OVER HERE .......OVER THERE
From London, England
From the deck .......from Coach Tony Pearce.
“MASTERS SWIMMING AND HOW TO SURVIVE IT!”
What is Masters Swimming?
No doubt about, being a masters swimming coach today has become a very challenging vocation. I sometimes stand on the deck, look at my masters squad in training and ask myself the question, “What is masters swimming?”
Well, here’s my definition: “Masters swimming is an organised and supervised swim practice for adults which encompasses the disciplines of senior open age group(18 years upwards), senior and masters age group(25 years and upwards in five-year age bands), open water swimming and triathlete competitive swimming”.
Just getting such a diverse group of people to go on any semblance of a rest interval is a remarkable feat in itself.
However, it is my considered opinion that masters swimming in recent years has completely changed. It used to be for health, fitness and fun for the somewhat elderly. But, like a high and beautiful wave, it now seems that it has broken and a watermark on the pool wall is all that is left. A place where the wave hit and finally broke back, a kind of peak that never comes again.
But now there is another wave that has opened up a new sense in people’s minds. Swim to win and continue to get better for those who recognise no limits.(“no limits” is the slogan under the Speedo training clock at the St Paul’s School swimming pool where the Barnes Swimming Club train).
I believe that masters swimming – if you want to call it that now – has entered a new era. A spiritual era. I believe that both open water swimming and triathlon have been very integral in this somewhat organic change in our greater swimming society that we now find ourselves members of. Here, I will explain.
Open water swimming, as I used to know it, somehow reminded me of being at the Rolling Stones Free Rock Concert on a sunny afternoon in Hyde Park some 40 years ago. People came together for a common purpose. To enjoy the sunshine. Enjoy the music. And, if you relate this to our modern day, to “dig” the swim.
But open water swimming is now an Olympic event, it’s now a big-time professional worldwide circuit.
Also, around that time, the famous London Otter Swimming Club, later to host the first masters swim meet in Great Britain, celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was also about this time that I witnessed a very young Mark Spitz swim in an international swim meet, sponsored by Coca Cola, at a newly-built Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London.
It was about the same time that I witnessed Jimi Hendrix play his mesmeric guitar music at a nightclub in Cromwell Road, West London. The war in Vietnam was the major international event at this time.
What about triathlon? Browsing through the many U.S masters swimming websites, there is no doubt that triathlon is now an integral part of any masters programme – and whatever happens in the U.S always travels east. The mini-triathlon is now an Olympic event: 1500m free(a competitive swimming distance), then a 40km cycle and a 10km run.
Back in Hyde Park on another sunny afternoon 40 years later, I attended the 2010 World Cup Series Triathlon Championships. With worldwide coverage and Speedo signs everywhere, elite triathletes could be seen furiously chasing each other on their sophisticated racing bikes wearing their heavily sponsored racing attire. Always follow the money! No doubt about it – triathlon is a real big scene right now.
Pathway to glory
It’s at this point that one has to consider why a swimming club should embrace a masters swimming programme.
Firstly, it creates a lasting bond between the swimmers and their club, essential for retaining that vital 15-18 years group in the club. This particular age group should never be allowed to be anything less than they can be.
Here, with masters swimming our youth swimmers have something to look up to. This, in turn, nurtures the all-important teamwork necessary for a swimming club to continue to flourish – youth together with experience.
Secondly, a masters programme can create more finance for the club(although that should not be the main objective).
Thirdly, and most importantly, a masters programme can create a complete development of the swimmer from infancy to old age. And if that is not a real pathway to a global long-term athlete development plan, I don’t know what is.
As a masters swimming coach, what do I actually do? At this stage in my life I have now got it down to one thing. I encourage people. It really is as simple as that because what masters swimmers are doing is swimming to fit their own image.
Masters swimming is not a fashion, it’s a feeling. It’s where the soul drives the body. This means opening the mind to the fact that sport, like music, influences society. Forget the message. Forget the lyrics. Just play. Somewhat profound? Not really, for masters swimming – as with our sport of swimming as a whole – is definitely now at a very special time. Yes, in swimming today there is a new genre. Yes, masters swimming has now acquired true worldwide respectability. As I stand on the deck and look at my masters squad in training, I again ask myself the question, “What is masters swimming?” My answer now is a relatively very simple one, ”Masters swimming is now!”
Yes, with a bit of luck, Masters swimming could ruin your life forever!!! Yes, no limits.
Copyright January 2020