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SWIMMER Editorials

  1. Part of the Story (November–December 2017)

    by , October 31st, 2017 at 09:34 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    We spend a lot of time helping share the stories of our individual members, but U.S. Masters Swimming has a story, too.

    In two years USMS will begin celebrating its 50th anniversary. Of course, our longtime members—some of whom were there at the beginning—are excited about this. But our celebrations will include all our members. If you just joined USMS, you are now part of the story.

    You might wonder how our history affects your swimming. For starters, you might not be enjoying a daily swim workout if it weren’t for the efforts of John Spannuth, Ransom Arthur, June Krauser, and others.

    In her profile of Spannuth on page 18, Elaine K. Howley takes us back to when adults over the age of 25 were advised to approach exercise cautiously, as though they might endanger their health if they worked out too hard.

    We know better now. Thanks to advances in medicine and research, we know that vigorous physical activity has life-prolonging effects. It’s also why nonswimmers are surprised when they find out your real age—many of you look a decade younger than your FINA age.

    Watching an organization spring up around the healthful pursuit of swimming has been fun for the early adopters, including Robert Beach of St. Pete Masters, who swam in the second masters meet—held in 1971—and hasn’t stopped since.

    Beach put his photo albums on long-term loan to the National Office, so we could scan and preserve them for generations to come. The images included in our profile on Spannuth are all from those albums.

    If you have a favorite image or two that tells not only your swimming story, but part of the overall Masters Swimming story, please reach out to us—we’d love to include copies in our archives and share them throughout the yearlong celebration in 2020.

    And they don’t have to be from the 1970s—we’ll be celebrating Masters Swimming through all five decades of our history, so whether you’ve been with us for 50 years or five months, you’re part of our story.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:24 PM by Editor

    Tags: history, photos, usms
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  2. USMS Is for Everyone (September-October 2016)

    by , September 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Three years ago, I wrote here about how we, as an organization, needed to continue dispelling the myth that “Masters” Swimming means you’ve mastered the sport of swimming before joining USMS. (“The M Word,” May-June 2013). I’ve also written about our efforts to make learn-to-swim classes available to as many adults as possible. (“Milestones,” November-December 2014, “April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month,” March-April 2014, and “Fear of Water,” September-October 2011).

    Diverse populations have been a topic, not only diversity in race (“The Swimming Race,” January-February 2010), but also in age (“Age Is a Whole Bunch of Numbers,” March-April 2016) and sexual orientation (“The Inclusive Sport—It’s All Good,” September-October 2010).

    I’ve written about the labels “fitness swimmer” and “competitive swimmer,” and how they don’t often make sense (“Classification,” September-October 2013). Likewise, the differences between triathletes and swimmers, which are often nondifferences (“Triathletes and Swimmers,” July-August 2012.)

    So when I write, “USMS is for everyone,” I’m really not exaggerating.

    This August, our marketing team got creative and tried a few new things to welcome potential members and generate interest in the sport of swimming. First, we lowered the price of membership by $19 for the remainder of 2016 when purchased with a full 2017 membership.

    Next, we created “Try Masters Swimming Day,” and encouraged members to invite friends and family to swim practice on August 15. And we encouraged coaches to invite local lap swimmers to try a workout. Our partner, Colorado Time Systems, is even donating a Pace Clock Pro to each of the five clubs who register the most new swimmers in the month of August.

    But it takes a village.

    At Spring Nationals I had the pleasure of meeting St. Pete (Fla.) Masters swimmer and legendary pitchman Anthony Sullivan of OxiClean fame. I asked him if he would tell his story for SWIMMER readers. He immediately turned my request for an interview around with a request of his own: “Swimming has done so much for me and I want to give back. What can I do for USMS?”

    Well, if you’ve been on our social media channels in the past month, you’ve seen he’s been busy encouraging membership in a way that only he can—with a hilarious and fun infomercial-style video touting Masters Swimming as “The Greatest Workout of Them All.” He’s also sponsored a contest in which a grand-prize winner will receive a one-year USMS membership and some cool (signed!) OxiClean and Masters Swimming swag.

    And we did land that interview; Managing Editor Elaine K. Howley’s profile on Sullivan, “As Seen on TV,” is on page 18.

    Also in this issue (Swimming Life, page 6, by Gretchen Sanders), we meet Mamenasha Tesfaye and Thaddeus Gamory, both lifelong swimmers who are passionate about helping adults—especially people of color—learn to swim. Both are recipients of Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grants. We also meet two of their students: Randa Azab and Martha Paniagua, whose lives have been forever altered by learning to swim.

    Finally, in “Olympians Among Us” (page 36), Katie O’Dair introduces us to a few of the many Olympians who use swimming to stay healthy and continue enjoying the sport they love. Although these swimmers have clearly mastered swimming, their stories, just like all of ours, originate from having taken that first leap into the pool one day long ago.

    So, ask your friends and local lap swimmers: “What are you waiting for? Masters Swimming is for everyone and the water’s fine—come on in.”

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:41 AM by Editor

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  3. Heeding the Chlorine Call (May-June 2016)

    by , May 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    USMS’s new CEO offers perspectives on challenges and opportunities

    Swimming has a way of sticking with you. Whether you learned to swim early or later in life, its impact is significant, and the lessons learned and skills acquired are numerous. For anyone who swam as a child, the chlorine call back to the pool is strong.

    Fortunately for USMS, our new CEO, Dawson Hughes, a sports marketing professional with a strong background in leadership and nonprofit management, also happens to be a former swimmer. Dawson joined the National Office in March, after a nationwide search overseen by a special task force appointed by the Board of Directors.

    Dawson most recently served as vice president of business development for the Orange Bowl Committee, a South Florida nonprofit sports organization that features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Capital One Orange Bowl, a top-tier college football postseason bowl game. He’s also worked for both the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball franchises.

    However, as much as he’s accomplished in the greater sports world, Dawson’s heart is with swimming, the sport he started at age 5 and the one that eclipsed his other childhood sports interests.

    SWIMMER asked him about his swimming background and his ideas for USMS moving forward.

    SWIMMER: What’s first on deck for you?

    Dawson Hughes: I’m currently getting to know USMS’s history, the team at the National Office, and our volunteers, including members of the Board, LMSC officers, and sponsors. Most important, I’m focused on getting to know our members.
    We’ll be updating our strategic plan over the next several months and we want to continue to provide great benefits and opportunities, motivation, and support for adults who want to take advantage of all that swimming has to offer. Whether it’s learning to swim for the first time, getting in shape and staying fit, or competing, we want to ensure we’re able to meet the needs of all our members and potential members.

    S: What’s your swimming background?

    DH: Learning to swim started shortly after learning to walk. I grew up in Southern California and we had a backyard pool, so it was looked upon as a life skill in my family. The Balboa Island Yacht Club (which was more summer camp than yacht club) had programs that included paddle boarding, swimming, diving, rowing, and sailing competitions in Newport Harbor every summer for kids aged 4 to 16, so I was in the water constantly from age 5.

    At the same time, I was swimming in summer league meets in the pool. After a couple of years competing at BIYC, I decided I didn’t like coming in second to the same kid every week and I wanted to start training all year so I could beat him the following summer. Around that time my parents realized that swimming was a good way to keep me tired and out of trouble, so I joined a year-round age-group team. The plan worked on both accounts, and I went on to swim competitively through high school and two years in college.

    S: How have your early swimming experiences affected your life?

    DH: While considering the opportunity to take the helm at USMS, I spent time reflecting upon my swimming background and realized that, although I’ve been away from the pool for 19 years, swimming has continued to have an influence on many aspects of my life. The teamwork, goal setting, work ethic, self-motivation, and competitiveness I learned as an age-group and college swimmer are characteristics I’ve carried into my career.

    On the personal side, lifelong friendships were fostered during those years. And a fitness base was built that has helped me recover from stretches of inactivity a bit more quickly. My wife and I had our kids in water safety and swim lessons as early as possible, just as our parents had done for us. I could never have predicted that my career path would bring me back to my swimming roots, and I’m excited to be in a position to provide opportunities for adults to discover—or rediscover— all the benefits of swimming.

    S: What are some of USMS’s opportunities and challenges?

    DH: USMS has a strong tradition of competitive swimming and that will continue; for our members who love to compete, we’ll continue to provide great events.
    And I believe there are opportunities to include many more adults of all ages and backgrounds.

    There are thousands of former swimmers who find it challenging to balance their careers and family lives, let alone find time for a fitness routine. I put myself in this category. Throughout my 20s and 30s, building a career and starting a family has been my focus, and carving out time to exercise is a constant struggle.

    Swimming was always in the back of my mind, but I didn’t feel I was in shape enough or could commit the time that I assumed would be necessary for a Masters Swimming program. So I ended up at the gym with an inconsistent fitness routine: usually warming up on a treadmill followed by poorly executed weight training or the occasional outdoor run. Without a resource to easily obtain swim workouts, the encouragement of fellow swimmers, or a coach to provide structure, my motivation to get back to the pool waned.

    Finding ways to make fitness swimming fit into the busy lives of those with careers and families is both a challenge and an opportunity for us. The misconceptions about perceived time commitment and getting in shape before starting need to be addressed. Providing resources and programs that don’t require more time than a run in the neighborhood, a visit to the local gym, or other fitness programs will be important.

    Fitness is a trend that isn’t going away, and swimming is regularly acknowledged as a great way to get and stay in shape. But too often the ease of entry to other fitness activities stands in the way.

    S: How are we going to accomplish this?

    DH: USMS wants to appeal to adults regardless of their prior experience, fitness level, or competitive inclination. This includes adults who never had the opportunity to learn to swim. To do that, we must offer programs and benefits that appeal across many demographics, lifestyles, and goals.

    In starting to get to know our members these past few weeks, it has become clear that they’re our biggest cheerleaders. I’ve been asking folks how they initially got involved with Masters Swimming. The answer is almost always that a member of a club or workout group approached them and convinced them not to be intimidated or concerned about their fitness level.

    Those tens of thousands of passionate swimming ambassadors, combined with simple options and encouragement to help people learn to swim, meet fitness goals, compete if they want to, or simply live a healthier lifestyle, will be our best avenue to introducing more adults to Masters Swimming.

    S: When can we expect to see you back in the pool?

    DH: I’ve been back in the water a few times recently and I plan to stick with it as best as I can while balancing my family life and the responsibilities of my new role. My goal is simply to stay fit enough to keep up with our 3-year-old twins.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:26 AM by Editor

    Tags: ceo, staff, usms
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  4. USMS Leadership (November-December 2015)

    by , November 1st, 2015 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    In October of this year the USMS House of Delegates concluded its 43rd annual meeting, at the 2015 United States Aquatic Sports Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

    During the annual meeting, officers are elected and rules and policies are voted upon. If you want to spend some time on the dry side of the sport you love, visit the “For Volunteers” tab at usms.org for more information.

    Policy decisions and strategic planning are the purview of our dedicated volunteer leaders. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors comprises the president, four vice-presidents (administration, local operations, programs, and community services), secretary, treasurer, immediate past president, and legal counsel. Eight at-large directors, one from each zone, sit on the greater BOD. Most of the 20 USMS committees report to one of the four vice presidents. The House of Delegates is composed of USMS members who’ve stepped up to represent their LMSCs and their number depends upon the size of their LMSCs.

    The executive director oversees the National Office staff and reports to the Board of Directors. It’s the staff’s responsibility to enact the vision, mission, and strategic planning directives of the organization. This year, a special subcommittee of the BOD is tasked with an important job: choosing our next executive director.

    For the past nearly eight years USMS’s current executive director, Rob Butcher, has presided over the period of the most growth and change USMS has seen in its 45-plus-year history—a period in which USMS evolved from an all-volunteer organization to a volunteer-led and professionally-managed one. His tenure started with establishing the first headquarters and hiring the National Office staff. It will end on December 31 this year with USMS having tripled its revenue and increased its membership by more than 50 percent.

    When Rob started at USMS, he went on a fact-finding mission that would make NASA’s Mars Rover proud. He met with longtime volunteer leaders for hours on end, soaking up as much organizational history and culture as he could. He visited clubs, workout groups, and events all over the country, talking to anyone and everyone about Masters Swimming—in context of both the bigger picture and how they, as individuals, were experiencing it.

    He’s the kind of guy who would jump in your pool and join swimmers in a lively argument over why breaststroke is “better” than backstroke, then hang out at your after-workout pizza party getting to know you. Most importantly, he listened and remembered your concerns and ideas and used them to formulate winning strategies that transformed USMS. Every single one of us—and I mean all (as of this moment) 63,648 of us—has benefitted from Rob’s leadership and passion for Masters Swimming.

    He’s been an integral part of every important initiative undertaken in the past eight years—from rebranding to educating and supporting coaches to USMS’s growing adult learn-to-swim movement.

    On January 1, 2016, Rob will step into the president and CEO role at Swim Across America, a charitable organization that, through swimming events, raises money for cancer research.

    Thanks to Rob’s and the Board’s hard work and dedication, USMS is positioned to continue thriving and growing, and providing you with an organization of which you can be a proud to call yourself a member.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:25 AM by Editor

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