When I was young, my folks signed my siblings and me up for swim team primarily to learn how to swim. We were barely walking when we learned the basic strokes of butterfly, back, breast, and freestyle while enjoying the camaraderie and challenge of participating in a competitive team sport.
When swim team became a potential scholarship opportunity for college-bound high school kids, I stopped participating in organized swimming programs. I wasn’t willing to make the kind of commitment that pre-collegiate swimmers do.
Although I continued to swim recreationally, it was years later that I discovered U.S. Masters Swim (USMS). “Master” does not denote an achievement level of distinction, like an Olympic medal. It simply designates “adult.” And in this case, an adult is anyone 18 and older. You fill out a few waiver forms, pay a nominal fee, and you’re a member of USMS. For many adults, USMS is an opportunity to learn how to swim, and maybe experience some of what I did on a youth swim team. Whether in a private session or as one within a well-schooled group of “fish,” the benefits of USMS are boundless.
Beginners and advanced swimmers alike often find a supportive sports environment and experience a sense of well-being.
Masters Swim is organized; coaches design diverse workouts, depending on team and individual swim level and fitness goals. People join for various reasons — fitness, socialization, competition, stoke instruction, triathlon training, or just for fun. Three U.S. Certified Masters Swim programs are found in the Coachella Valley: Piranha Swim Team Masters (PSP ); Brickhouse MultiSport Masters (BHMS); Desert Olympic Tritons (DOT).
Most programs begin with a basic warmup followed by drills to refine strokes and improve breathing and muscle memory. Workouts are modified with different rest intervals to accommodate varying skill, pace, and desired outcome.
Ben Hobbins is a USMS National High Performance Coach who runs the DOT program that trains a diverse field of athletes. He says that only 10 percent of masters swimmers compete in USMS competitive events.
Coach Amanda Stone of the BHMS explains that the organization tailors the workouts to who is swimming: “We are not all elite level athletes,” she says. “We are a varied group consisting of all ages and all body types.”
Coach Jeff Conwell of PSP adds, “Swimming is the greatest exercise for long-term impact, and it’s a life skill. Everyone needs to be able to swim.”
Piranha Swim Team Masters
Coach Jeff Conwell
Brickhouse MultiSport Masters
Desert Olympic Tritons
Coach Ben Hobbins