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Questions from Coaches

Education Director Bill Brenner answers your questions

  1. The difference between Club Finder and Places To Swim

    by , April 13th, 2018 at 04:07 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    What is the difference between Club Finder and Places to Swim on the new USMS website?

    The Club Finder feature on the recently redesigned website is a tool for swimmers searching for U.S. Masters Swimming–registered clubs and workout groups. It’s a searchable database that helps potential members find Masters programs and current members looking to swim in a Masters program.

    Information on Club Finder must be populated by the coach or club contact (which you can do here). This helps ensure the most accurate and up-to-date information is being presented to our visitors and members. Channeling current and potential members to registered USMS Masters programs serves the member, club, and USMS well.

    In the future, all club and workout group information with be captured or edited during the registration or renewal process.

    The Places to Swim database is now a USMS member benefit that can be accessed through your My USMS account. Historically, this listing has helped our members find an aquatic facility to swim at when traveling or relocating to a new area. (I use it to research aquatic facilities and potential new USMS clubs.)

    However, most of these listings don’t have a Masters program. Many that list a Masters program either have discontinued the program or have adult programming that is not registered with USMS. Often, the information in this database is not accurate and therefore not a very reliable resource for our members or potential members. Additions and edits are the responsibility of the facility or club contact and may now only be done by a current USMS member.

    Places to Swim doesn’t do enough to promote our coaches and registered clubs and workout groups. Why would USMS send potential new members to a facility without a registered USMS club or workout group? Why would USMS send a potential member to an unregistered Masters program?

    USMS must support our clubs and coaches, not facilities without our programming. USMS must support the lifeblood of our organization that provides the most important element, a coached Masters program.

    It’s a simple but meaningful value proposition. Clubs, workout groups, and members paying a membership fee to USMS means USMS returning benefits such as a searchable Club Finder database that channels members to their programs.

    If you are coaching or swimming at a facility without a registered club, please contact me for help getting your program registered and listed on Club Finder.

    Updated April 19th, 2018 at 04:04 PM by Bill Brenner

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  2. SmartyPants Vitamins USMS Fitness Series

    by , February 13th, 2018 at 02:14 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Why should I encourage my swimmers to swim in the SmartyPants Vitamins USMS Fitness Series? All of my swimmers can already swim for more than 30 minutes and longer than 2,000 meters or 1,650 yards.

    A: As coaches, we aspire to inspire the athletes under our care. We motivate each individual to improve, reach his or her goals, and have fun every step of the way. The rewards for self-identified success are many, and we should all take pride in doing our very best to help others do their very best.

    Coaches are proverbial givers and the beneficiaries of coaches’ efforts are the athletes. Participating in the Fitness Series should be promoted as an opportunity for the swimmers to become givers. The time spent swimming the challenges should be used as time to self-reflect upon how grateful we are to be able to swim. Give thanks for our coaches, teammates, family, and friends who support us in our passion for the water. Give thanks that we are not fearful of the water and can enjoy the sanctuary the water provides. Give thanks that we can help others not as fortunate as we are by supporting the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, which provides grants to teach adults to swim and become safer in and around the water.

    My challenge to you: Inspire your swimmers to swim, celebrate what they love about swimming, and support our foundation that brings the love of swimming to others.

    The challenge is not: Can you swim a time or distance faster or farther than others. It’s what can you do with the time while you’re swimming.

    (If you have any questions, check out our FAQs page for coaches. You can also sign up your club or workout group to host the Winter Fitness Challenge from Feb. 15-28.)

    Updated February 14th, 2018 at 09:55 AM by Bill Brenner

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  3. Community Outreach

    by , November 14th, 2017 at 07:29 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: My Masters swim club wants to get more involved with the local community and host an event. What types of community events should our Masters program consider?

    A: Being a good citizen in the community can be rewarding for your members and can build goodwill with your swimming facility. Hosting community outreach events at your pool will require varying degrees of logistical planning, depending on the size and scope of the event. It's important to assemble a support team that shares in the planning and execution of the events. Don't try to do everything yourself. Have a goal of giving ownership to many volunteers. It will add to the overall success of the event when many hands are working as one.

    Examples of community outreach events requiring pools:

    Adult learn-to-swim lessons
    Stroke development clinics
    Special Olympics
    Senior Games
    Police and Fire Games
    Wounded Warrior Project, Warrior Games
    Paralympics
    Triathlons

    Consider adding the USMS Fitness Series to your schedule of events. These events may be swum in your own pool during a regular practice session and may serve as a team bonding opportunity with the added benefit of fundraising for the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation and the local charity of your choice.
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  4. Avoiding problematic social media activity.

    by , August 15th, 2017 at 10:22 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: How can I avoid problems with social media? What not to do with social media.

    A: As much as we would like to believe that we are entitled to coach at, swim at, or be a member of our preferred swimming venue, in most cases we are not. Participation is a privilege, not a right, and losing that privilege can be devastating. No Masters coach or swimmer wants to receive the news that they’re no longer welcome at their aquatics facility.

    While inappropriate behavior should never be tolerated at the pool, neither should it be tolerated away from the pool. This includes all forms of negativity on social media. While coaches and program leaders can't monitor every post every day, they can establish written standards that all members should agree and adhere to when interacting with other program members and stakeholders. Remedies should also be included in the swim program's standards and guidelines for program participation.

    The two most common misuses of social media are cyberbullying and negative messaging.

    Bullying may seem like nothing more than sophomoric banter but it's not. It's hurtful and has no place in a Masters program. If you're a coach who needs to tear down people to build your own ego or self-esteem, find another profession.

    If you become aware of others in your program who engage in bullying at or away from the pool, insist that they cease and desist immediately. No coach wants to have a member removed from the program. However, you as the coach, and leader of the program, must protect the integrity of the program and ensure the enjoyment and safety of all.

    Negative messaging and pejorative behavior on social media can lead to a multitude of potential problems.

    Here is an example of an email no coach wants to receive:

    "Coach Upacreek,

    “I regret to inform you that your Masters program is no longer welcome at the aquatics center. It has come to my attention that members in your program have disparaged our facility and staff by communicating negative, false and misleading statements in various media within the community. I've attached a copy of recent social media posts that have been brought to my attention.

    “The aquatics facilities' reputation within the community is of the utmost importance and I can no longer tolerate your member's inappropriate activities. Good luck finding another facility."

    Please don't have your members wage war with or air complaints about your pool or program on social media. Yes, we have First Amendment rights. No, one of our inalienable rights is not to swim where we please. If there are issues that need to be addressed, schedule a time to meet with the aquatics facility decision makers and resolve the issues. Your program's relationship with the pool, whether you rent pool space or you’re a program of the facility, should be a partnership. If you need help strengthening your partnership or need help resolving issues, contact the USMS national office and Club and Coach Services and resources will be provided.

    Keep the use of social media positive and uplifting. Use it to share program updates, information, and upcoming events. And, whenever possible, celebrate the accomplishments of your members in and away from the pool.
  5. USMS Clinic Course for Coaches

    by , March 14th, 2017 at 03:52 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Why should I attend the USMS Clinic Course for Coaches?

    A: Frankly, the demand from adults seeking stroke development clinics far outweighs the supply of clinics provided by well-trained coaches with stroke technique skills. USMS developed the Clinic Course for Coaches (CCC) to increase the supply of Masters coaches who desire the pathway and skills necessary to host a successful clinic. This course provides coaches with a proven method to build a more efficient stroke through a series of progressive drills isolating specific body mechanics.

    Many Masters coaches have strong stroke correction skills which serve them well during swim practice or a private lesson. However, the objective of a stroke development clinic is to provide a group of swimmers, of all ability levels, stroke improvement that is measurable both subjectively and objectively and is sustainable.

    Masters coaches attending the CCC receive:
    A classroom presentation that includes:

    • Instructions to conceptualize, plan and implement a successful clinic.
    • A detailed timeline for the clinic delivery leading up to and during the clinic
    • A proven instructional method delivered through a specific series of drills and skills that isolate specific body mechanics and progressively builds a more efficient stroke.
    • Narrated drill videos (available to the coach after the course.)

    On deck experience during a stroke development clinic including:

    • Watching a mentor coach deliver the clinic as instructed in the classroom and course textbook
    • Feedback from mentor coaches
    • Practical experience with actual Masters swimmers

    So, if you want to learn how to put on a clinic and what to do during a clinic, you should consider attending one of the CCC listed here.
  6. Hosting a registered swim program with USMS

    by , December 6th, 2016 at 08:02 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Why should my aquatics facility host a registered swim program with USMS?

    A: U.S. Masters Swimming values partnerships with aquatics facilities, programs, and the swim coaches who are bringing the sport and joy of swimming to adults across America. Together we encourage adults—diverse in age, background, and ability—to swim for health, wellness, fitness, and, optionally, competition.

    Together, we service our missions in an effort to make aquatics available as a meaningful, valuable, and fun experience for our customers, members, stakeholders, and communities. Swimming is a lifesaving skill that lasts a lifetime. Together, we can inspire adults to swim and live a safer, happier, and healthier lifestyle.

    Hosting USMS Masters Swimming and USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Programs brings exciting adult aquatic activities to your facility and will enhance current programming. Professionally trained and certified USMS coaches and instructors provide the passion, leadership, and technical skills needed for a successful campaign. They have the knowledge to work with a diverse cross section of adults across all ability levels. They understand the adult learner and how to motivate, encourage, and bring fun to the sport and skill of swimming.

    The first step to developing a successful program is to register a club with USMS. Once you’re registered, you’ll begin receiving all the benefits of membership from our organization. These benefits include:

    • Your program and aquatics facility listed in the searchable database on usms.org—swimmers looking for pools, Masters programs, and adult swim lesson providers use this site to locate valuable information about aquatics facilities and programs.
    • Expert advice from the USMS professional staff. The Club and Coach Services staff provides phone, email, and on-site support at no additional charge. CCS provides marketing materials and club development guides and resources to help foster successful programs with our partners. CCS will help recruit, train, and certify your Masters coach through the USMS Masters Coach Certification Program.

    The USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Program staff will help you launch or enhance your swimming lesson program for adults. The USMS ALTS certification course teaches adults the skills needed to teach other adults how to swim and become safer in and around the water. This adult-specific training will enhance any certified swimming lesson program your instructors currently teach.

    • Access to post job listings and recruit coaches and swim instructors

    These and many more benefits are part of the commitment USMS makes to ensure that our program partners have the resources necessary to establish, develop, grow, and maintain vibrant Masters Swimming programming.

    Please contact any staff member at the USMS National Office for help. Together, we can share our love of the water with others.

    Updated April 12th, 2017 at 09:11 AM by Bill Brenner

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  7. How can I encourage my swimmers to join USMS?

    by , November 11th, 2016 at 03:31 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What suggestions can you give me to convince the non-competitive members in my program to join or renew their membership with USMS?
    A: Are you a believer? Seriously. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself if you believe in U.S. Masters Swimming’s mission to promote health, wellness, fitness, and competition for adults through swimming? The answer may come from your beliefs, love of what you do as a Masters coach, passion for swimming, and commitment to being an advocate who encourages adults to swim. This same answer may help you formulate your own response to your original question regarding membership in USMS.
    Masters coaches have the unique ability to provide more than an on-deck “transaction.” We have the opportunity to create a “transformation”—motivating each of our swimmers to set goals, feel positive, and have a meaningful swimming experience. In many cases, this transformation is a life-altering event; your swimmers may finally become who they always wanted to be or who they never thought they could be. We’re helping them transform their lives to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
    The enthusiasm we as Masters coaches display on the pool deck, day in and out, transfers to the swimmers in the water. Many swimmers carry this positive and enthusiastic attitude with them beyond the pool to their daily lives and are genuinely grateful for their improved self-esteem. Knowing this, use your enthusiasm, and the gratefulness your swimmers feel towards you, to promote membership in USMS.
    Swimming Masters is a journey, not a destination, and membership is a valuable component to enrich the journey. USMS membership gives swimmers valuable tangible benefits and, more importantly, gives swimmers the feeling of being part of something bigger than just a swimmer on a swim team. It gives them the chance to contribute their time, talent and resources to an organization that gives the gift of swimming to adults across America.
    Pledge—and ask your swimmers to pledge—to support our organization, which is working to:

    • Provide more opportunities for adults to learn to swim and swim for a lifetime
    • Educate Masters coaches and instructors, creating a better swimming experience for those they coach and teach
    • Expand the number of aquatics facilities with programs for adults to swim and exercise

    The success of USMS depends on everyone who contributes to the organization’s wellbeing. Each of us—members, coaches, swimmers, volunteers and staff—has a role to play as ambassadors for USMS. Together, we control our destiny. Together, we pave the path for our journey.
    Be a believer in USMS and those you lead will follow.
  8. How to deal with “Coach’s Fatigue”

    by , October 10th, 2016 at 03:45 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: How do I overcome or deal with “Coach’s Fatigue?”
    A: The first step to finding a successful solution to any problem is to identify the cause. For example, when you’re trying to make a correction to a swimmer’s stroke, you may need to look at the root cause before affecting a solution. If a swimmer has a wicked scissors kick, do you concentrate on her leg movement or do you look at body rotation, head movement during the breath, and the arm path of the stroke? Correcting these movements may eliminate the improper kick.
    Root causes of coaching fatigue may be:

    • Lack of sleep
    • Boredom
    • Feeling unappreciated
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Needing more time for self, family, or friends

    Most, if not all, of these causes can be overcome. Remember, as a swimmer and a Masters coach, you have great power. Summon up your competitive juices, your will to win, and your ambitious drive for success to take on these challenges. Lou Holtz, an accomplished football coach, stated, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
    Coaching Masters swimming should be a challenging, rewarding, and fun endeavor. Make coaching fun. Like Masters swimming, coaching Masters shouldn’t feel like your parents are forcing you to the pool. It’s your choice and you should react accordingly.
    Try some of these solutions:

    • Change your sleeping routine or practice times
    • Set a new goal for yourself and your program
    • Understand your swimmers’ goals, and become an active partner in their achieving those goals
    • Be more engaged during practices—if you want to feel more appreciated, make sure your swimmers know how much you appreciate them
    • Take splits during practice and share the information with the swimmers
    • Video your swimmers and give them feedback
    • Take your program in a different direction
    • Add a new component to your practice routine such as open water, USRPT, or dryland training
    • Find a cause and rally the troops—host a fundraiser for a local charity or the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation
    • Continue your education—this can include reading, attending a class, or taking an online course
    • Visit other clubs
    • Find a mentor coach, someone with whom to share ideas and solutions
    • If you’re not swimming or exercising, get back in the water or find another form of physical activity you enjoy doing
    • Identify and mentor a volunteer assistant coach—this may allow you to take a break or take a sabbatical
    • Challenge yourself and the members of your program to recruit new members—coaching new athletes can be invigorating
    • Travel to away meets
    • Find a new challenge either inside or outside of swimming
    • Add a different dimension to your coaching—perhaps adult swim lessons
    • Host a social event
    • Eliminate or reduce the club administrative functions you dislike the most—hire a third-party company, such as Club Assistant, to help manage the day-to-day operations of your program.


    My advice to every Masters coach, no matter the size of your program, is don’t do it all yourself. Find people in your program or their family and friends who will share responsibilities and ownership. Shared ownership creates a stronger organization and the likelihood of a successful program. Will they do it as well as you? Maybe yes, maybe no. However, getting help from others could be the solution to coach’s fatigue.
  9. Club Newsletter Information

    by , August 11th, 2016 at 03:10 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I coach a Masters program with 55 active members. Should I send out a monthly newsletter and, if so, what should I include in it?
    A: I’m a news junkie. Albeit old fashioned, nothing is more routine or satisfying than reading a print copy of the newspaper with a cup or two of coffee each morning. Reading the news inaugurates my daily connection to the outside world—it’s my history, civics, and current events lesson du jour. Sure, I read plenty of news articles online throughout the day, and many are attached to my social media habits—Facebook, Twitter, and my family chat threads. Websites such as USMS.org, Swimming World Magazine and SwimSwam help keep me connected to our sport and issues that surround it.
    The articles I read—whether in print or online—are by choice. Information that is important and relevant to me should not be left to chance. It should be sent to me directly, preferably via email.
    A club newsletter can be a wonderful resource to keep your athletes engaged, educated, and excited about your Masters program. Many coaches outsource the newsletter responsibilities to a volunteer within the program who may have the time, talent, and resources to craft and publish the newsletter with routine frequency. Typical publication schedules are weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
    The key to a successful newsletter is to include and mention as many of your athletes as possible in every edition. People like to see their names, pictures, and details about their favorite topic—themselves!
    Once you’ve established a working template for your newsletter, it’s relatively easy to fill in the blanks. Your newsletter could include:
    · A welcome to new members (list their names and a brief biography including a fun fact).
    · A listing of any upcoming changes to the practice schedule and venues.
    · Upcoming events with an emphasis on the program’s focus events (explain where you are in your seasonal plan) such as:
    1. Fitness events
    2. Meets and open water competitions
    3. Social activities
    · Accomplishments of the program and individuals (be sure to include photos) such as:
    1. Event results
    2. Goals achieved
    · A drill of the week with an explanation of its purpose (videos are available for USMS certified-designated coaches online).
    · A swimmer profile. Choose an athlete in your program to showcase in each newsletter and include a picture.

    Email the newsletter to your swimmers for free, and print a copy of your newsletter and post it on your Masters Swimming dedicated bulletin board at the pool. The newsletter should complement the other information available on the board, all of which should be designed to encourage other swimmers at the pool to join your program.

    Updated August 11th, 2016 at 04:53 PM by Bill Brenner

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  10. Masters program information at my aquatics facility

    by , July 13th, 2016 at 11:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What information about my Masters program should I have available at my aquatic facility?

    A: Frequently, I visit aquatic facilities searching for Masters swimming or any form of adult aquatic programming of a horizontal nature. At each location, I picture myself as a swimmer with little or no knowledge of Masters swimming walking into a facility to swim laps or begin an aquatic exercise routine. I ask myself, “What information is available that would identify this location as one hosting a USMS program?” Furthermore, I assess the ease of finding and assimilating this information.

    In many cases, I know the facility has a USMS program and when the practices are scheduled based on the information I receive from the coach or the USMS Places to Swim database. But the availability of accurate information at the facility can vary widely.

    At most pools, my first stop is the front desk. As I approach the receptionist, I scan the area for any printed information about the programs and services of the facility, looking for clues that will assist my search. I introduce myself, present my USMS business card, and ask, “Do you have a Masters swimming program at your facility?” The replies, often accompanied by looks of bewilderment, vary as much as the accuracy of the responses and are too numerous to list here. Let’s just say I’m astonished that so many gatekeepers of our Masters programs don’t have a clue what the program is or whether the facility has one.

    As I pass the gatekeeper, I continue to scan for Masters swimming information looking to see if the information is prominently displayed. And if not, where and how would I advertise the program.

    Entering the pool area, I look to see what activity is taking place. If a Masters program is practicing, I envision a new or prospective swimmer’s first impression. In many cases, the first question to pop in their mind will be, “Will I fit in?”

    As I get closer to the practice, I start to zero in on the coach and how he or she is interacting with the athletes. I try to make eye contact with the coach to gauge their interest in a potential new swimmer to their program. Nothing is more welcoming than eye contact that produces a smile projecting an invitation to get closer to say hello. Coaches that initiate this welcoming approach make even the seasoned Masters swimmer feel at ease.

    In the event no Masters practice is taking place, I look to have a conversation with the aquatic director, head lifeguard, or any other aquatic employee with information about the adult programming at the pool. In most cases, the accuracy of the information is an improvement from what I found at the front desk. If lap swimmers are present, I look at their caps for clues about their swimming involvement. Amazingly, it’s easy to approach a lap swimmer, strike up a conversation, and gain valuable information when you can identify something about them. I look to see whether these swimmers are wearing a USMS cap, a cap with a Masters or age group swimming team logo, or a cap signifying their participation in a pool, open water, or triathlon event.

    I walk the pool deck looking for anything that gives me information about a Masters program at the pool. Many Masters coaches write the daily workout on a board and leave it out for swimmers who missed practice and may swim later in the day. If I see this, I read it and make sure I understand the workout. As with other foreign languages, swim workouts come in a rainbow of local dialects.

    If I’m lucky, I’ll locate a USMS banner or a bulletin board with Masters swimming information. Remember, if a new or potential swimmer passively wants to learn more about the Masters program, information on a bulletin board may pique their interest. The best bulletin boards I’ve seen include:


    • Welcome brochure
    • Program mission statement
    • Inclusiveness of the program, i.e.: "We welcome new swimmers of all ability levels,” or “try us for free.”
    • Coach’s picture and profile, pictures of swimmers, and pictures from events such as meets, open water swims, clinics, and socials
    • Practice schedule including the days best suited for beginners, triathletes, and stroke technique refinement
    • Website address
    • Team logo
    • Practice terminology
    • Practice and lane etiquette standards
    • Upcoming events
    • USMS mission statement and membership information
    • Sponsors
    • Contact information


    If you have a bulletin board, make sure all the information is current. Keep the appearance looking fresh by replacing faded pictures and printed materials.

    Take the time to keep the aquatic staff well versed in your program and the benefits it provides. Show the staff the USMS promotional videos. These videos provide an overview of what Masters swimming is and how important it can be to adults who’ve chosen aquatics as a form of exercise. Go out of your way to make the gatekeepers at your facility your program’s strongest advocates.

    And lastly, the next time you see someone new walk onto your pool deck, make eye contact and give your best “come on over and say hello” smile. I know I’ll certainly appreciate it.

    Updated July 15th, 2016 at 02:51 PM by Bill Brenner

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  11. Safe challenges for all ability levels of Masters swimmers

    by , June 9th, 2016 at 04:57 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I coach a diverse group of adults in my Masters program. At most practices, I have swimmers of all ability levels with different reasons for swimming. Not everyone is motivated to compete or even get faster. What are some safe challenges I can give my swimmers?

    A: Understanding your swimmer’s goals and the factors that motivate them to swim is the first step of incorporating safe, new, and exciting challenges to your program. If you haven’t asked each of your swimmers what those goals and motivations are, take the time to do so. Next, ask each swimmer, “What would you like to change about your swimming?” Some may say they want to get faster, feel more comfortable in the water, improve stroke technique, or even fit into smaller clothes or impress their physician with improved physical metrics during their next appointment. If your program is as diverse as you say it is, you will get a wide spectrum of responses. These responses will help you integrate new and exciting challenges because they match the needs of your swimmers.

    Whether you’re a competitive swimmer or not, challenges help keep us engaged with the process of being in the pool. Let’s not confuse competition with challenge. To many, conquering the challenge builds confidence, is more important than measuring time and distance, and is more important than comparing results to others.

    The list of safe challenges is endless, but I’ve collected some ideas below:

    • Set attendance goals. Some swimmers may want to be challenged to attend a certain number of swim practices during a week, month, or year
    • Learn a new stroke. This could include learning the new stroke, swimming the new stroke in practice, and swimming the stroke in a meet.
    • Reduce stroke count. Counting the number of strokes to swim each length of the pool often results in more focus on better technique and less wasted energy.
    • Improve streamlines. All swimmers benefit from a better streamline off the blocks and walls. Even open water swimmers can practice streamlining.
    • Incorporate underwater dolphin kicks. Many swimmers with a strong small amplitude kick will benefit from adding this to their freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly starts and turns.
    • Speed up the turns. The purpose of the turn is to change direction. An optimal turn accomplishes this faster while using less energy.
    • Learn to dive. Many new and seasoned swimmers have difficulty diving. It’s something that should be taught and practiced in a supervised safe setting. Once they’ve mastered this skill, swimmers may be more willing to participate in a swim meet.
    • Practice bilateral breathing. If your swimmers don’t naturally breathe to both sides, teach them the proper breathing technique and have them practice breathing bilaterally.
    • Use ePostal challenges. A USMS ePostal event and the training leading up to the swim can benefit all swimmers in your program. Encourage your swimmers to pick the 1-hour swim or a long distance swim based on their ability and desire.
    • Try a swim meet. Find a swim meet, or host one yourself, that is welcoming to the novice swimmer or swimmers returning to competition after a long time away.
    • Go open water swimming. Introduce the freedom of open water (OW) swimming by organizing group swims—with proper supervision and safety—for swimmers new to the open water environment. Begin by teaching the skills necessary to swim open water in the pool.
    • Use test sets. Regularly scheduled test sets can help you measure your swimmers’ improvement. And rather than just having them swim a 500 for time, get creative and mix up the distances.
    • Encourage less reliance on equipment. Weaning swimmers off pull-buoys, paddles, kickboards, and fins might be more of a coaching challenge. Encourage the swimmers to use equipment only when the workout specifies its use.

    USMS promotes the Check-off Challenge, an ePostal event designed to motivate swimmers to complete 18 pool events and an open water swim during the calendar year. The pool events may be swum in a meet or practice in any combination of SCY, SCM or LCM.

    Some LMSCs promote challenges like the Florida LMSC Leather Lung Award. This award is given to swimmers who complete all 18 pool events in SCY or SCM, all 17 pool events in LCM, and/or all five USMS ePostal championships during a single season.

    As a Masters coach, you should celebrate the accomplishments of your swimmers. This celebration can take place during practice, on a website, in a newsletter, or at a team gathering. There’s a good chance that once swimmers have mastered the demands of one challenge, they will gain the confidence to take on another, thereby staying engaged with your program and swimming for a lifetime.

    Updated June 17th, 2016 at 01:07 PM by Editor

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  12. Diversity in your Masters club

    by , May 13th, 2016 at 11:02 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I have a swimmer who has expressed interest in coming on board my Masters squad; she is 18 years old and still in high school. I am not sure how I feel about having a high school–aged swimmer on my squad. While she meets the age requirement, she is in high school. This is an adult team; we talk about adult themes and such that might not be appropriate for a high school student. In addition, I’m not sure how my crew would feel. Your thoughts?

    A: First, as the leader of your program, ask yourself: “What is the mission of my program? What values do I want my program to represent?” Do you have these written and published on your website or program communications? Once you’ve established these objectives, it will be much easier to determine the direction of your program and make decisions regarding membership.

    If you need to establish new objectives, ask the group for their thoughts. Getting buy-in and support from your members is important. Sharing ownership strengthens programs. However, at the conclusion of these discussions, I’m a firm believer that if you’re the definitive leader of the program, the final decision rests with you. If, after your final decision, some of your members have concerns, address the issues.

    U.S. Masters Swimming strives to be an all-inclusive organization, encouraging adults of any age, gender, and ability level to swim. If you choose to add young swimmers to your program composed of mature swimmers, then ask them to act, well, mature. Find somewhere else, other than the pool, for the adult-themed conversations. Your task will be to make sure that everyone, including the new swimmer, is comfortable.

    Mentoring young swimmers has always been a passion of mine because I feed off the energy and excitement a new and different (young) swimmer brings to the program. Diversity should be embraced and viewed as a positive attribute of every Masters program.
    Good luck!

    Updated May 13th, 2016 at 01:35 PM by Bill Brenner

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  13. Coaching and customer service

    by , April 12th, 2016 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: As a Masters coach, how can I improve my customer service skills?

    A: In order to provide high-quality customer service, first determine what the customer wants. Your customers may be your athletes, coaches, facility staff, sponsors, community partners, or volunteers. When thinking about serving your athletes, remember that most Masters swimmers want:


    • Convenience and a respect of their time
    • Access to coaching knowledge and wisdom
    • Lack of obstacles
    • Immediate fulfillment of needs
    • Meaningful experience
    • Consistency


    Learning to qualify your customers’ needs will be helpful before developing your customer service philosophy. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Develop an evaluation form for your swimmers to complete annually to evaluate your performance and to make suggestions.

    I recently attended a conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., sponsored by USA- Swimming. One of the speakers was John Cashion, the Corporate Director for the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. John has been with the Ritz-Carlton for 20 years, rising through the ranks from an entry-level position to general manager of a property, to his current role today in charge of customer service and cultural transformation training.

    As a frequent traveler, I was especially interested in learning how the hospitality industry trains its employees to give exceptional customer service. All too often, I'm astonished at the poor customer service I receive or that I’m willing to accept mediocre service – service that only meets my expectations – and rate it as good customer service. With that in mind, what's missing from your customer service approach in a Masters coaching context?

    Let's assume that there are three levels of customer service:

    1. The expected
    2. The requested
    3. The memorable


    The Expected
    When I check into my hotel, I expect my room to be clean and unoccupied. Recently, I checked into my hotel room, received my key card, and proceeded to my room. I noticed a large number of law enforcement officials occupying the hotel lobby. As I approached my assigned room I found a “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging from the door handle. Certainly, the maid must have forgotten to remove the sign after cleaning the room earlier in the day. As I began to insert my key into the door lock, I thought, "what if...?" I turned around, headed back to the front desk, and sure enough the room was occupied. Needless to say, my expectations were not met.

    Now take that example and angle it towards swimming. What are your swimmers expecting from you? Knowing your swimmers and their expectations is the first step in giving quality customer service. Write these expectations down, review them regularly, and edit and update when necessary.

    The Requested
    In addition to the expected, you may have certain additional requests that require a response. I’m a light sleeper and prefer a quiet room on the top floor—with no one above me—away from the elevators and ice machines. Too often, other guests treat the halls and areas around the elevator landing as common areas for social gatherings, creating an environment that is not conducive to me getting a good night’s sleep. If I make my requests known to the hotel staff and they do not meet the requests, I view this as poor customer service.

    So, again, think about what your swimmers requests might be. Are they asking you to teach them a new skill, modify their stroke technique, or organize a social gathering?

    Masters coaches wear many hats; educator, motivator, entertainer, social director, friend, family member, and in many cases a psychologist—and sometimes you’re called upon to be all of these people in a single workout! How you choose to react to your swimmers’ requests determines the level of customer service you’ll be able to provide. Maintaining a positive attitude, along with a smile, when fulfilling requests ensures the most success.

    The Memorable
    Can you create an experience that won’t be forgotten? Over time, most of us won’t remember anything about our expected and requested experiences, but we’ll always remember something that was a delightful experience. Some time ago, my wife and I checked into a resort hotel for a short vacation. May, the front desk attendant, greeted us by name and asked us what special occasion brought us to the hotel. Having just become grandparents for the first time, I told May we were celebrating grandparenthood! Now, I’m not sure if the resort had this type of celebration listed in an employee handbook or not, but what happened next surprised me. Upon returning to our room after an afternoon at the pool, we found a tray with a delicious dessert and heartfelt handwritten note from May waiting on the desk. Next to the tray was a wrapped gift—a baby blanket for our new grandson. Quite a delightful and memorable experience that I’m sure May and the management of the Aruba Marriott Resort had no expectation that I would be sharing with the 65,000 members of USMS and the thousands of visitors to our website.

    As you can see, there’s clearly a spectrum of customer service experiences available out there, and it takes a little bit of thought and consideration of your swimmers’ needs to become great at customer service. But it’s definitely something you can achieve. Go create memorable experiences for your swimmers. Greet your swimmers by name, celebrate their daily accomplishments, and be sure to invite them back. And above all else, practice kindness, exercise empathy, and most importantly, share a smile.

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    Updated April 18th, 2016 at 02:36 PM by Bill Brenner

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  14. Increasing Masters program revenue

    by , March 14th, 2016 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Part two of two-part series
    Q: I need to increase my program fees to meet expenses, but I’m afraid I’ll lose members. Any suggestions?

    A: In the first part of this series, I gave examples of cost-cutting measures. Now, let’s explore opportunities to create revenue from sources other than program fees.

    Host an event.
    Before you decide what kind of event to host, determine what your membership is interested in supporting. Support comes in many forms; your swimmers can participate as an athlete, volunteer, or contributor. Determining what your members want and their willingness to participate—before planning an event—goes a long way toward ensuring a successful experience.
    The majority of event-based revenue is derived from registration fees. Registration fees are charged to individuals or teams to participate in the event and are determined when creating a budget. A budget evaluates the revenues and expenses to host the event. The desired outcome is for your revenue to exceed expenses by a targeted or acceptable margin. Many expenses to host an event are fixed costs that are difficult to change. Registration fees are more fluid and can be adjusted to meet the desired outcome. Events include:

    • Swim meets
    • Stroke development clinics
    • Videotaping sessions
    • Open Water swims
    • Fundraisers

    Lesson program. Who teaches adults to swim in your community? Are they successful? Many communities need more resources for teaching the 37 percent of the adult population that can’t swim 25 yards and are at risk of being one of the 8 to 10 adults who drown, on average, everyday. In 2015, USMS began offering its Adult learn-to-swim (ALTS) certification course to train adults to teach other adults to swim and become safer in water. Many Masters coaches are offering ALTS lessons as a program to generate revenue and provide community outreach to create awareness of the benefits of swimming.
    Grants, gifts, and donations. Research what grant money is available locally and nationally from agencies that support the programs you offer. Many grant applications are very simple and easy to complete. Establish your program to be more than a competitive swim team and promote the value you provide to the community as a resource for health, wellbeing, and social good. Once you’ve defined or redefined your program as such, you’ll increase the chances for receiving grants. You can also consider establishing your program as a nonprofit entity. Applying for nonprofit status must be done with the Internal Revenue Service and depending on the status you apply for and receive can help when asking for gifts and donations. Additionally, obtaining nonprofit status may help you win grant requests, open up additional fundraising opportunities, and reduce expenses of lane rental and sales taxes on purchases.
    Sponsorships. Partnering with local swim shops, nutrition stores, massage and physical therapists, cycling and running shops, and medical specialists can create value for your members and create a source of revenue for your program. Ask these local merchants and professionals to be part of your referral network. Ask them to provide discounts for your athletes. Go a step further and ask them to become an official program sponsor and pay a fee to be listed as such on your program’s website, social media, and other communication outlets. Create a banner with each of the official sponsors logos and hang it at the pool. More importantly, invite the sponsors to participate in your program’s activities at or away from the pool. Make them feel they are part of something special beyond the financial arrangement.
    Volunteer service. Many local businesses and agencies will pay you to provide volunteers for their events. This could include: parking cars, ushering, working concessions, and postevent cleanup. If possible, have your volunteers wear team logo merchandise—hats, shirts, and pins. Remember, when asked, you have a program full of adults that can lend their services, time, and talents to generate revenue and community awareness.
    Training trips. Have you always dreamed of having your swim practice in a sun-drenched Caribbean pool or ocean? Are your members thinking the same thing as they struggle to reach the pool during inclement weather? Do everyone a favor and explore the opportunity to travel as a team for a training trip. While at first glance it may seem expensive, often traveling as a group can provide discounts and revenue generating opportunities for the event organizer.
    Incorporating some or all of these revenue-generating ideas will help reduce the need to increase program fees. However, your members need to buy into these ideas and take some ownership before they will be successful. If the members understand that their participation is required and they’re not willing to make a commitment to participate, they may instead elect to pay a higher program fee. It’s better for you to know this ahead of time and spare you the effort.
  15. Balancing increased fees with returning members

    by , February 15th, 2016 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I need to increase my program fees to meet expenses but I'm afraid I'll lose members. Any suggestions?

    A: Most Masters swimmers participate in USMS clubs and workout groups for the coached workouts, access to pools at convenient locations and times, as well as the social benefits of a group activity. Knowing your swimmers and what they desire from your program will help you overcome a financial shortfall.
    Before raising fees, evaluate if you can reduce or eliminate certain expenses that won't result in a diminishment of the benefits your swimmers value most.
    Remember, you’re dealing with adults who choose to come to swim.

    Look to reduce the following expenses if they apply to your program:
    Lane rental. Can you renegotiate the cost of the rental fees? Would the rental rate be reduced if you were organized as a nonprofit entity? Can you barter for reduced lane rental fees by volunteering your time or the time of your program’s members for events held at your aquatic facility? Can you reduce the number of lanes you are currently renting?
    Lifeguard fees. Can the Masters coach with current lifeguard and first response certification eliminate the expense of a lifeguard? Before implementing this change, know your local regulations. Determine if one individual can have duel responsibilities such as serving as the coach and lifeguard at the same time. Also, review your facility’s Emergency Action Plan for compliance issues.
    Insurance. Take advantage of the USMS insurance policy for liability and excess accident coverage. When properly in force, the USMS insurance policy protects coaches, athletes, and facilities.
    Coaches’ compensation. I’m a huge proponent for Masters coaches being paid handsomely for quality coaching. Unless you’re being paid a wage that’s outlandish, stand firm on this expense line item. The health and longevity of the program depends on your wellbeing.
    Travel expenses. Many Masters coaches travel to swim meets with their program. Depending on the size of your group, many hotels will offer group discounts. If the meet host hasn’t arranged discounts with the local lodging establishments, call and ask hotels for a discounted room that’s cheaper than the normal room rate. In some cases, based on the size of your group, the hotel may be willing to offer one or more complimentary rooms. Look for hotels that offer free breakfast, free parking, and shuttle service.
    If you’ve trimmed expenses and still have a financial shortfall, consider other sources of revenue before increasing program fees. Additional revenue sources are:


    • Lesson program
    • Fundraisers
    • Sponsorships
    • Events – hosting swim meets and clinics
    • Merchandise sales
    • Organized swim vacations
    • Volunteer services
    • Grants
    • Gifts

    Part two of this series will expand on these and other sources of revenue you can develop.
    Once the adults in your program know that you’ve been diligently trying to keep program fees from increasing while maintaining those benefits that are important to them, such as ample lane space, they may be more willing to pay a higher program fee.
  16. Incentives to register or renew USMS membership

    by , January 15th, 2016 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What incentives can I offer my swimmers to register or renew their membership with USMS?

    A: Consider taking a two-step approach. Make sure your swimmers know the benefits of USMS membership. New benefits are added and enhanced frequently, and as the leader of your program, you should be able to convey those benefits. Knowing your swimmers and the reasons why they swim enables you to pinpoint specific benefits that may enhance their USMS membership experiences. USMS provides sanctioned events for our fitness swimmers, open water enthusiasts, and competitive swimmers. Know the events, when they’re scheduled, and add as many as possible to your program’s seasonal plan.

    Ask yourself, “What benefit or motivation can I provide as a coach and team leader to encourage registration?” Again, knowing what motivates each swimmer as an individual—his or her goals and interests—along with the goals and identity of your program, you can begin to identify incentive opportunities for your program’s members that target USMS registration.
    Coach Stuart McDougal of So Cal Tri Masters recently sent an email to his program’s members that encouraged USMS membership by stating, “Those who renew and have been with So Cal Tri Masters for 6 months or more get a swim month ‘on the house’ between the months of May and September 2017. Those who join as new members will get a video analysis of your stroke identifying the top three priorities for you to improve, scheduled during any one of the weeks when you’ll be swimming with So Cal Tri Masters.”

    Coach McDougal has identified two benefits within his control that are of value to his swimmers. He has kept it simple and easy to administer. He can track his program’s USMS membership on the usms.org website. And as the USMS club contact, he receives alerts when new swimmers register and affiliate with his club. Note who he rewarded with the incentive and when during the year he offers the month “on the house.” Would this or something similar work for you? Do you have long standing members who would be grateful to receive this incentive? Is your cash flow higher in the summer months, enabling you to better manage a small reduction in funds? These are questions you must answer individually—no two programs are the same.

    USMS membership is an important element of the Masters swimming experience. Supporting USMS membership strengthens our organization’s ability to provide our coaches, members and volunteers the resources, education, programs, and services necessary to teach an adult to swim, encourage an adult to swim, and provide the structure for adults who want to enjoy the healthy lifestyle our sport Masters Swimming provides.

    Updated September 14th, 2017 at 05:12 PM by Bill Brenner (updated 9-14-2017)

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  17. Member registration and LMSC selection

    by , December 15th, 2015 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Does a swimmer need to register for USMS in the LMSC where they live?

    A: No. A member may choose to register in any of the 52 LMSCs regardless of where they live. A member may register with a USMS club, workout group, or as unattached. Dual membership is not permitted.

    Members should inquire if registration with the specific club or workout group is mandatory for participation. Some USMS programs will not allow swimmers affiliated with other clubs to swim in their practices, even if the swimmer is willing to pay facility and program fees.

    Updated December 21st, 2015 at 03:06 PM by Bill Brenner

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  18. Do I need to let any USMS member swim in my program?

    by , November 15th, 2015 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: If I register a USMS club or workout group, do I need to let any USMS registered member swim at my facility and in my program?

    A: Registering a USMS club or workout group does not mandate access to your facility or require you to allow participation in your Masters swimming program. For example, many private clubs, YMCAs, and Jewish Community Centers hosting USMS programs have strict membership requirements and restrict access to their facilities to members only. Guest memberships and drop-in day memberships are at the discretion of the club. Other examples of facilities hosting USMS programs that may have restricted or limited access are military installations and college campuses.

    If you have access restrictions, please note them on your Places to Swim listing to eliminate confusion. If your facility allows for potential new members to visit the facility on a trial basis, note this on your listing as well.

    Even if your facility has restricted access, you can't keep nonmembers of your facility from affiliating their individual USMS membership with your USMS club or workout group. Once again, you are not obligated to grant access to these USMS members.

    Updated December 21st, 2015 at 02:57 PM by Bill Brenner

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  19. How can I help bring a stroke clinic to my LMSC?

    by , October 15th, 2015 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I attended this year's USMS convention in Kansas City, Mo. During the coaches committee meeting, you asked the Masters coaches to encourage their LMSCs to sponsor an official stroke development clinic. How can I help bring a clinic to my LMSC?

    A: Stroke development clinics are a very popular resource for Masters swimmers and coaches. USMS Education Services conducts the 2- to 3-hour clinic in conjunction with the Masters Coach Certification courses. Exit surveys from the Coach Certification courses have indicated a large demand from coaches for more on-deck educational opportunities. Masters swimmers, particularly those who swim without an experienced coach, attend the stroke clinic looking for help improving technique, learning a new stroke, increasing stroke efficiency, and speed.

    The USMS Masters Coach Certification Course is typically held on a Saturday. At the request of the LMSC, USMS Education Services will provide instructors to conduct the stroke clinic the following day. Any designated USMS certified Masters coach who would like to be on deck for the clinic may do so free of charge. If the coach would rather participate from in the water, he is required to pay the same nominal fee the swimmers in the clinic are charged.

    The LMSC must fulfill two requirements:

    1. The LMSC must be willing to offer some level of scholarship assistance for the coaches registered within the LMSC to attend the USMS Masters Coach Certification Course offered that weekend.
    2. The LMSC is responsible for securing the pool for the stroke clinic and pay for the pool rental, if necessary. Pool time is sometimes donated by a local club or workout group in many LMSCs.

    Benefits of the stroke development clinic include:

    • Continuing education for Masters coaches
    • Teaching Masters coaches how to conduct a stroke clinic
    • Networking opportunity for coaches to meet other local Masters coaches
    • Recruiting and retaining members
    • Adding value to USMS/LMSC membership
    • Introducing Masters coaches and swimmers to new training techniques
    • Inviting lap swimmers to experience the social benefits of Masters swimming and the benefit of having a coach on deck
    • Improving swimmers' technique and efficiency
    • Learning new drills
    • Learning how to use swim equipment properly and creatively
    • Hearing a different voice explain the "how" and the "why" of stroke correction and changes

    Please contact your LMSC leadership and ask them to consider sponsoring a USMS stroke development clinic. Make your request as soon as possible so the LMSC may consider your request and budget accordingly. The Masters Coach Certification Course schedule is posted online. Any questions or concerns from your LMSC may be addressed to my office.

    Working together, we can continue to improve the Masters swimming coaching profession and create enhanced benefits for our coaches and athletes.
  20. ASCA World Clinic educational opportunity

    by , September 14th, 2015 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Is the ASCA World Clinic a good educational opportunity for a Masters coach?

    A: Yes. The American Swimming Coaches Association hosts an annual conference providing educational opportunities for swim coaches. The six-day format includes certification courses--the USMS Masters Coach Certification Levels 1 and 2 course being one of them--keynote speeches, and presentations from the leading authorities of swimming from around the world.

    The 2016 U.S. Olympic swim team coaches David Marsh and Bob Bowman, along with U.S. National Team Coach Frank Busch, highlighted a group of 25-plus exceptional presenters at the 2015 World Clinic. Many, if not most, of the presentations were of universal value to any swimming coach working within the age-group, high school, college, or Masters ranks. The registration cost for the 2015 clinic was $450.

    During the 2015 ASCA World Clinic, USMS coaches Chad Durieux (Rose Bowl Masters), Jillian Wilkins (Central Florida Y Masters), and Rich Axtell (Minuteman Masters) delivered Masters-specific presentations on the following topics:

    • Learning the differences in training Masters
    • Growing with triathletes
    • Getting a team of adults to travel
    • Generating revenue from Masters meets
    • Creating one diverse pool
    • Hosting a clinic for Masters swimmers

    What I enjoy most about attending the clinic is the ability to network with other coaches. Any coach, regardless of status, can engage in conversation with any of the other coaches at the clinic. Every coach, including the Olympic coaches, are easily approachable and willing to talk and listen. It's a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and fellowship with others and recharge the coaching battery. I leave the clinic anxious to try new workouts, drills, and the latest swim gear with my swimmers and other coaches I meet.

    The ASCA World Clinic includes an exhibit hall with swimming-specific vendors. Many offer hands-on demonstrations, and most have samples of the products they sell. Several bulletin boards are displayed throughout the venue with job postings, creative workouts, and ideas to help you become a better coach and program leader.

    The 2016 clinic will be in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the week after Labor Day. Consider adding it to your calendar.
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