It’s been FOREVER since I have had a guest blogger around here! Today I am really excited to bring you a guest post from Matt Steffan! Matt is the administration and afternoon coach for the Victor Masters Swim team. He works full time for the Town of Perinton overseeing the Aquatic Center and all its staff and programming. He helped create the Masters team in fall of 2013 and has continued with its development ever since.
He lives in West Henrietta with his wife, 15 month son, dog, and daughter-to-be named June 2015! When not working, you can find him participating and directing triathlons in the area and home brewing beer.
We had a ton of responses to a FB post I put up a few weeks ago, regarding why you do or don’t swim with a Masters Team! Matt took the time to answer each point one by one….. THANKS MATT! And if you want to give Victor Masters a try….. show up! Too shy? Let me know! I will meet you on deck!
In response to a deluge of comments from Mary’s Facebook post about why/why not you participate on a Masters Swim Team, I am breaking down some of the myths, norms, complaints, loves, and laughs that make this swimming concept a wonderful, yet underutilized, concept.
Adults swimming? Working out with a coach? In the early morning? And they compete at swim meets; aren’t those for kids!? Questions heard around the pool, transition zone, gym, and the office (if you work with people like that). Yes! There are many adults who do swim, early in the morning under the guidance of a coach. Yes! There are some who even compete at meets who absolutely love it. However, the Masters swimming myth is just that, a myth.
The most common concerns and questions that I hear when recruiting people to swim on a Masters team are:
- I’m not fast enough, my form sucks, and what the hell is a butterfly. P.S. my flip-turns look like a breaching whale.
- I’m not an early bird or a night owl; the practices don’t fit my schedule. The facility with a team is 30 minutes from my house.
- I’ll get pushed out of the pool by the other swimmers; I’ll ruin other people’s practice.
- I speak 4 languages but don’t know what “2x(5×100 @EN2) w/ B! on 1:45; 1:00 r then rept. w/ – split” means.
- The coach is disengaged, it’s his/her second job, and he/she can’t explain why we are doing what we’re doing.
- It costs too much.
Let’s quickly get through these points touching upon my experiences and background. Before we start, the Readers Digest version of my ‘Swim Story’ is as follows: I never swam in a competitive meet until I was 29 and ½ years old, I never swam on a Masters team before 2014, I cannot do the butterfly and subsequently IM’s, and I am a triathlete (albeit a developing one). I do have a background in swimming through lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons and I own some sweet jammers, but other than that, my first Masters practice was my first experience of a ‘swimmer’s workout’. Enough about me, on to your concerns!
- I’m not fast enough. I hear this all the time and is the number 1 excuse of people continuing to swim on their own for an hour straight then hit the showers. The fact is everyone feels they aren’t fast enough – it’s all relative to the individual and everyone is swimming to improve. People learn to run at comfortable speeds together and ride comfortable distances together; they will join workout groups and naturally split into sub-groups with people who share their same abilities. Masters teams are the same way and are able to facilitate all speeds.Your form sucks and you can’t do butterfly and/or flip turns. Who cares?! Form gets better through practice and improves even more through coached practice. Masters teams focus on form, workouts, pacing, competition, and fitness. They are a perfect place to perfect your form! As for butterfly, just don’t do it! I can’t, why should you? We are all adults and for many of us, the tortures of butterfly have no reason to come into our lives. Sure there are some who do it, but they are in smaller sets and you can cruise behind them rocking your free-style. Flip turns? You should give them a try but at most practices there are always members who do open turns and breathe in that sweet oxygen to get them through the next 25.
- Practices don’t fit my schedule and is too far from my house. The harsh reality of Masters swimming – practice is scheduled according to pool availability, of which, Masters practice tends to be last in line at the pool schedule buffet. What should you expect? A team should offer you at least three things:
Morning practice starting anytime between 5:30AM and 6:30AM (2-5 times a week).
2. Night practice starting anytime between 6:30PM and 7:30PM (2-5 times a week).
3. A facility to practice at to be 15-30 minutes from your house.
Give Masters a break and realize it’s not the same as stepping outside of your house and immediately going for a ride or run. Most team administrators work tirelessly to secure optimal pool time and make sure the lanes are full to ensure that pool space isn’t given away. You should feel blessed if you can find a team with the above criteria!
- I’ll get pushed out of the pool by the other swimmers; I’ll ruin other people’s practice. First off, if there are people pushing you out of the pool, you don’t want to be their teammates anyways and hopefully the coach addresses the issue. I’ve seen the aforementioned people in lanes before and guess what – they all tend to be the regular, set your watch to them lap swimmers, not Masters participants. Like so many other sports it is a team environment and trust me when I say, most Masters swimmers don’t take themselves too seriously and if they do, they are probably swimming with a club team and not a Masters team.It would take a whole lot of something to ruin someone’s practice and I doubt many people have the annoying ability to do so. As long as you are there and put in the effort you are comfortable with, people make it work! Faster swimmers may swim around you but they don’t care, it is their job to pass you, not the other way around. The Masters community is one where people feed off of each other’s excitement and drive to push each other further than one can take him or herself alone.
- I can’t read/comprehend what the sets mean. At first the scribbles on the board can be intimidating, but once you gain a small comprehension of what it all means, you’re off! With other swimmers in the water and a coach on the deck, you shouldn’t feel left behind in the knowledge department.Learning the terminology will not only help you succeed in practice but will strengthen any workouts you have with your friends or workout groups. The more you see workouts, the more ideas you have to create workouts on your own when you aren’t able to practice with a team. Your friends will be more than impressed!
- The coach is disengaged and not fully invested in the program. This is heard from many past Masters participants and is why many choose to swim on their own. Finding great coaches is difficult, finding great coaches to run a workout for adult Masters Swimmers is more difficult, finding a great coach to oversee a program and coach 5 times a week for a Masters program can be the most challenging of all. For many Masters coaches, it is their second or third job. There are coaches out there who believe in continuing competitive swimming and training for adults and they naturally are drawn to coach Masters. For those searching for a team to join, look for the following signs that a solid staff and coach is in place:
- A head coach who coaches at least once a day Monday-Friday. This shows that the coach is investing his/her time into the team and allows participants the option of having the same coach 5 times a week.
- A team that has multiple coaches on staff. Coaching burnout in a Masters program can happen fast and having other coaches on the staff ready to run the program to relieve a burnt-out member will keep the team intact and going strong.
- A dedicated administrator for the team (whether a coach or not). This provides the team members a solid contact for any questions, will remind him/her about registration, meets, and events, and will take the stress out of learning information about the program.
Once you find a team, keep an open dialogue with the coach. Some people are comfortable with their technique and don’t want critique from their coach. Others want it but don’t ask for it. If you feel a coach is disengaged, engage him or her! Ask her to watch you the next 50 and give you feedback. If everyone is doing that, every coach will be engaged.
- It costs too much. Yes, Masters swimming can eat into part of your training budget. There are many costs associated with having a team – insurance, coach fees, pool fees, lifeguard fees, administrative fees, equipment fees, etc. However, the value of a solid Masters team is second to none if you have access to one in your area.Fees vary across the country from $20/month to $100/month. When looking into a Masters team, determine the value by items 1-5 above. A reasonable team will charge $50-$60 a month if paid with an annual membership (more if you sign-up a month at a time). Let’s do some math; many triathletes will pay $5,000-$7,000 for a good racing bike that will last for 7-10 years of racing. If you join a Masters team at $650 a year, you would spend that same amount of money over the course of 7-10 years. The only equipment you can invest in that will improve you swim is a wetsuit (or maybe a razor for some). Consider joining a Masters team the same type of equipment a bike would be – it will make all the difference.
In the end, only us as individuals can decide if we want to step outside our comfort zone and try out a Masters team. I believe if you find the right team and give it everything you can for a month, you will be hooked! Swimming is a lifelong sport that will carry on for many people past their running and cycling days. Why not take the plunge now and begin challenging and enjoying yourself in the water alongside some new Masters friends!