It has now been more than a decade since I swam for a team. My last honest attempt came in 2009, when I swam a few practices for a team I was also coaching over the summer.
I've never found that the benefits of joining up with a team outweigh the costs. I love the idea of Masters swimming, and I can see the value that many people get from being on Masters teams. I have never found that it is for me.
To be fair, before I get overly critical of the way many Masters teams are run, I am an odd bird. I am a coach with very strong opinions on how I should train. Those opinions exist still at the fringe of popular opinion in the swimming world. I'm at peace with that.
The reality is that many Masters teams are not a natural next rung from the competitive college and club programs that proceed them. Many are stocked with swimmers that have no interest in competing and just want to stay in shape. Another significant block are triathletes, looking to make sure they are prepared for a long distance open water swim.
Everyone in the sport knows that triathletes, who can often come from non-competitive swimming backgrounds, typically have big pocketbooks and are eager for help, so it makes sense for Masters teams to cater to them.
Competitive swimmers, especially ones that want to compete in sprint races, are rare. Because of this, training is not designed around them.
To compound this, many Masters swimming teams employ a "coach by committee" design, meaning that if you show up on a consistent basis you may have a different coach standing on deck for each practice you attend. This makes it challenging to expect any kind of continuity for practice style, or stroke corrections, or any of the basic pieces you need to get better.
With my life, working on my own business, volunteering and raising a young kid, I don't have the time to waste on this kind of training.
So, while it is not ideal, I coach myself and ask coaching friends for help. I video myself and analyze it later. I tailor workouts specifically to my own needs and do them on my own time. I do the same for Masters swimming athletes that could benefit from the same kind of specialization in their training.
For me, training this way has allowed both me and my clients to get in the best shape of our adult lives, all while finding better balance in our work and personal lives. While I still would like someone to swim with me from time to time, the cost is worth it.
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