Swimming for Life:
Most of us who follow swimming read a lot about world champions and national record holders. Sometimes we may even picture ourselves as a Phelps, a Lezak, or a Coughlin, as we fly down the lane in a hi-tech, full-body Fastskin and chase down the French guy in front of us. Positive thinking is good, of course. But the reality is that most of us in Masters Swimming will never be at the level of catching the French anchor swimmer Alain Bernard in Olympic relay. Our goals (and times) are decidedly more quotidian than Olympian.
For us, Masters Swimming is more about the 60 year old guy who suffers a heart attack during which his heart stops twice for over 15 min. The guy survives, fortunately, and gives up cigarettes and starts swimming with us to live a full life.
Then there’s the mailman whose sister beats him by 8 minutes in a triathlon. The mailman is a nice guy. He’s a laidback guy, actually, and not necessarily competitive. So it’s kind of amazing how the kidding from his sister compels him to join masters and start working out hard. The following year, he tops his sister at the same triathlon by two minutes, and drops his swim time from 27 to 14 minutes.
There are moms, too, who competed in their youth and want some time for themselves to get back into shape. Before they know it, they’re pulling on swim caps that their children have decorated, as their families cheer them on at a meet.
And don’t forget the 79 year old lifelong swimmer, who discovers new competitors in their age group. Now they know they can no longer just show up and take home the gold. Now they’ve got to swim!
There’s the 40 year old who was a competitive swimmer as a kid who just beat his best “life” time. There’s the brick layer who started swimming three years ago, and a lap swimmer who never had a team to swim with who breaks a minute for the first time in the 100 free. There’s the coach that has swum competitively his whole life improving his times as he gets older. There’s the high school girl, her senior citizen counterpart, and others that just want to stay in shape and not race. There’s the teacher who wants to perfect her technique while coaching her High School team, and the government workers taking out their frustrations in the pool after a long commute. There’s the swimmer who wants to learn the proper technique to avoid injuries.
Masters Swimming is about all that and more. Our programs reach out to our diverse community. It’s about fifteen adults driving into the city from the country to cheer and encourage each other like they were kids at a swim meet. And if Dara Torres is any proof, it may even be about Olympic and World Champions.
One thing in common on most master’s teams is competition. The original meaning of the word “competition” is “come together to “seek” improvement”. We all know that working together helps us improve, and that’s our goal for the Warrenton Masters Swim Team. When we actively seek improvement together we get much further ahead.
By focusing on the original intent of “competition” and avoiding its modern, win-at-all-costs meaning, we make swimming an activity for life, which keeps us looking forward to the next practice. This opens the door to all adults with diverse needs and interests. The camaraderie of Master’s Swimming helps us stay focused and pushes us to excel, not only in swimming, but in other aspects of our lives, as well.
Charlie Tupitza Coach, Warrenton Masters Swim Team