Starting and Developing a Masters Swim Club

"A special thank you to Masters Swimming Association of British Columbia (MSABC) for the use of their document in preparing this one!"


More and more of us realize that regular exercise contributes to good physical and mental health, whatever our age. Swimming is one of the safest and best ways to exercise. It doesn’t abuse the joints with sudden shocks and pounding. It benefits the cardiovascular system, reduces cholesterol and positively influences muscle tone, endurance and emotional well being and it’s fun! Masters swimming provides excellent opportunities to exercise with others, to improve swimming skills and stamina and to enjoy doing it. Masters Swimming prime credo is fitness. Masters swimming means wanting to be fit, having the pleasure of being with other swimmers, sharing these interests while doing it, and for some, releasing those competitive juices from time to time. Masters Swimming encourages competition for swimmers of all abilities who like to challenge themselves and others at swim meets. Thus, by being a member of a Masters Swim Club, there is an opportunity not only for fitness, but to meet and make new friends, to compete and to travel.


  • Women and men, young and old: If you are 20, you are old enough to join. Even if you are over 90, you can continue to be an important and active member of Masters Swimming Canada Inc./Maitres Nageurs du Canada Inc.’s 6,300 swimmer’s nation wide.
  • Swimmers of all levels of ability: Your wanting to swim is what matters. How fast or slow you swim may or may not be important to you. Most of your fellow swimmers are more interested in you as a person. Most will be trying to enhance their swimming with improved skills, strength and stamina.
  • Swimmers in health or rehabilitation: It is better to enjoy good health whenever you swim, but you do not have to be 100% fit or free of ailments to swim. Swimming has helped many feel better while hampered, to partially recover from ailments or even fully regain their health. The process of swimming smooths the rough spots of less than perfect health, even when it is not able to cure what is wrong.
  • Swimming alone or together: While most of Masters Swimming involves group activities on a fairly regular basis, this is not the only way. Some choose to swim by themselves most or all of the time and only occasionally participate in Masters’ activities. Both ways are fine.
  • Swimmers live everywhere: Most areas have Masters Swimming. To get information about what is going on in your area, contact the Chairperson of Saskatchewan Association of Masters Swimming  or Swim Saskatchewan Inc. 2205 Victoria Ave. Regina, Sask. S4P 0S4 306-780-9238 or e-mail office@swimsask.ca.


These are some of the activities. You may choose what you want to do.

  • Workouts: anywhere from a few to a pool full of Masters Swimmers get together on a scheduled basis to exercise and train together. Many workouts have coaches, who tell the swimmers what to swim and help with stroke technique and sustain enthusiasm. Some Masters groups piggyback on age-group, high school or other workout groups. Other Masters swimmer’s workout by themselves. This may be due to choice or the fact that they cannot make the scheduled time offered. However with more workout groups forming throughout the province, more opportunities to join a group are becoming possible. Many individual swimmers get together with a friend or two and rely on workouts posted by their Masters Club.
  • Swim Meets: Clubs occasionally get together to race. In most meets you will swim with others of about your own speed, regardless of their age and sometimes their sex. This means that you may compete with the opposite sex and with both older and younger swimmers. Results are determined by five year age groups and sex. At national and international meets men and women swim in separate heats categorized by five year age groups. Meets provide personal challenges and the chance to socialize with other swimmers from various clubs and exchange ideas on swimming. Meets last anywhere from a few hours to a day or more. You may enter the races that you wish to participate in - it is your decision of how many you wish to swim in. Other forms of competition include fax meets and open water swims.
  • Swim Clinics: These are designed as structured sessions to improve stroke technique and speed. They range in scope from the informal sessions with the local experts to multi-day events run by professionals. With just a slight change in coaching perspective, dramatic results may be obtained. Some clinics will also deal with nutrition, fitness, physiology and psychology particularly as they relate to swimming.
  • Social Activities: Most take place after a swim session. For instance, combine a swim meet with a social activity such as a get together after the meet. Other social activities involving the swim club might include BBQ’s, pot luck suppers, social dances or other sports activities such as bowling, skiing and the like.


Unless you are fortunate enough to be living close to a community centre that runs activities that you like, you are missing out on a lot of benefits available through Masters. Clubs may choose to run as few or as many activities as they like. Without a Masters Swim club, many activities would not be held. Masters Swim Clubs are focused on Masters swimming themes of swimming fitness, technique, sociability and competition geared to adults. You may not find these themes in a non-Masters organization.


The objectives of Masters Swimming are: Fun, Fitness and Participation. Some of the club’s objectives might be: •General Fitness •Swimming Technique •Faster Swimming •Swimming Stamina •Workout Programs •Occasional Clinics •Swim Meets and Open Water Swims •Triathlon Support •Newsletters •Team Camaraderie •Group Sociability •Fun


  •  You become an official member of SAMS. This means that you are eligible to participate in all Masters activities, including fitness programs, swim meets and clinics.
  • Automatic registration with Masters Swimming Canada Inc./Maitres Nageurs du Canada Inc.
  • You are supporting a very worthwhile cause, your health, well being and longevity.
  • Your club receives liability insurance coverage for organized events such as workouts and sanctioned meets.
  • You are insured at and while traveling to and from sanctioned swim meets and practices.

STARTING AND DEVELOPING A MASTERS SWIM CLUB As you embark on this journey, remember that the larger the club, the more structure you will likely require. Most clubs start out small, which has the advantage of being manageable by a couple of keen individuals. As the club grows, though, so do the number of tasks. The following comprehensive list encompasses many issues that will be encountered only by large clubs. Don’t be frightened by the length of the list!! Most small clubs will initially adopt just a few of these guidelines. Take what you need for now, but be prepared in case your club membership "takes off." The most important step is taking the initial plunge!


  •  Two or more swimmers need to sit down away from the pool and to think through what they want to accomplish and who will put in the time and effort to make a club happen.
  • Write down what you want to accomplish and when
  • Assign jobs
  • Set a date for the next meeting and/or another means of following up on the plans


  • Get in touch with Swim Saskatchewan Inc.: 2205 Victoria Ave. Regina, Sask. 306-780-9238 or e-mail office@swimsask.ca.
  • Select an appropriate name for your club ie: Regina Muskys Swim Club or Humboldt Anchors Masters Swimmers. Also include an alternative in case your first choice is rejected or already taken
  • Swim Saskatchewan Inc. staff will assist you with registering your club


  • List the members on the Membership Application Form
  • Fees are based on the season running from September 1 to August 31. Swim Saskatchewan Inc. fees are $ 18.50 which includes membership in both Saskatchewan Association of Master Swimmers (SAMS) and Masters Swimming Canada Inc./Maitres Nageurs du Canada Inc. (MSC). ($ 3.00 goes to SAMS, $ 5.50 to Swim Saskatchewan Inc. and $ 10.00 to MSC)
  • Send in the completed membership form along with the appropriate fees to swim Saskatchewan Inc.
  • Congratulations of becoming the latest SAMS member in the province!
  • Swim Saskatchewan Inc. will send your club contact a membership listing which includes the Swim Saskatchewan Inc. number that identifies that swimmer officially for meets.


  • Put up informative and eye-catching posters at the pool and have plenty of handouts available and place them in the hands of anyone at the pool that will help you distribute them. Of course, word of mouth while in the pool or locker room works very well.
  • Repeat this process in other places where people seeking fitness gather, such as other pools, fitness centres and triathlon organizations, as well as non-fitness oriented organizations such as churches and community service groups.
  • Advertise in the paper. They may accept a listing for a club such as yours and would welcome a chance to do a human interest story about what you are starting.
  • Send the paper results of swim meets or the highlights and play up any records that are set, whether they be club, provincial or national records. Give the paper a focus or an angle. Some papers will publicize an upcoming event, especially if there is anything unusual about them such as the age of the competitors, the events or a particular human interest story. Don’t forget the local community papers.
  • Most people know how to swim, many may have competed before. Let them know there is an opportunity with your club to bring back that joy of swimming, to improve their technique and explore or get back to the sport of swimming again.


While it may sound somewhat formal for what you have in mind, you must have some people who will make the club go. Sometimes small clubs do well for a long time with one prime mover. That’s up to you. Even if you are set against becoming a heavy bureaucracy, you must cover some of these jobs: President (or whatever you decide to call her or him): This person should be the driving force of the club. They must display a degree of leadership and should be adept at the equitable delegation of duties to fellow board members. Treasurer: While vast sums of money don’t usually move through his/her hands, it is the treasurer's responsibility to keep you informed as too just how much you have in the bank, and where club monies were spent. It is highly recommended that club accounts be set up to require two signatures for any disbursement of funds. The treasurer may also act as the club registrar. Social Organizer: This person or persons should be the planners and organizers of the various social activities. Club Registrar/Contact: This person keeps track of your members and communicates with Swim Saskatchewan Inc. This person will receive all the Swim Saskatchewan Inc. mailings throughout the year. It is this person’s responsibility to ensure that all communications sent to the club get disseminated to club members and to coaches, if necessary. Secretary: This person is responsible for recording the minutes of all club meetings. Attempts should be made by the secretary to retain all materials that may be of future historical importance to the club and its members. Publicity: Someone should be out their beating the drums about what you are all about and what you are currently doing. You are best to use one reliable person and have them on a first name basis with the local media. Find out interesting stories in your club, ie overcoming diversity, first swim meet, past or present excellence, etc. and get it to the media. Pictures are great too. Telephone Tree: A group of people each responsible for phoning a number of the club members so that they may be contacted about upcoming events.


When setting your fees structure, keep in mind that pool usage and coaching, will likely be your two largest ongoing expenses. Swimming can be inexpensive. After pool fees and coaching fees are deducted from the club’s budget, costs are minimal. Swim meets and clinics are pay as you go events and will usually cost less than a modest evening out. The point is that the total tab for swimming is low already, so don’t be too penny pinching with club dues. This is where you can get some seed money to spread the word and try new activities. Presumably you want to encourage others to get into Masters Swimming. This does not happen automatically. Use events to encourage and recruit new members. You should be constantly coming up with new ideas and ways to fund activities.


The main purpose for forming a non profit incorporated organization is the broad range of recognition and protection that it offers to the directors and members of the organization. Under the Non-profit Act, a member of the organization is not, in his individual capacity, liable for a debt or liability of the organization. In order to maintain this protection , there must be a minimum of 3 directors of the organization. A registered incorporated non-profit organization must hold an Annual meting within 15 months of incorporation and after that date and AGM must be held each calender year, not to exceed 15 months of the previous AGM. An annual report must be filed with the Saskatchewan Corporations Branch. The procedure for incorporating is straight forward. It can be handled by any individual of the club or by a lawyer. Please contact the Saskatchewan Corporations Branch for details.


Go for the best and make the best of what you’ve got. No pool is ideal. Balance the factors of cost, hours, location, staffing, water temperature, cleanliness, lighting, etc. You may have one pool for workouts and others for meets or vice versa. While there are obvious advantages to having all members use the same pool, it is not a must. Some clubs do not have a home pool for workouts or meets. What they do have is the ability to line up pools that are appropriate to the club members needs, particularly for meets. Moving around from pool to pool for club activities is a good way to publicize, especially if you already have advertising at the host pools.

TRAINING SESSIONS (WORKOUTS - it’s not work but fun!)

These fall into three types - individual, group and coached. Groups will build team spirit. Coached workouts adds that layer of organization and expertise that many swimmers seem to need to keep them at it. Some clubs practice year round and others are seasonal. With individual workouts, you are on your own and doing the best that you can. For some swimmers, this may be their only choice. This type of swimmer is self-motivated to train on their own without coaching. Sources for workouts can be obtained from the club coach, the Internet (http://www.usms.org), books, magazines and yourself. Group workouts is a set-up where team spirit and loyalty blossom. New friendships are born and it is easier to keep a program when there is mutual encouragement. Another positive feature is that you tend to push yourself more when working with a group which benefits all from a fitness perspective. Groups tend to stay small and may even disappear when the "lead swimmer" drops out. The workouts may become stale or too tailored to the wants and the needs of only a small portion of the group. Coached workouts should involve posted workouts for various levels to meet the needs of all your swimmers and the coach will advise you throughout the workout about your technique, give you encouragement and keep you interested or motivated. Choosing a coach: The more swimmers you collect in a pool at one time or cluster of times, the more you will be able to do in terms of attracting an experienced coach. You should be looking for someone who is knowledgeable in technique, physiology, nutrition, swim meet preparation and understands coaching adults, whose individual goals are unique and varied. The booklet "Hints for Coaching Masters Swimmers" is available from the Masters Swimming Canada MSC webpage www.compusmart.ab.ca/masterssc/ or you can request a copy from the MSC Executive Secretary.


In some clubs, the majority of their members compete, while in others, very few do. For some, it is a challenge that keeps them swimming. Meet sizes will vary from 20 to over 1000 swimmers and last from one to four days with almost every event imaginable. Whatever the size of the meet, the aim is to run a flawless meet. The pace of the meet is very important. Disputes over disqualifications, etc can be traumatic. The meet manager should have either previous experience or a mentor to help guide them along. Meet managers will find the SAMS publication Swim Meet Manager’s Guide for running a swim meet to be a valuable resource. You may call Swim Sask Inc. for a copy. Officials are volunteers. Make sure that you have relief and backup for them. Refreshments such as coffee, juice and water and goodies should be made available to them throughout the meet. It is a significant aid (but not necessary) having the electronic timing tie in with the computer for the results of each meet. Medals or ribbons (depending upon the caliber and the budget of each meet) may be awarded for each age group. Everybody appreciates correct and timely processing of the meet results. Consider relays, food concessions, T-shirt and swim cap sales (bigger meets) and a nice looking program to wrap around the heat sheets. Advertising in the heat sheets can help to defray the cost of printing. In addition to local meets, there are provincial (short or long course) and national championships each year. There are also several international meets. Locations of meets will vary. Open Water Swim Meets: These are usually held in the summer in lakes and the ocean. You may want to look at the MSC web page for meet postings www.compusmart.ab.ca/masterssc/ . Triathlete Races: Masters swimmer and triathletes may participate in the other’s events providing they are registered with their respective Provincial Sport Governing Body for insurance purposes. Dual Meets: Challenge a nearby club. Set it up so what ever obvious advantage either club has is somehow neutralized by the selection of events, age grouping, gender mixing, scoring methods or whatever it takes. Make it close and make it fun. Relay Meets: This would be just relays. There are 12 official relays and only your imagination limits the additional unofficial relay possibilities. Some or all can be less than serious, with the dog paddle, swim fins, ball carry, night shirt, etc. Less Serious Meets: Similar to the Relay Meets. Nothing official: costumes, couples. Wet sweatshirts, special awards linked to a theme. Postal/Fax Meets: These can be dual meets, relay meets or regular meets. The events are run over a specified period of time at your own pool and then submitted to the meet manager for tabulation and awards.


Members in good standing can expect to receive MSC’s national publication MSC NEWS. In addition, some clubs may wish to produce their own internal newsletter. This can be an excellent communication tool particularly if you are a large club or your club trains at various pools. It can be a real force in giving your club a distinct character. The newsletter may include:

  • Announcements of upcoming meets, clinics, meetings, etc.
  • Results of meets
  • Write-ups of past meets
  • News of members. Feature membership diversity. Where do your members come from? What have their past experiences been in swimming? People are interested in other people. Use your club diversity to your advantage in creating interest. •Articles about swimming technique, nutrition, psychology or physiology
  • Articles about workout or the workouts themselves
  • Cartoons, jokes
  • Positive sayings
  • Articles about weight training and flexibility for swimmers or cross training ideas.
  • Photos

The more frequently the newsletter is published, the more chance to contact the members and the more timely the content. Smaller clubs distribute by leaving copies at the pool(s). Mailing assures that each swimmer has his/her own copy. Exchanging newsletters with other clubs is a great source of news and probably more important inspiration and motivation for some of the things they are doing. Put your club newsletter on the Internet.


Clinics appeal to the novice and the expert alike. There is always something to be learned for all, whether it be new ideas on training, fitness concepts, nutrition, dry land training, etc. Swimming is never static and there is always something new or slightly different to be learned. Clinics should be designed to meet specific needs and to be publicized accordingly. They need to be planned well with carefully structured sessions that may include classroom lectures, question and answer periods, videotapes of how strokes are being done, in water instruction and videotaping with critiquing of individual swimmers. Clinics can be two hours on a Saturday morning or an evening, or an all day affair with lots of fanfare and a big name coach or two. Fees should cover the costs. Don’t forget the niceties such as hearty snacks, T-shirts and handouts.


Different strokes for different folk. Some clubs thrive on regular (ie: monthly) meetings. They provide an excellent opportunity to plan and review what has happened while issues are still fresh. Other clubs would burn out if the leaders were required to meet too frequently. In any event, swim clubs need some sort of process to keep on top of things and meetings to serve that purpose. The meeting can be after a workout, before a swim meet or even over a pizza. When your club grows to a certain size, you will probably need a more structured governance in terms of meetings, club officers, job assignments and protocol.


Some say that is what holds the clubs together. Certainly, some of the warmest recollections swimmers have is not of their big races, but of the nice parties and friendly outings. This is an important part of a club. Typically, your members come from a wide swath of Canada, more so than the people you spend much of your time with at work and play. This diversity adds to the spice of the club social events. At workouts or swim meets there is little time to get to know your fellow swimmers, so a social gathering after a meet or training session can be a welcome change especially if the setting is simple and familiar. So, go for breakfast after your weekend practice!


The pool is well equipped if it has at least one pace clock that even those without their reading glasses can figure out. A second clock at the other end is an added bonus. Some sort of blackboard or whiteboard for writing out workouts is beneficial, if that is the way that your group operates. Kick boards, pull buoys, hand paddles and fins can be personal or pool property. Backstroke flags should be used at every practice for safety. They are set 5m from the ends of the pool so swimmers can count strokes while swimming on their back from the flags to the end of the pool. Weight machines in a nearby area are a plus. For swim meets, you will need some additional equipment. Please refer to the SAMS Swim Meet Manager Guide for full details.


Life and swimming got along pretty well before computers, but having one is really an asset. The role a computer can play within your club would be to simplify such sometimes mundane tasks as maintaining the club membership list, updating club records and helping to run swim meets. A further application would be in the assembly of a newsletter, club correspondence and the like. You will probably find people in your club who enjoy computers so much that they will gladly volunteer to take on some or all of these tasks. They will get a big kick out of doing this. The key is to identify that person!


Also, think of window decals, bumper stickers, imprinted swim wear, bags and pins. Put your club name and logo on them. Come up with a good logo and general theme artwork. They build club identity and pride and publicize the members of your club. Most will pay whatever it costs to produce the item plus a modest profit for the club. Come up with items that appeal to the members. Sell these items at big meets and through your newsletter..


Don’t leave home without it. It is a good feeling to go away somewhere to a swim meet and hang around your conspicuously displayed banner which promotes a sense of team pride. Bright colours and clear wording are a must. Great design is a bonus.


Individual membership with Swim Saskatchewan Inc. automatically provides your members with liability coverage at the facility that your club uses and at sanctioned events attended by your registered club members. All participants must be current Swim Saskatchewan Inc. members to have this insurance in effect.


MSC and SNC frequently update their rule books. SAMS affiliated clubs will receive an updated MSC rule book, whenever there is a major revision, which occurs approximately every two years. Extra copies of the MSC rule book and copies of the SNC rule book may be purchased through Swim Saskatchewan Inc. Your club should have one or more of your members fully conversant with the rules of SNC and MSC.


MSC publishes national records and world records periodically. It also publishes a list of the swimmers who swam the 20 fastest times in the previous year for men and women in each 5 year age group for each event. These can be found on the Internet at: http://www.compusmart.ab.ca/masterssc. Your club should submit all meet results to the SAMS provincial record chairperson, who will forward the pertinent information to the MSC National Recorder. Some clubs may keep their own club records or top 10 going back over the years.


MSC News, the official publication of Masters Swimming Canada Inc., is a newsletter published three times a year and mailed directly to each registered masters swimmer. It contains articles about fitness, competitive swimming, national and international meets, provincial reports, technique, workouts, nutrition and various other subjects. If you are not a registered masters swimmer a subscription is available. Contact the MSC Executive Secretary for further information.


In addition to the records kept by the national, provincial and club record chairpersons, club members may wish to keep a log of personal performances. These may include such things as workouts completed, mileage and best times.


Many of these athletes consider swimming the bane of their athletic existence and you need to keep them in mind when you are developing your programs. There are generally more of them than there are of you and they are used to spending money on their sport habits. Some of them are hungry for insights into how to swim better. Facilitating them with coached workouts and clinics is an ideal way to increase your membership. Should they become injured in their main sport, they may have to take a break from their sport temporarily or permanently and take up swimming.


Your club should try to cater to all swimmers. Clubs usually have swimmers of all ages and abilities. The idea of the club is to try to provide resources and activities to aid all in maintaining a lifelong interest in swimming. Everyone is important. Each swimmer has his/her own challenges to meet whether it is to learn a new stroke, be able to swim a continuous mile, complete a full workout, break a record at a meet for the first time or just to relieve the stress of the day. The challenge for the coach is to provide different workout and approaches within the same time frame to allow all swimmers to strive to reach their personal goals. This is very different from youth clubs where there is a common goal of excellence.


Many are supportive to the swimmer’s commitment to swimming and others need a little convincing of the value of your chosen sport. Try to get them involved in the social part of your club and then perhaps helping out with a meet or organizing an activity. Perhaps you can ask them to lend their expertise in such matters as computers, organization, promotion and the like. Travel to meets can provide a chance to visit some interesting places where the swimming may be only a small part of the trip.


Nothing in this world is 100% safe. However, swimming is one of the best exercises particularly as we mature, because it is easy on the body. It is still wise to have your members consult with their physicians prior to participating in any strenuous exercise. Encourage your members to stay in touch with their physicians, especially if they start to crank up the metres, increase their workout pace, or introduce flexibility or weight training to supplement their swimming. Special consideration is due particularly if they are older and just starting Masters Swimming. The key is to listen to your body.


Watching yourself in slow motion as you flip or glide smoothly or otherwise down the pool can be a very revealing and helpful experience. Much can be learned very quickly by watching the visions that appear. Even if you are not up on the latest theories of wave mechanics, you can appreciate and profit from the good and inefficient parts of your stroke that the video reveals. Find someone who is able to do some impromptu videotaping of your team’s meets and workouts. Perhaps that person could be retained on an on-call basis. When possible, include under water footage of your swimmers in action. The video should be viewed as soon as possible and analyzed by the coach for the best feedback. If swimmers provide their own blank tapes, it is then possible for them to take the tapes home for further inspection.


Remember, if your members don’t have fun over the long haul, they won’t stick around, so don’t take yourselves too seriously too much of the time. Enjoy and good luck!