Participation profiles of masters swimmers: Who are they, and how did they get here?


Research highlights the heterogeneity of masters swimmers in terms of motives, needs, competitiveness, or sociability (Callary, Rathwell, & Young, 2015), and pathways into masters sport (Larson, McHugh, Young, & Rodgers, 2018). More robust understanding of masters swimmer profiles could enhance programming and coaching tailored to these specific groups and guide our understanding of sport for life. This study aimed to identify profiles of adult swimming participants, and associations these profiles had with demographic variables and factors relating to transitions into masters swimming. Survey data were collected from 205 Canadian swimmers with previous competitive youth swimming experience (M age = 44.4, range = 18-85; 60% women, 40% men). Two-step clustering analysis was conducted using five variables: total sport involvement (number of sports yearly), whether they considered swimming their main sport, season duration (months), swim practices attended weekly, hours of swim practice weekly; swim meets attended yearly. Three distinct profiles emerged: 1) "Specializers," 2) "Competitors," and 3) "Samplers." These profiles differed significantly from one another on all of the variables except season duration. Next, we examined differences on demographic variables by profile. No significant differences emerged on age, gender, number of children, or marital status. "Competitors" had slightly lower educational attainment compared to the other profiles. Finally, we examined their transitions into masters swimming, considering the amount of time off following youth swimming and their age of registering in masters swimming. No significant differences emerged. Further research should look to connect the quality and intensity of youth experiences to masters' current status.