Swimming for Health and Camaraderie
By Lynn Canning
Photography Kimberlee Miller
It’s a frosty early morning in Eagle, the kind that tempts you to hit snooze and remain under warm covers. When the alarm rings at 5 AM, Jane does not linger. She has her coffee, grabs her suit, and heads for the YMCA where she along her teammates dive into the still blue waters of the 50-meter competition pool for morning practice.
Jane is a member of Boise’s adult swim program, Sawtooth Masters (SAWS), and her participation in the club motivates her and the team’s 92 members to swim and strive to improve. Under the umbrella of the national organization, United States Masters Swimming (USMS), the local club offers community members an organized program that provides daily swim workouts with a certified swim coach on-deck. The coach customizes workouts, provides instruction, feedback and most importantly, motivation to get in the water to swim hard and reach their goals.
Sound intimidating? Head YMCA Coach, Rick McQuet, wants you to know that swimmers of all levels are welcome and thrive within the program. The swim lanes are organized by ability/speed and he will help you find your place where you can expect to connect with a swim-buddy or two. Each swimmer brings his/her own objectives to the pool, and the coaches assist with building a strategy to meet that goal. There are many reasons swimmers join the team: health/fitness, recreation, or social benefits and camaraderie. Others are interested in competing in triathlons, open-water, or local/national/international swim meets.
The team composition ranges from new swimmers who recently learned to swim and want to develop their skills, to “fast lane” swimmers who are national or world champions. Yumiko Luke learned to swim as an adult, and after raising her kids, dedicated herself to improving her health through swimming and “someday competing in a triathlon.” Today you will find her faithfully at noon practice at the West Y pool, always a calm and friendly presence, but tightly focused on improving her technique and achieving new goals. She has competed in several swim competitions and triathlons and is quick to volunteer and participate. She was pivotal in establishing the 2018 “Adult Learn to Swim” program in conjunction with the YMCA that taught life-saving swimming skills to adults in our community.
Swimmers on the team also benefit from sharing the pool with the elite of the swimming world. Coach McQuet is an accomplished swimmer and a member of the 1996 US Olympic water polo team. Other swimmers actively compete and win on the national stage. Robert Strand, known for his fast breast-stroke and wisecracking during practice, has been swimming seriously for 50+ years and has set more than 150 national/world records. He is serious about his swimming but relishes his time out of the pool at team socials where he can talk swimming and entertain fellow swimmers with his storytelling.
SAWs encourages all swimmers in the community to show up on-deck, meet the coach, and try a practice. Whether you are new to the sport, a lapsed swimmer wanting to reconnect to the water or currently train by yourself, there is a place for you on the team. We each have a different swimming resume, but there is a great commonality: we derive great benefits from the chlorinated waters…physical, mental, social, and swimmers love to connect with other swimmers.