News and Stories

My USMS Diversity & Inclusion Experience

By Donita Flecker
USMS Level 3 Coach
Sebastopol Masters Aquatic Club
Head Swim Coach & Founder

For my efforts as the sole owner, Head Swim Coach and founder of Sebastopol Masters, in 2022 I was presented with the inaugural USMS National Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award.

Sebastopol Masters is a small club located 45 miles north of San Francisco. The award is presented annually to athletes, coaches, volunteers, and clubs who show a public commitment to diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion across race, gender, age, religion, identity, and recognizes individuals or clubs that create diverse and inclusive environments for their members that assures everyone feels empowered to bring their full, authentic, unique selves to the sport.

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“Donita was instrumental in creating the Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator role within the Pacific LMSC, convincing the board of directors to consider adding this important committee. She suggested that the LMSC’s meet sanctions include facilities that have gender-neutral bathrooms and she has challenged clubs to find ways to be even more inclusive.”
Quote from Donita’s USMS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award

At my first USMS convention in 2018 my colleagues suggested I apply for a committee. My first choice was the newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee, my preference because it was new and I believed it would be easier to have an impact. Being on a committee was also an opportunity to put myself out there while learning about the business side of USMS. But my particular interest was how I could provide swimmers with more opportunities and be more inclusive, with my club and others in our LMSC.

Some of the things I have learned and incorporated into our workouts: I spend equal time with all my swimmers, giving directions, paying individual attention and providing feedback on stroke and technique. I soon came to understand this is a great way to promote inclusivity and bring everyone together as a club. Everyone might be doing the same workout, but not necessarily the same distance. Now everyone enjoys the same experience of being together and making new friendships.

I also write all workouts on a white board. I had not done this before. Having workouts on display benefits swimmers who are visually sensitive. Kerry O’Brien from Walnut Creek Masters showed me how using different colored dry markers allows all abilities to easily recognize differences in set intervals, rest, intensity, and number of yards. I use red pens for the advanced swimmers who want more challenging workouts. Black is the easiest color to see so I use it for everyone. Blue or green pens are the “lighter option” for swimmers wanting less yardage and more rest. Different colors let me accommodate all levels of swimmers, allowing them to personalize their workout and intervals. I’ve had great feedback and will continue to use this method.

The USMS Diversity and Inclusion Committee is a cohesive group from across the nation, yet with different life experiences, perspectives and ideologies. We come together to promote diversity and inclusion throughout USMS. I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to different cultures, thought processes, and social interactions beyond my little “country in the city” hometown of Sonoma County. What unites us is that swimmers just want a friendly atmosphere at the pool, where they’re made to feel welcome — and never different than their peers.

I did have a recent situation of a member who wanted to be referred to with a different pronoun. I was able to listen and better understand how they wanted to be addressed. They just wanted to be included like everyone else. I learned to adapt and apply the lesson to my dealings with all of swimmers. That approach has worked with everyone and made us all comfortable on the pool deck and between the lane lines. Sebastopol Masters welcomes all swimmers with open arms to a friendly environment.

As a member of the committee, I’ve been mentored by some great coaches and made great lifelong friendships. My exposure to different lifestyles has alter my perspective and biases when it comes to identities and sensitivities.

I’ve changed the way I address swimmers with regard to their identities and sensitivities. I’ve learned not to assume what you see on the outside is what’s going on inside. I have made it a priority to ensure all swimmers and guests feel comfortable and welcome the moment they step on the pool deck.

Despite our differences outside the pool, we are all swimming in the same pool water. Sets and intervals are based on ability. No one is expected to do more than they can. Sharing great workouts with friends and fostering camaraderie in the pool and your lane is what diversity and inclusion is all about. Diversity and Inclusion committees must be a part of every LMSC. They can build awareness about identities, sensitivities, and inclusiveness in order to foster fair, sensitive, and welcoming environments to our teams, clubs, and workout groups.

If interested in learning more about Pacific Masters' Diversity and Inclusion Committee, contact Vicki Shu at DivIncChair@pacificmasters.org.

Donita Flecker
Debbie Meyer and Donita at Pacmasters Women in Coaching Clinic

Santa Clara International Swim Center Closed

In a January 12th letter to the swimmers and their families, Santa Clara Swim Club Head Coach Kevin Zach announced, "It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the indefinite closure of the International Swim Center. Yesterday, the city received the findings of a consulting company tasked with assessing the state of the ISC. Subsequently, the city manager made the difficult decision to close the facility. In the face of this challenging situation, we want to emphasize the unwavering importance of safety. The decision to close the ISC is rooted in the commitment to providing a secure environment for all members of the Santa Clara Swim Club community."

The future of this storied program will no doubt remain unresolved for some time. The ISC has been a citadel for competitive swimming, with it legions of superstar athletes, and venue for world class competitions including Pacific's conduct of its annual International meet for elite competition, the 2014 USMS Spring National Championships and many of our LMSC's local meets.

Kevin adds, "Looking ahead, the SCSC leadership is diligently working to create a consistent schedule with alternative locations," as they look for places to continue their programs. Pacific Masters wishes Santa Clara Swimming good fortune towards continuing its legacy of Swimming Excellence.

USMS Spring Nationals at Santa Clara

World Championships Doha

Just 9 months after the World Aquatics (formerly FINA) Masters World Championships were held in Japan, the next Masters global competition will take place in Doha, Qatar from 23 February 2024 to 3 March 2024. Since covid disrupted the historic biannual agenda, the championships have followed an unpredictable schedule.

The Masters Worlds Championships encompass the six aquatic sports including swimming, diving and high diving, water polo, artistic swimming and open water. The Masters meet follows the Elite swimmers championships The scheduling is a similar structure as the upcoming USMS Nationals that will be held next June where the masters meet follows the 2024 Olympic Trials. All swimming events are contested over 7 days.  More complete information can be found at https://www.worldaquatics.com/competitions/3328/world-aquatics-masters-championships-doha-2024. The final deadline for entering is January 16th.

Pacific Masters Swimming played host to the Masters World Championships in 2006. Over 6000 aquatic athletes attended the competitions held at Stanford University. Since then, they have been conducted in Australia, Canada, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Russia, Sweden and Japan. The event is slated to move to Singapore in 2025.

Swim Competition for the World
A tower of swimming babble

A Great Annual Meeting and Celebration

Attendees at the celebration of our past year began with their choice of a coached workout by Pacific coaches Matt Zachan, Joel Wilson, Nick Cruse and Shari Cruse, or two clinics conducted by Nick Thoman. Nick, a multiple Olympic medalist and our feature speaker, got in the pool with our members to help them improve their turns and stroke techniques. Tucker DuPree, followed with stories of losing his eye sight and his transition from All-American high school swimmer to a medal winning Paralympian. After a delicious catered lunch, Nick regaled us with his amazing and amusing swimming journey that culminated with gold and silver medals at the 2021 London Games. Both speakers were joyous and passionate and left everyone inspired to double down on their own swimming pursuits.

We honored our dedicated volunteer Pacific Masters Service Awards winners and culminated the affair with our annual business meeting. Our new Executive Committee members are:

  • Chair – Ian King
  • VP Communications & Technology – Michael Moore
  • VP Pools – Chad Holbrook
  • VP OW – Rebecca Friedlander
  • VP Clubs & Coaches – Shari Cruse
  • Secretary – Sally Guthrie
  • Treasurer – Laura Shope

Our 2023 Pacific Masters Service Award Winners include:

  • Carol Nip - Nancy Ridout Award for Distinguished Service
  • Missy Hunter - Contributor of the Year Award
  • Ian King - Peggy Lucchesi Award
  • Rebecca Friedlander, Judah Grossman, Matt Roper, David Spitzler - Appreciation Awards
  • The Olympic Club English Channel Relay: Allison Arnold, Catherine Breed, Thomas Dowley, Matthew Korman, Felicia Lee, John Piirainen along with Chito Acholonu, Janet Hurtado, Elsa Leung, Grace Leung, Ferenc Packza, Chelvi Raju, Rafael Razo, Adult Learn to Swim (ALTS) swimmers competing in their first meet - Personal Achievement Award- Personal Achievement Award

Look for more stories and photos to come about the Celebration in News and Stories on the Pacific Masters website.

Swim clinic with Nick Thoman
Nick's keynote
Lunch and camaraderie
Meeting venue at Indian Valley
MEMO trying on Nick's medals for size.

Kerry O'Brien Short Course Meters Championship

The Kerry O'Brien Short Course Meters Championship held in Walnut Creek, had the greatest attendance ever for the event. 579 swimmers competed over three days of unseasonal, near perfect summer-like temperatures. Despite long days, the meet was efficient and well officiated with conditions conducive to many record setting performances. In addition to 43 new Pacific Masters Pacific Masters Records, there were a number of National and World Records broken.

A highlight of the meet was a mixed medley relay heat of recent graduates of USMS’s Adult Learn to Swim programs. Shari Cruse’s Marin Aquatic Masters (MAQ) and Kim Elsbach’s Get Fit Davis Masters formed 3 relays to swim their first competition. The teams were comprised of swimmers who just a short while ago enrolled in ALTS programs hoping to become comfortable and safe in the water. .ALTS provided the instruction, nurturing and motivation to continue their swimming experience and here they were in a competition. The pool deck was packed with cheering fellow swimmers and anyone witnessing the event was filled awe for the competitors and with admiration the ALTS program. Read Shari’s account of the way MAQ has taken ALTS to new heights.

USMS National Records:

  • Richard Burns (80-84): 100 Freestyle
  • Brandon Fischer (30-34): 50 Breaststroke

Masters World Records:

  • Brandon Fischer (30-34): 200 Breaststroke
  • Laura Val (70-74): 400 IM, 200 Butterfly
  • Tamalpais Aquatic Masters (320-359): Richard Burns, Peter Andersen, Ed Reed, Tony Ralphs, 200 Freestyle Relay, 400 Freestyle Relay, 800 Freestyle Relay, 200 Medley Relay.

View meet results, including individual high point and team scores here.

View an album of photos from the meet here.

Scenes from the 2023 SCM Championships

ALTS Shines at Kerry O'Brien Short Course Meters Championships

From learning to swim to winning our hearts at championships

A highlight of the meet was a mixed medley relay heat of recent graduates of USMS's Adult Learn to Swim programs. Shari Cruse's Marin Aquatic Masters (MAQ) and Kim Elsbach's Get Fit Davis Masters formed 3 relays to swim their first competition. The teams were comprised of swimmers who just a short while ago enrolled in ALTS programs hoping to become comfortable and safe in the water. ALTS provided the instruction, nurturing and motivation to continue their swimming experience and here they were in a competition. The pool deck was packed with cheering fellow swimmers and anyone witnessing the event was filled with awe for the competitors and with admiration for the ALTS program.

Shari Cruse recalls how Marin Aquatic Masters' Learn to Swim Program had her swimmers starting out from those learning basic water safety to racing at a meet:
"It was an amazing testament to the power and purpose of the ALTS program. The swimmers' effort in taking on the challenge of learning a skill so foreign to them, and which they never thought they could master, was inspiring to all in attendance. Many ALTS participants come to us after frightening experiences as children, others have dreamed of swimming but have never had the opportunity to learn. While most programs dont have the resources to allow people to swim for free, without such programs many adults are kept away from this life saving sport."

Shari Cruse with MAQ's ALTS relays.

Elections

In odd numbered years Pacific Masters is required to hold elections for our Pacific Masters officers at our annual meeting. This year we will hold our elections at our Annual Celebration and Meeting on November 12, 2023. Per our BYLAWS, a nominating subcommittee is formed and presents a list of at least one nominee for each office at the Pacific Masters Committee meeting prior to the Annual Meeting, Our bylaws also allow for additional nominations.

The 2023 Pacific Masters nominating subcommittee will present this year's candidates at our September 20, 2023 monthly meeting. The candidates will also be posted on our website on September 18 and listed in the next enews UPDATE published October 2.

If, after the publication of our 2023 candidates, a Pacific Masters member wishes to make an additional nomination for one of the elected positions, they may do so as a floor nomination at the Annual Meeting following the guidelines listed in the BYLAWS (reproduced below) and present them to the chair onsite at the beginning of the Annual Meeting activities (8 am, November 12). While these floor nominations are allowed per our bylaws, we encourage interested candidates to contact the chair ASAP so that we can prepare and run a smooth election.

103.5.5.D. Additional nominees shall be accepted at the Annual Meeting upon nomination by two (2) individual members of Pacific Masters Swimming and written consent of the nominee(s).

Nancy Ridout announcing the candidates

Introducing Pacific Masters Swimming Slate of Candidates

Ian King

Candidate for Chair

Since moving to the Bay Area from Georgia in early 2018, Pacific Masters membership has had a significant and important impact on my life. It has offered the opportunity to develop some great friendships and given me a sense of belonging as a newcomer to the area.

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I have truly benefited from the community of Pacific Masters and my interest in this position is to help Pacific Masters continue to grow and flourish in its mission to promote health, wellness, fitness and competition through swimming. My time as a volunteer at both the local, LMSC, and national level, in combination with my professional leadership experience, I believe has given me a solid background to help lead Pacific Masters into the future. The past 4 years in the role as Secretary for Pacific Masters have given me a good understanding of the governance and operational structure of our amazing organization. It would be an honor and privilege to serve our swimming community as LMSC Chair.

Chad Holbrook

Candidate for VP Pools

I joined masters swimming 4 years ago, on my 40th birthday, as a way to get healthier and reintroduce the sport I enjoyed participating many years prior in college. My local club coaches at WCM encouraged me to participate in both open water and pool meets, which I've really enjoyed and helped me set new goals to strive for.

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Our meets are special because they are a fun social gathering as well as an individual and team-based competition. We are lucky to have such a wonderful line-up of high-quality meets and opportunities in our region. I love volunteering, working as a team and hope to get more involved with the organization of our pool meets. I have been fortunate to discuss this interest with Matt Roper, and with his encouragement, I would like to formally announce my candidacy for VP of Pool Meets once his term ends later this year.

Michael Moore

VP Communication and Technology

I am running for my second term as Vice President for Communications and Technology. During the past two years, we have completely updated the website. This has been a work between our webmaster and members of our LMSC.

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When the update was launched last October, it was primarily a transfer of pages from the old site to the new site. Now we are working on making the site more user-friendly. We have begun tweaking the website for better Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so we can better promote Masters swimming to the adult swimming community.  The Update underwent redesign earlier this year again to better communicate with our members. I would like to serve another term and continue modernizing our communication tools so we can serve our members and adult who would like to engage in our great sport.

Rebecca L. Friedlander

Candidate for VP Open Water

Hello! I've been swimming competitively since age five. While living in Atlanta during the early 1990s, I was very fortunate to have a fellow Dynamo masters teammate encourage and mentor me in open water (OW) swimming.

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Since then, I’ve enjoyed racing a variety of distances in both fresh and salt water—solos, series, relays, 5Ks to raise money for sea turtle conservation, at altitude, and even some cold-water during my days in Colorado. Most recently, I won my age group at USMS national 10K this past summer in Applegate, OR. I’ve also had the honor to give back to my community by crewing, most notably for a trio of swimmers simultaneously crossing Catalina Channel.

Since moving to Reno and joining Pacific Masters, I’ve had lovely opportunities to grow in community involvement—becoming an OW committee member, serving as an OW event evaluator, submitting content for the Pacific Masters website (e.g. contacting every LMSC team this past spring to learn who may offer OW training, swimmer profiles), attending the 2023 annual conference, and event director of the inaugural Pacific Masters Eight Bridges Virtual Swim, which attracted 97 entrants this past summer. I thoroughly enjoyed the array of tasks this event presented, such as tracking website liaison, writing copy, advertising, opening a virtual store, and trouble-shooting participant issues.

As a professional, I’ve spent decades under that vast umbrella of “writing-editing-marketing-PR.” Just a few examples of past posts and gigs are wellness director for a Fortune 500 company, marketing director for a non-profit organization, fitness guru columnist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and a celebrity fitness ghost writer. As such, I have an eye for detail, prize offering timely responses, and am a confirmed people-person. For a sample of my freelance writing, please see my blog, experimental swimmer, where I often write about PAC-related topics (e.g. Kim Swims documentary review, Linda Hepworth’s book review, my Del Valle OW Festival experiences). Currently I own and run my own business, Mariposa Herbalism, to see clients and produce custom remedies such as tinctures, teas, syrups, lotions, and balms. Education: BA in History/English, University of Vermont; MA in History, University of New Mexico; DDS (Dietary Supplement Science) Franklin Institute of Wellness, Franklin, Tennessee.

Thank you for your interest and my consideration for Vice President of Open water!

Shari Cruse

Candidate for VP Clubs and Coaches

When my children were little and joined a USA swim team, I joined the associated USMS team to gain some appreciation for their new sport. Having swum recreationally as a child but never competitively it was both an amazing learning experience and a source of life-long friendships.

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I volunteered as a USA Swimming official for many years and began taking the USMS coaching and ALTS classes in order to assist our over-worked masters coach. When that coach moved away, I took over the team rather than see it dissolve, as I loved coaching the swimmers who had become my second family and were an integral part of my life.

Over the past decade I have had the wonderful opportunity to learn and grow as a head coach, due in large part to the incredible wealth of knowledge that is so freely shared amongst our USMS coaching and member community. I am the head coach of Marin Aquatic Masters, a growing team that focuses on both fostering the inclusion of all swimmers, and community service with robust Adult Learn to Swim and Beginning Masters programs.

I have participated in many areas of Pacific Masters; as a swimmer, official, coach, meet director, mentor, and as a member of several committees where I have been privileged to learn from many dedicated individuals. In an effort to continue the cycle of learning and teaching I would consider it an honor to work in a position to support our Pacific Masters Clubs and Coaches in this role.

Sally Gutherie

Candidate for Secretary

I have served LMSCs for about 15 years, first in Michigan and, since 2017, in Northern California. USMS has been a big part of my life during this time, and I am happy to give back to the organization that has contributed so much to my wellbeing and happiness. I served as the Oceana Zone Chair for 4 years and have provided ‘substitute’ services as secretary on several occasions. I would like to serve as the Pacific LMSC Secretary.

Laura Shope

Candidate for Treasurer

Hi All! I’m running for the Treasurer position this term. I’ve been the treasurer for the past 3 terms (6 years now!). I love being involved and being able to give back to the swimming community I love so much.

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I have degrees in accounting, finance, international business and economics and have been doing taxes much of my career. I run my own tax practice now, where I specialize in small business and individuals, doing their taxes and accounting. I love being involved with PacMasters, where I work closely with Chris Ottati, reconciling the bank accounts, preparing monthly and annual financial statements, preparing the year-end tax returns and 1099’s, and the quarterly and annual payroll returns. I also annoy everyone on the board once a year when it’s time to prepare the annual budget. My goals for this year are to continue to strive for an accurate budget, while still giving back to our members.


ALTS and Beyond

Shari Cruse
Marin Aquatic Masters

Marin Aquatic Masters (MAQ) has conducted an ALTS program for the past eight years. We've learned that after 8-10 classes, participants are safer in the water, but they're really not swimmers. We teach them the basics and they get excited about swimming, but with such limited skills and often lingering fears they aren't able to discover the benefits of Masters Swimming nor can they find places to swim that accommodate new learners.

Last year we offered 4 additional weeks of classes to give ALTS participants the opportunity to learn more.  We charged $5 per class to cover some of our expenses and our team covered the rest.  We found that after the additional month, most couldn't afford to continue to swim with our team, nor would they have been able to circle swim or keep up and we didn't have the resources to continue.  Three swimmers did stay with MAQ. All swam the one mile postal at the end of the year and one even entered the 50m free at our long course championship in July.  While he still couldn't dive or flip, and was somewhat fearful in the deep water, it was life changing for him and I realized what a huge difference we could make if we found a way to continue teaching these very new hesitant adults.  It takes a lot of time and a safe and welcoming environment for new swimmers to continue to learn.

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A Team Within A Team
This year we made more changes and took a financial risk.  We had about 70 participants in ALTS in June and July.  Those who could navigate the pool safely without in water instructors were invited to our inaugural Beginning Masters program.  They had to join USMS when their 30-day free membership expired but we continue to cover all of their other costs to swim. We provided suits if needed, goggles, caps, equipment, and most importantly patience and love.  We had over 30 volunteers from our team during the 4-week ALTS program, but one coach and a few amazing volunteers for the Beginning Masters.

We rented additional pool space for the Beginning Masters program. It was basic Masters Swimming 101 to be sure. In addition to learning to swim better, we have covered pool etiquette, pool lingo, flags, lane lines, lines on the bottom of the pool, pace clocks, and learning as a team were all part of the program.  We only asked in return that they volunteer for 2 hours at our Long Course meet. By volunteering they were able to get to know some more of our team members, see a swim meet in action, and witness up close the benefits of swimming and the amazing community provided by Masters Swimming. It was inspiring, and about 30 have continued swimming at no cost consistently 2-3 times per week. Our group of 30 has become a true team within a team.  They encourage and teach each other. They know how to circle and to accommodate those in their lanes who can't go as fast or aren't as advanced.  They're all working toward being able to swim a mile in the deep pool.

Swimmers to Competitors
Swimming as a relay at an official meet served two purposes. First, a goal for the participants themselves, and second to raise awareness in our community about the life changing possibilities of the ALTS program.

Ranging in ages from 33-68, they worked and struggled as a team to succeed at something that absolutely terrified them. For the past month, 12 members braved the deep-water pool to practice relays at the end of each practice. They worked up to a 50- meter free (with a little rest at the turn) and encouraged each other as they swam far outside their comfort zone. Unfortunately, 4 of our relay participants were unable to attend the meet due to anxiety or illness but they are looking forward to the next meet!

Two ALTS relay groups from our team, and one from Davis Fitness showed up for the Pacific Swimming Short Course Meters Championship meet. Relatives came in support from as far away as San Diego, and two brought their tiny babies to cheer. One relay had a married couple, another two sisters ages 66 and 68. The Pacific Masters swimming community came together in support of their incredible bravery and cheered from the deck for an amazing display of commitment, grit and sheer will as the ALTS graduates successfully complete the 200 free relay.

It was an amazing testament to the power and purpose of the ALTS program. The swimmers' effort in taking on the challenge of learning a skill so foreign to them and which they never thought they could master was inspiring to all in attendance. Many ALTS participants come to us after frightening experiences as children, others have dreamed of swimming but have never had the opportunity to learn.  While most programs don't have the resources to allow people to swim for free, without such programs many adults are kept away from this life saving sport.

It is estimated that at least 35% of adults in the United States cannot swim. Of the 70 people MAQ taught this year, 95% were from extremely diverse non-white backgrounds.  It's impossible not to appreciate how tragic and inequitable it is that everyone is not afforded the opportunity to learn this life saving skill. In our community we've taken steps to change that.  Our community is safer when adults learn to swim, and our team benefits greatly from increasing our diversity with respect to both background and ability. We are dedicated to giving others in our community what we've taken for granted all of our lives because pools were available and/or parents could afford lessons.

While we give our time, expertise, and love to these new swimmers what we receive in return is the most valuable gift of all, the knowledge that we have changed lives and strengthened our community.

Shari Cruse with MAQ's ALTS relays.