Swimmers must be at least 18 years old to join U.S. Masters Swimming. The organization is open to all swimmers, regardless of swim level, fitness or ability.

When I occasionally encourage a swimmer to join U.S. Masters Swimming, I tend to get one of two responses. The first is, “I’m not old enough.” And the second is, “I will, once I get in shape.” 

Neither one makes any real sense.

Regarding the first, the minimum age for USMS membership is 18, and there is no upper limit. Lowcountry Masters swimmer Barbara Eisele, 90, was the youngest of several 90-plus competitors at the USMS Nationals this summer at Greensboro, N.C.

The second response implies that USMS is organized only for competitive swimming. Yes, USMS conducts meets in pools (Short Course Yards, Short Course Meters, Long Course Meters) and in open water. Yet a recent poll of 46,000 (of 65,000) USMS members found that 75% considered themselves fitness swimmers rather than competitors. 

Perhaps this is because there was no “both” alternative, in which I would include myself, but to me it was a startling statistic.

Clearly, there must be reasons why fitness swimmers choose to join USMS. One is for direction and instruction (coaching, if you will) in a well-organized program that suits all types of swimmers. Beaufort County’s Lowcountry Masters has early-morning programs at Hilton Head’s Island Rec Center, and north of the Broad at the Port Royal YMCA.

Bluffton has no such program. Swimmers who do not or cannot swim early in the day, which includes many retirees, are left to plan their own swimming routines.

And this is where USMS can be helpful. There are all sorts of routines and workouts available to members on the USMS website to match any swimmer’s desires and preferences, for beginners’ level all the way to those that only national champions can complete. 

The USMS website (usms.org) and its publications – a monthly online newsletter Streamlines, and bi-monthly Swimmer magazine –  have many articles and columns with tips for swimming technique, often superbly well-illustrated by USMS photographers Peter H. Bick and Mike Lewis.

The website also offers a community where swimmers can be in contact with others on any number of topics that may be of mutual interest.

USMS members can receive discounts on a variety of swimming apparel and gear from manufacturers and from retail outlets.

If you are a swimming novice, fitness participant, competitor, triathlete, or belong to any other category, please consider USMS membership, currently offering bargain rates. Better yet, find a partner to join with you and take advantage of all that USMS offers.

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@yahoo.com