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by Linda Shoenberger

October 1, 2008


I just returned from the United States Aquatic Sports convention in Atlanta and as I was flying back across the country I began to reflect on the 12 years I have been a member of United States Masters Swimming.


I began to think about the wonderful gifts I’ve enjoyed because I found the sport of swimming and USMS.  Perhaps you will recognize yourself in some of the thoughts that crossed my mind while traveling home.


In the big picture, USMS is approaching 50,000 members.  The small picture starts with each of us finding a neighborhood pool with a coach on deck and a bunch of swimmers pulling on suits, walking out onto the deck and jumping into the water.  Chatting and camaraderie abound.  While I love conversing with my swimming buddies when I’m in the pool, I have to admit that hearing the chatter as I stand on deck when I coach makes me just as happy.  The joy of swimming could not be better expressed than through the laughter and teasing floating through the air.


At the convention we were treated to a new set of USMS coaches on deck each morning at 5:30 a.m.  On the bus over, with hair sticking up from sleep and coffee aromas wafting through the bus, the same friendly discussions filled the atmosphere and got us ready to hit the water.


The coaches, diverse in their methods and expertise, provided us with interesting and new swim sets to take home.  One coach kept reminding me to keep my right arm entry straighter.  This was the same exact correction that Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen brought to my attention just 2 weeks before in a swim clinic in my hometown of Reno, Nevada.  Both coaches knew that I needed some help.  The coach standing over me at the last convention swim practice reminded me over and over again until I finally gave in.  My own coach back home, was impressed that I finally caught on.  Yay for coaches – here, there and everywhere!   


One of the topics of interest at the convention was the use of wetsuits in sanctioned open water competition.  Some people are for, some are against.  But what it triggered in my mind is how lucky we are to have open water swim events at all.  Not long ago, this wasn’t the case.  Today we have so many races that it’s sometimes hard to pick which ones to attend and which will have to wait for another time.  It’s nice to have a reason to consider the pros and cons of wetsuits versus “naked” swimming.


My swimming fitness is greatly enhanced by my swimming buddy Martine Milton and my coach Scott Young.  We meet 5 times a week at appointed hours and pools.  The friendships I have developed with both Martine and Scott is invaluable to me.  If one of us misses for any reason, swim life goes on, but when we are all together we have a wonderful time.  Even when the weather is bad outside and darkness comes fast, like it will soon, our swimming workouts bring lightness and sunshine into my life.


Many masters swimmers do not compete.  They reap the fitness benefits of workouts but have no interest in participating in meets.  These swimmers are just as lucky as those of us who love to attend meets.  Thank you USMS for providing so many wonderful events around the country for us to meet up with old swimming friends, make new friends and express our competitive spirit in our races.  Nothing is better than a good old swim meet to remind of us the importance of having such a wonderful organization ready, willing and able to provide these opportunities.


And lest we forget, USMS SWIMMER is a wonderful source of information.  Inspirational stories appear regularly in its pages.  Swim meet information is always published.  Vendors advertise and we find the swim toys and suits we love.  Nutrition is covered, thus enhancing our swim fitness.  Workouts are provided by coaches throughout the United States.  There is so much information that I keep my magazine out by my favorite chair for weeks at a time, rereading articles over and over again.


There is so much that USMS and swimming give me in my life.  I hope you can relate to my experiences in your own swim life.  Anything you wish to share with me along these lines can be sent to me at (what else?)