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Questions from Coaches

Education Director Bill Brenner answers your questions

  1. Hosting a registered swim program with USMS

    by , December 6th, 2016 at 09:02 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 10:11 AM by Bill Brenner

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  2. Masters program information at my aquatics facility

    by , July 13th, 2016 at 12:00 PM (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 03:51 PM by Bill Brenner

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  3. Coaching beyond the workout

    by , May 15th, 2015 at 01:00 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What should I be doing to successfully "coach beyond the workout" for a Masters program?

    A: In many cases, developing a successful Masters program is more than writing good pool workouts. Good coaches take the time to familiarize themselves with their athletes, learning their names, abilities, goals, motivations, outside interests, and a little about their families. Each piece of information can be used to create the most positive environment and outcome possible for your athletes every day on or off the pool deck.

    Your workouts will be more impactful if you can customize the delivery of the workout to each individual. Are you going to write 30 different workouts for 30 different swimmers? Probably not. However, you can make it a point to speak to athletes individually during practice and ask them to work on something specific to their needs. This could be technique, pace, speed, or effort. Acknowledge success and commitment. Provide feedback. Point out something done well before addressing something that needs to change.

    Take the time to further your coaching knowledge. Read, research and write.

    • U.S. Masters Swimming publishes SWIMMER magazine bi-monthly, delivers monthly electronic newsletters, and maintains a website - usms.org - that's constantly updated with articles that provide the reader with valuable information.
    • Attend the USMS National Coaches Conference and learn from several of our organization's most successful coaches. Several LMSCs host regional coaches' clinics for the benefit of their coaches and members. If you're a coach, make sure you're included on email correspondence for information on all LMSC coaching activities.
    • Become a USMS-certified Masters coach. The USMS certification course was developed by Masters coaches specifically for coaches who work with adult athletes. The course is presented in a classroom setting and student participation is encouraged.
    • Consider becoming a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association, the leading advocacy group for all echelons of swimming coaches. Member benefits include a monthly magazine and newsletter. ASCA hosts a yearly World Clinic that brings the leading authorities of swimming to one location. Presentations are given throughout the clinic including several by Masters coaches. ASCA also hosts regional clinics several times a year.
    • Research other successful Masters coaches, make contact and ask if you can visit during a practice. Observe how they manage the deck and look for ideas you can bring back to your program.
    • Write an article and submit it to the USMS Coaches Committee for review and possible publication. Nothing cements an idea more solidly than having to explain it in writing. Share something you're doing successfully so that others can duplicate. The Masters community grows stronger from sharing ideas and stimulating creativity.
    • Read online articles published by services such as SwimSwam and Swimming World magazine.

    Other suggestions for activities outside the standard pool workout:

    • Host a clinic. I recommend a series of clinics each lasting no more than 2 hours. Stroke technique, starts, turns, and open water are all good topics you can cover. Consider a videotaping session for your swimmers. Many swimmers haven't seen themselves on film.
    • Take members of your program to a swim meet. Swim meets can be fun and a great way to measure the progress of each athlete. Make sure you market the meet as a social event with a team sitting area, relays, and a social event for athletes, friends, and family at the conclusion of the meet. Encourage 100% participation.
    • Host a swim meet. If you've never hosted a meet before, start with a 1-day meet with limited events. As you become savvier at hosting meets, you can expand the number of days and events. Developing a support team and group of dedicated volunteers is imperative to running a successful meet. Be in charge but delegate certain responsibilities to others you can trust.
    • Hold open water practices. If you don't have access to open water, take the lane lines out, put makeshift buoys in for turns, and hold an open water practice in the pool.
    • Celebrate accomplishments. Take time during practice to recognize the accomplishments of your athletes. Everyone is a winner even if they don't win a race. Maybe someone did well at a triathlon, swam butterfly for the first time, or competed in a first swim meet. It's up to you to know your athletes and their goals and when they achieve those goals. Having a year-end banquet is another social activity that includes everyone and their families. Don't underestimate the power of celebration and fun. If you don't have the time to organize social activities, appoint a social director. Depending on your program's practice schedule, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries after practice by going out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
    • Develop and maintain a website and use social media to attract and retain members. Your program should either have its own website or a page on a group website. Develop a Facebook page, use Twitter, and send pictures through Instagram. Contact the USMS marketing department for more information on how to maximize the benefits of social media.

    Don't limit yourself to this list only but use it as a springboard to becoming a better coach on and off the pool deck. Use your ingenuity and creativity to enhance your program for the benefit of your members. The key is to have fun in a positive environment. Once you know your athletes and meet their needs on and off the pool deck, you'll have more fun coaching than ever before.

    Updated June 19th, 2015 at 12:35 PM by Bill Brenner

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  4. Marketing a Masters program to a local facility

    by , March 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I want to start a USMS program at my local Y. What are the three most important selling points I can share with my program director?
    A: The three most important selling points are diversity, revenue, and community service:

    • Diversity. A U.S. Masters Swimming program provides a platform for a Y to expand its adult aquatic programming. It's a program that celebrates and encourages diversity in age, gender, and ability levels. The single most important component of a successful program is having a coach on deck who understands stroke development, technique, and how to motivate each individual athlete to meet or exceed his goals. The Masters coach makes swimming fun. The more fun swimmers have, the more likely the swimmer will stay in the pool and enjoy swimming as a lifelong activity. For many, this leads to adopting a healthier lifestyle outside of the pool. Masters swimming is a social group activity in and away from the pool.
    • Revenue. A Masters program may be financially self-sustaining and generate revenue from program fees, retention of Y members, and the recruitment of new members. Other revenue can be generated from hosting Masters events including swim meets, stroke clinics, and fund-raising activities. USMS registered clubs are eligible to apply for a grant from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation to develop and expand opportunities for adults to swim and learn to swim. Adult learn-to-swim lessons can enhance adult programming at the Y, while also teaching a lifesaving skill and generating revenue. The USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Certification class is a one-day course teaching adults how to teach an adult to swim and become water-safer.

    Community service. USMS and Ys share similar values of providing resources for the continued health and wellbeing of the members of the communities they serve. Both organizations promote learning, respect, excellence, and fun for the benefit of all. Often, members of Masters programs pledge their time, talents, and financial resources by becoming advocates and benefactors of their local Ys.
  5. Getting your Masters program listed on Places to Swim

    by , December 15th, 2014 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Will my program automatically be added to Places to Swim on the usms.org website when I register a new club?

    A: No. The Places to Swim database is organized by facility and a request for each facility must be made by a club or facility contact. If your program uses multiple facilities, you'll want multiple entries.

    To submit or modify a listing:

    • Go to the Places to Swim web page
    • Enter the city and state or zip code of your location
    • Add a new listing by clicking on the link under the map
    • Modify your listing by clicking on the link under your current information

    Places to Swim is one of the most visited pages at usms.org. Viewers looking for pools with Masters programs include:

    • New swimmers
    • Swimmers relocating to a new area
    • Swimmers looking for pool or club options
    • Traveling swimmers
    • Triathletes and open water enthusiasts
    • Adults interested in taking swimming lessons

    Places to Swim should serve as a marketing tool for attracting new members to your pool and Masters program. Highlight your strengths and include the following information in your listing:

    • Location. Add the specific street address that viewers can input into their GPS devices.
    • Club name. List the club name registered with USMS.
    • Workout times. If times vary, refer to your program's website listed below.
    • Contact. Coach's name, credentials, phone number, and email address. Or, the pool contact information.
    • Website. If your program has a website, list it here for more information.
    • Miscellaneous info. This can include fee information, though I recommend referring to the website for your current fee structure. If you offer an adult learn-to-swim program, mention it here. Also, list the types of athletes your program welcomes.
      1. New swimmers (if you offer free trial memberships, list the information)
      2. Swimmers of all abilities
      3. Fitness swimmers
      4. Competitive swimmers
      5. Triathletes
      6. Open water swimmers
      7. Social group swimmers (list typical social activities)
      8. Visitors (include drop-in fee information and required USMS membership notice)


    Below each listing is the date the information was added or last modified. I recommend updating the listing as soon as new information is available or every six months if the information is the same. Why update if there are no changes? You want the modification date to be relatively current so the viewer knows that the listing is more likely to be accurate.

    In the future, USMS will be adding more features to the Places to Swim webpage to provide enhanced information for our clubs, coaches, instructors, and new and current members.

    Updated March 18th, 2015 at 11:56 AM by Bill Brenner

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