By Ruth Beadle
Masters swimming is seen by many as a way to continue competing after high school and college. However, most Masters swimmers do not compete in meets. U.S. Masters Swimming notes that fewer than half of its members compete. Even though these swimmers may seem more “casual” about the sport compared to club or college athletes, the “casual” Masters swimmers are the majority of athletes who swim over the course of a lifetime.
Here are a few reasons why they are so important to the sport:
Focus on Teammate Connection
Without having competition in mind, many Masters swimmers see their team as an important community in their lives. Some may even attend practices primarily for that community. The “casual” Masters swimmer creates an atmosphere of community because they prioritize connecting with community over competing. Though swimmers who still compete also prioritize community, the purpose of practice is to help them get better for improving in competition. The increased atmosphere of community creates an emphasis on the supportive culture of the sport.
Sometimes during intense training for competitions, the training environment can be tense. Without a focus on competition, the anxiety over “doing well” in races is lessened. The lack of stress makes for a fun and collaborative environment. Training becomes more of a comedown or a way to relieve stress after a long day at work or school. The relaxed environment once again focuses on creating a space of enjoyment and appreciation for the sport as it is.
When training without competing, there is no need to focus on specialty sets. Instead, “casual” Masters swimmers can choose a variety of workouts to train from. Swimmers who used to race primarily sprint freestyle can diversify their training into IM or even a distance emphasis if they desire. Diversifying training allows athletes to find new skills and enjoyment within the sport, focusing on learning new skills. Learning new skills will also maintain interest in the sport and keep it exciting over a long period of time.
Decreases Value on Times
So much of competitive swimming places value on decreasing time. Taking away time as an indicator of success in the sport opens new ways to define success. Instead of time being an emphasis, working on stroke technique, or focusing on enjoyment can be goals. Times do not evaluate the athlete on their worth within the sport, and “casual” Masters swimmers have a more flexible atmosphere of value.
Opens Swimming to New People
Not everyone begins training in high school or younger. Many people come to Masters because they are curious about swimming, or they need a sport with low-impact training. Teams that welcome all to train at all ages allow new entry ways into the sport.
Having the sport be open to all people is important to maintaining public interest in swimming. More importantly, opening swimming to new people creates more individuals who love the sport.
Article courtesy of Swimming World Magazine – https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/