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Questions from Coaches

Education Director Bill Brenner answers your questions

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

    by , November 11th, 2016 at 04:31 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.
  2. Charging a fee to swim in your Masters program

    by , July 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I help organize a swim practice for a group of adult swimmers during lap swim at our pool. I recently registered our group as a club with USMS so we could swim on relays together in a local swim meet. As we grow and become more organized, I foresee the need to begin charging a monthly program fee. How do I transition our group to paying a fee when lap swimming is free?

    A: Many Masters programs have evolved over the years from a small group of lap swimmers enjoying each other's company to an officially registered USMS program. Often, the most skilled or dynamic swimmer gets elected the quasi-coach and leader. As more swimmers join the group, more lane space is needed. For the aquatic or facility director, this can be both a positive and challenging metamorphosis. Those swimmers who are participating with the group are happy--which means increased membership and retention rates at the facility--but more often than not, the remaining lap swimmers who may not feel included in the structured workouts can become disgruntled about diminished lane space at critical and convenient workout times.

    At this point, establishing a defined USMS registered Masters program gives validity and direction for your adult swim program and the aquatic facility. The key to success will be how open and welcoming your program is to swimmers of all abilities who come to the pool with a variety of goals and motivations. The aquatic facility management likely will not view exclusion practices kindly.

    Program fees are a usual and customary expense of participating in an organized Masters practice. The fee you charge should be determined by the expenses the program incurs and the benefits the program provides to its members. While lap swimming is a benefit provided by your facility, is it really free? Countless times I've visited aquatic facilities when lap swimmers are in the pool while many are waiting on the pool deck for a lane to clear. Rarely, if at all, do lap swimmers share a lane with more than one other swimmer. Clearly this waiting for a lane is a waste of time. More importantly, if this wasted time happens too often, it becomes a deterrent for the swimmer returning to the pool.

    Sharing a lane with another lap swimmer can have its costs as well. It may not be a monetary cost, but a mental or even physical cost. Sharing a lane with a lap "swimmer" who has no concept of lane etiquette can be extremely frustrating and even dangerous. I generously use the term "swimmer" when referring to the lap lane occupants. On several occasions, I've witnessed more people positioned vertically than horizontally while inhabiting space in the lap lanes. Although many lap swimmers welcome the opportunity to make the lane they share safer and more enjoyable, some may not be willing to take the suggestions offered to practice basic lane etiquette. Swimmers participating in an organized Masters practice with a coach on deck are less likely to incur these lap-swimming costs.

    If your adult swimmers have been swimming as a group during lap swim and are now being asked to pay a program fee, make sure they understand the benefits of your program. You may need to increase the benefits the swimmers currently enjoy to justify the program fee. Most adults are willing to pay a fee equal to the benefits they receive. Knowing what's important to your customer/swimmer will help you determine which benefits to provide. These benefits may include:

    • Paid professional Masters coach on deck
    • Preferential workout times at the aquatic facility
    • Increased lane space
    • Lane space in the competition pool (80 degrees F) verses the recreation pool (much hotter!)
    • Additional practice times and facilities
    • Access to open water venues
    • Additional or upgraded pool and workout equipment
    • Digital pace clock
    • Dryland training program
    • Yoga instruction
    • Seminars with professional nutritionists, physical therapists, and sports medicine physicians
    • Swim clinics
    • Videotaped stroke analysis
    • Organized team travel to swim meets, open water events, and other team identified outings
    • Team website
    • Team e-newsletter
    • Team logo and merchandise
    • Sponsor discounts
    • Organized cross training opportunities with local triathlon, cycling, and running clubs
    • Volunteer opportunities
    • Recognition and awards

    Once you've established your fee, give your current swimmers a reasonable amount of time before the fee goes into effect. I recommend at least 30 days. You may choose to offer new swimmers a free trial period. After the 30 days or trial period is over and a swimmer decides against paying the program fee, politely point them in the direction of the lap swimmers.