Encouraging More Adults to Swim
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A Few USMS Milestones

Laura Jones | December 30, 2011

Conversations about competitive swimming for adults began in the 1960s. But it wasn't until 1971 that the ball really got rolling. Below is a timeline of some of the historical highlights of the evolution of Masters Swimming. USMS can trace its roots to a few committed volunteers. It will owe its future to thousands of committed volunteers like you! For more information, visit the History and Archives page at usms.org.

  • 1970: 46 swimmers gathered in Amarillo, Texas and competed in the first unofficial Masters Nationals. The meet was advertised in Swimming World magazine.
  • 1971: Ransom Arthur and John Spannuth presented their idea for a Masters swimming organization to the Amateur Athletic Union, then the governing body for all swimming.
  • 1971: Nationals were again held in Amarillo, Texas with 160 swimmers participating.
  • 1972: Long course nationals were added in Bloomington, Indiana; 188 swimmers participated. Short course nationals were held in San Mateo, California and 325 swimmers participated.
  • 1973: After much lobbying, the AAU created a Masters Swimming Committee.
  • 1977: First All American awards given to long distance swimmers (open water and pool long distance events.)
  • 1978: The Amateur Sports Act broke up the AAU and USMS became the only self-governed Masters Swimming national governing body in the world.
  • 1980: United States Aquatic Sports is formed and USMS is given full and equal recognition as an NGB of USAS.
  • 1981: United States Masters Swimming incorporated and enrolled 11,000 members. USMS benefitted from the local AAU volunteer network.
  • 1984: First Masters World Championships are held in New Zealand with 2,000 swimmers.
  • 1986: First FINA Masters World Championships are held in Tokyo with 3,400 swimmers.
  • 1986: USMS registered its 20,000th member.
  • 1988: FINA officially recognized USMS; USMS had 28,000 members at the time.
  • 1992: FINA Masters Worlds were held in Indianapolis, Ind.
  • 1996: The USMS website, usms.org, was created and has become the leading information web resource for Masters Swimming.
  • 1998: 36,000 members. Along with membership growth came an expansion of rules to accommodate the various local organizations and types of meets.
  • 2001: USMS registered its 40,000th member.
  • 2006: FINA Masters Worlds were held in Stanford, Calif.
  • 2007: USMS Hired its first executive director.
  • 2008: USMS implemented online registration.
  • 2008: USMS hired its second executive director and rebranded itself
  • 2009: USMS established its first official national headquarters in Sarasota, Fla.
  • 2009: USMS registered its 50,000th member.
  • 2011: 56,000 members and growing fast.
  • 2012: USMS will host its Summer Nationals in the Olympic Trials venue following the USA Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.
  • 2013: USMS will host the Pan-American Masters Championship; the first time the event has ever been hosted in the U.S.
  • 2020: USMS will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

So over the years, has anything stayed the same? Well, socializing and swimming for the joy of it are two threads that bind the USMS community. What's changed? Times have dropped as surely membership has exploded. For example, in 1970, the best women's time in the 35-44 age group for the SCY 100 free was 1:24.5. Now, of course, that age group has been divided into two age groups; Dara Torres holds the 35-39 age group record with a 49.72 set in 2007 and she also tops the 40-44 age group with a 48.34. Here's to a banner 2012!

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Laura Jones

Laura S. Jones, a lawyer by training, has written about sports, health, and science for a variety of publications since 2001. She's also the author of a short story collection, "Breaking and Entering," published in 2011. Jones is an avid, although not speedy, open water swimmer and particularly enjoys 5K and 10K ocean swims with her much faster husband, Rob. She'll occasionally humble herself with a 400IM or 500 free in a pool meet, and a triathlon or two.

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