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SWIMMER Editorials

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

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by , September 1st, 2010 at 01:00 AM (778 Views)
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.

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

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