This was a question asked on the Masters Swimming Blog. I think the answer is too detailed to put in a comments box...besides I have a daily word-quota to hit on my blog.
The reason I'm not a Master's swimmer is simple: I'm intimidated. Never mind that I'm a self-taught swimmer who's only been doing it for 4 weeks, I KNOW that joining a team will solve a lot of my swimming issues. But I'm still intimidated by the length and ferocity of their workouts. I've watched the end of a few Master's workouts and those guys are SWIMMING. I know that I can't do that yet. But, eventually, and hopefully soon, I will be able to.
But then the next problem crops up...meets. And this is where I have some experience as a Swim Dad. I knew going into CK's first meet about where she was compared to the other kids. I was able to counsel her to not feel overwhelmed, in fact she won her first heat ever, getting a B time. From there, I've always had enough information about meets, time standards, and what to expect that I could help solve any anxiety that she might have.
I can't find any information like that to solve my own anxiety. From the results that I've seen, it appears that every 40-45 year old master's swimmer swims a 25 second 50 free. Since I don't, why would I get in the pool with them? But, logically, I know that isn't true but take a look at the results. Where are the meets that have the slower guys? Where are the A/B/C standards to help me gauge my progress?
I know that the entire US Master's organization is only about 5 times the size of Pacific Swimming (the SF Bay Area), but still, is that it? No introductory meets to let new swimmers dip their toes in before having to race these 25 second freaks of nature?
So, that's what it would take for me...some small sign that it's not that drastic, that a reasonably fit new swimmer isn't going to be all by himself at the back of the pack, that there's a way to join, and more importantly race, with similar swimmers. Call it the Newbie challenge and I'm in.