
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  2. Milestones (November-December 2014)

    by , November 1st, 2014 at 01:00 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 usms.org/myusms. Our STREAMLINES eNewsletters are archived at usms.org/admin/nycu, 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 usms.org. 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 09:36 AM by Editor

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  3. The Adult Learn-to-Swim Story

    by , July 1st, 2014 at 01:00 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.
  4. April Is Adult Learn-To-Swim Month (March-April 2014)

    by , March 1st, 2014 at 01:00 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 usms.org/learntoswim.

    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 usms.org/giving. 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 11:37 AM by Editor

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  5. The M Word (May-June 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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