is Masters Swimming?
Masters swimming is swimming for adults. It encompasses
the whole range of ability from casual fitness swimming
to highly organised competitive swimming. To qualify as
a 'masters' swimmer one needs only to be over 25 years of
age, but there are also a number of competitions for younger
adults above the age of 18.
Organisation and Development
Under the umbrella of the Amateur Swimming Federation of
Great Britain and the three British associations - the Amateur
Swimming Association, the Scottish ASA, and the Welsh ASA
- this section of swimming sport is organised through districts
and counties to the grass roots of all sport, the individual
Masters swimming began in the USA in the 1970s when some
formerly 'elite' swimmers organised a competition for adult
swimmers. The sport has now spread all over the world. But
although there are World Championships at the top end the
sport remains one in which all who want to compete can do
so. The broad objectives of better health, better fitness,
and the friendship between swimmers are paramount. There
is no compulsion on swimmers to compete.
The Amateur Swimming Association is naturally keen to encourage
swimming as a fitness-improving pastime and recreation and
as a sport. It is currently in the process of developing
initiatives for fitness swimmers . It has a standing Masters
Committee, which is active in the promotion of masters swimming
and in encouraging new masters-based activities.
There are currently some 5,000 swimmers of masters age (25
and upward) registered with the Amateur Swimming Association.
There are also about 400 clubs which are dedicated to masters
swimming or are masters sections of larger clubs.
Competitive masters swimmers are well catered for. There
are keenly contested national and district competitions,
and some county swimming associations organise masters events
as well. In addition there are some 40 to 50 masters competitions
organised by individual swimming clubs, held all through
the year. For those who wish to travel there are World and
European Championships, as well as a large number of open
competitions just as there are in Great Britain.
It is not always necessary to travel to compete. There is
an annual half-hour competition organised by the ASA, and
a one-hour competition organised by the British Long Distance
Swimming Association. These are 'postal swims': each swimmer
submits his or her performance to a central co-ordinator
who produces an overall result.
Masters competitions are held under the same rules as apply
in mainstream swimming, and races are as keenly contested.
But there is always an informal air. Only very large international
events such as the World Championships at present need to
impose (modest) qualifying standards. Everyone who wants
to take part is welcome.
Masters competitions are organised in 5-year age bands,
from 25-29 and upwards -and upwards as required. The oldest
age group result so far is in the 100-1-4 group! Some competitions
also include a 19-24 or 20-24 group.
There are two national championships each year. The British
masters championships are held in June over a long course
(50-metre pool), and include the whole range of 17 recognised
long course events (50, 100, and 200 metres of each stroke,
400, 800, and 1500 freestyle, and 200 and 400 individual
medley. Additionally there are male, female, and mixed relays
swum over 4 x 50 metres). The ASA (English) championships,
normally held in October over a 25-metre course, include
all of these events plus the 100 metres individual medley.
Scotland and Wales have there own national events, and the
five English districts also promote competitions within
themselves. There is also a national Inter-Counties competition
swum in districts with the results being collated on a 'postal
The many club meets include only a proportion of the standard
events, typically only the 50s and 100s and a 100 Individual
Medleys and relays.
Unlike mainstream swimming, masters competitions rarely
impose a qualifying standard, so if you wish to take part
in a masters event you can … you simply join a club
and send in your entry. Competitions are almost always seeded
on the basis of ability, and therefore no matter what standard
you have reached it is likely that you will be in the pool
with people of similar ability.
Other Aquatic Disciplines
Open water (outdoor long distance competitive) swimming
events often include a masters or 'veterans' section. There
are regular masters events in open water swimming. There
is a national masters championship in synchronized swimming.
The World Masters Championships include all aquatic disciplines
- swimming, open water, water polo, diving, and synchro,
and there are also European Championships in these disciplines
(though water polo is held separately).
Is Competition Compulsory?
No! Everyone has his or her reason for swimming-health,
general fitness, camaraderie, just for fun. How far you
go is up to you. A major survey of British masters swimmers
showed that the majority of them rarely competed.
How Can I Get Involved?
The easiest way is to locate your nearest masters swimming
club or group and just turn up. Ask at your local pool.
For More Information
The Amateur Swimming Association will put you in touch with
somebody in your area who can help you. Write to the ASA
at Harold Fern House, Derby Square, Loughborough, Leicestershire
LE11 5AL or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ASA's telephone number is 01509 618700.
The ASA sends a newsletter, What About Masters?, to all
of its registered adult swimmers twice a year.
The ASA's own monthly magazine, Swimming, carries regular
reports and news of masters swimming events. For details
telephone 01509 618714.