A master at coaching Masters
The name, “Masters Swim Team,” sounds intimidating. People imagine they must be expert swimmers to take part in the Northern Neck YMCA program. That is not the case. The term ‘Masters’ means 18 years of age, or older.
Craig Bauer, coach of the team, the Stripers, says, “The program’s goal is to help team members build and maintain a healthy lifestyle; adults swimming to feel good and stay fit.”
Bauer notes that each team member has the ability to swim competitively. Some relish the challenge of participating in events while others do not. Regardless, the Stripers are a team. They support and cheer on their teammates in the swimming pool and in life.
Having retired to the Northern Neck in 2015, Bauer became the Stripers coach in 2017. He was a high school swimmer and went on to swim for one year on the Harding University team. It was, however, a summer job as the aquatic’s director at a community pool that fostered his love of coaching. He hopes his affection for the sport translates into “a positive influence on their day.”
According to Bauer, the program is unique because all swimmers do the same workout. The distances change according to swimmer’s ability, but everyone begins the set together. Bauer starts each practice watching the team warm-up. Then, if necessary, he will adjust the set or workout to fit how they are doing that day. He says, “It’s amazing. Some of the newcomers can only swim one length of the pool at the start. But over time they improve. That is what I love, to see them make progress.”
Whether their motivation is to maintain fitness, complete a triathlon, or enter their first swim meet, each workout is designed to help the team member improve their target fitness level and performance. The team also works with the YMCA’s personal trainers to learn “Dryland Training” workouts. This program teaches them training techniques that translate from the weight room into the pool.
Bauer “teaches in reverse.” Rather than teaching from the beginning of the stroke, Bauer teaches from the recovery point. He explains, “I’ve found this helps the swimmers learn the proper technique and have a better feel for the movement.”
Bauer holds certifications as a Level 3 USMS Masters coach and Stroke Development coach, a Level 2 ASCA Swimming Age Group coach, and an Adult learn to swim instructor.
On a personal level, Bauer swims 3-4 times a week. He has participated on nationally ranked relay teams and been individually ranked in the breaststroke and freestyle. At the 2018 YMCA Masters Swimming Nationals, Bauer won the 50-yard freestyle.
Bauer beams when talking about the new YMCA aquatics center. He says, “The new pool will allow us to have a more active adult swimming program and hopefully attract more swimmers to the team.”
The aquatic center will also allow the Stripers to sponsor officially sanctioned swim meets. The team looks forward to the new pool opening in late 2019. Several team members have expressed their desire to dedicate the new structure by breaking a national record there.
The Stripers currently compete in regional and national competitions. In 2018, they came in 17th among the 47 teams that competed in the YMCA Nationals.
When asked what being a member of the Stripers means to them, the responses share a universal theme: their admiration for their coach, their camaraderie with their teammates, and their love for swimming.
Molly Broderson, explains it this way, “Because of a very knowledgeable coach who understands how to teach adult swimmers; a tribe of swimmers who are compassionate, enthusiastic, caring, and sharing; and a chance to learn how to swim more effectively.”
Janice Thomas says she was last on a swim team when she was ten years old. Although she doubted her abilities, she joined the Masters swim team. She found that she could, although exhausted, complete workouts. She says, “Each day I’ve gained more endurance and more confidence. It has been very gratifying and I’m glad I tried.”
The Stripers Team practices on Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 a.m., Wednesday at 6:45 a.m., and Saturday at 8:00 a.m. For information, please contact the Northern Neck YMCA at 435-0223.
*A longer version of this article is available. To read more about the program and its swimmers, please click HERE.