View RSS Feed

Meet Director's Path to Tranquility

Meet Director's Path to Tranquility

No workouts here. No meet times listed. In the fifth year as meet director for the team's annual unconventional, quirky, entertaining, winter SCY TROPICAL SPLASH, this documents the path to the 2010 meet - problems and decisions, behind the scenes preparation, and the thought that goes into our local swim meet.

Maybe it's educational, and maybe it's entertaining. Maybe it's irrelevant.

  1. Tranquility

    by , February 22nd, 2010 at 06:32 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    There were a few problems with the final results, so before submitting to the USMS Top Times and Top 10, final final results were compiled.

    First, there was a 50+ year old gal who didn't show up at the meet, but somehow ended up with a 0:25 time in the 50-free. This is what happens when swimmers switch around their lane assignments during the meet and the results recording doesn't catch on. Second, the abbreviation for one of the relay teams was mixed up in the relay results due to my error. (WMS could be Warrenton Masters or Winchester Masters, right?) Both were corrected before the Hytek files were submitted to J-Rod.

    Comments from the meet swimmers included requests for meet records in the Coconut Relay, for holding the 500-free the night before (hmm.... maybe), and for automatic timing. We get that last one every year. It would be nice, but the cost and our lack of experience with it are the drawbacks, (not withstanding the possible problem of a shorter pool length.) I wonder if swimmers would be willing to pay an additional $7 for it, along with an additional $4 for online entry? I was thinking of adding a $4 surcharge next year for only those entering online, since I hear some triathlons and OW swims do that only for credit card entries. But hey, I am retiring from meet directorship (and can now concentrate on the Colonies Zone web site again). Next year, my rocking deck chair will be pointed toward the setting sun.

    Overall, the meet and planning went rather smoothly without any major incidents. So sorry about that; I imagine readers were hoping for some juicy drama to spice up this blog. Everyone loves a good disaster.

    Still, if you enjoyed the voyage to the Tropical Splash from the captain's seat, or if you learned anything, please drop me a line. If you didn't or didn't, please don't. Although I did not earn any blog stars, (I did pick up a few blog friends along the way), I still enjoyed blogging and reading the comments left. And, I learned a few things from you.

    I now close the final chapter of my telenovela.


    Updated February 22nd, 2010 at 07:26 PM by Rnovitske

  2. NUMB3RS

    by , February 18th, 2010 at 08:47 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "The success of any great moral enterprise does not depend upon numbers."
    -William Lloyd Garrison

    Most all post-meet tasks are now completed. There were 11 tee shirts that needed to be mailed out. I did not enjoy thinking about listening to the postal clerk's song, "Is there anything fragile, liquid, perishable, " 11 times. I bought the delivery confirmation for $0.80 each so I could be assured of delivery. Postal insurance on a $15 tee shirt was too expensive. I went to the post office in 2 trips because the Tyvek envelopes we purchased years ago for this purpose ran out after 6 shirts. These babies are expensive now - $26.00 for a box at Office Depot, about $0.50 each.

    This year 9 swimmers ordered the printed results. Results were copied, addressed, and mailed out Tuesday. They did not contain the officials names.

    The 189 swimmers signed up for the meet, along with 3 deck entries equalled 672 splashes =
    about 3.5 events per person
    146 swimmers attended the meet, the rest skipping out due to the snow on Saturday
    35 swimmers claimed this as their first Masters meet
    0 USMS records this year, although there have been a few in the past
    0 Olympic medalists showed up (we had one once)
    76 entries came in the last 3 days before the deadline
    6 swimmers sent in photos for the online meet scrapbook
    84 new meet records were set
    10 coconut relay teams entered
    19 relay teams entered the 2 relay events - 11 in the medley

    The tee shirts were a hit again this year. 52 meet swimmers ordered meet tee shirts. 13 team members not in the meet bought tee shirts (actually 12 - the meet director gets a free tee shirt.) There were 6 to sell at the meet - all sold. The last one sold after I received an email requesting one the day after the meet. 71 shirts were printed but 72 were ordered - the tee shirt printers messed up one.

    VMST sent the most swimmers to the meet - 20. Our team ALEX sent the second most, and RMST the third. GMUP sent the least - 0. I pick on them because none of their four signups attended (although swimmers 30-40 miles away made it), and they are the third closest team geographically to us.

    Who actually attends our meet? Well, Alexandria Masters has quite a few swimmers who do not compete except at our event. We have some very good swimmers in that group, too. Hosting the meet provides an opportunity for these people to compete who would not normally do so. Earlier, I mentioned that we aimed to attract the swimmers that shy away from competing. This seems to be true with our team as well as others.

    Since I embarrass myself at about half the meets here in the area, I am familiar with a lot of the names on those meet programs. True, a good many do show their face at our meet, but it is safe to say that many characters at our meet are never seen in other Potomac Valley competition. One team in particular - ARMS - is almost non-existent in other meets, although 13 of their swimmers attended our Tropical Splash.

    But, I believe that there is another dynamic at work, too. Not only do we attract the swimmers that like to have fun at meets, but this is translated to teams, too. I conclude that for two reasons.

    First, we actually do attract some elite level swimmers to the meet. And they return each year. They tend to be on the teams that have big turnouts. Second, there are some teams that we rarely see in our meet program, even though they are local and have good turnouts at other local meets. I believe their teams' culture and personality are more competitive; where performance and competition are taken more seriously. These are the teams where members would not attend our meet to have fun, but to seriously swim and compete. Starting blocks, breaking records, and automatic timing are what these teams get excited about.

    Other teams much further away have an unbelievable turnout at the Tropical Splash (and their elite swimmers show up) because I believe their team culture is more attuned to swimming and competition as fun. Coconut relays, leis, and sociable hospitality rooms are what attract these teams to competition.

    So, the teams where serious performance is the team culture tend to stay away, while the swimmers and teams with a fun, gregarious team culture tend to show up. This makes the meet even more enjoyable - a meet filled with only swimmers of this personality!

    One thing is for certain - our meet grows in popularity each year (and I fear may be too popular for its own good.)

    Updated February 18th, 2010 at 02:02 PM by Rnovitske (I can't believe these stupid grammar mistakes!!!)

  3. Post Apocalypse

    by , February 11th, 2010 at 10:14 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "Delay is preferable to error."
    -Thomas Jefferson

    Almost a week after the meet, I was acrobatically dancing around the obstacle course on my living room floor, littered with pink flamingoes, lap counters, clipboards, meet tee shirts, coconuts, backstroke flags, and timer cards. That's one of the perks for being a meet director - your house becomes Public Storage.

    Task 1: Attend to labor relations.
    I was grateful to our board president who took on the 'thank you' job this year and wrote a gracious thank you letter naming volunteers and their tasks. But, of course I needed to supply her with all the names and tasks, carefully weeding out those on the labor rolls who took unscheduled leave at meet time.

    Task 2: Keep swimmers in the loop.
    I posted a thank you message on the web site meet page, and announced that the results would be posted within a week. This year, I posted all the meet workers' names (since I had already compiled that list). This message was also sent out by email to all swimmers in the meet, with a mentioned that no-shows who ordered tee shirts would be receiving them in the mail.

    Task 3: Start the online meet scrapbook.
    About three swimmers immediately sent in some photos. In order to encourage more submissions, I needed to get posted up quickly, giving swimmers something to look at while waiting for the results. This task takes some time - receiving photos, and photoshopping them down to size, correcting color and exposure where necessary. This year, we received some entertaining ones - swimmers standing and practicing starts in the snow, martini glass glasses, and grass skirts among the happy shining faces.

    Task 4: Results.
    The pressing concern was to get those final results posted. Swimmers do not know what work goes on in the background, or how much it takes to finalize results. First, a few days of blurry-eyed reviewing 3 times per splash, 672 individual splashes, along with 4 heats of relays and 2 of coconut relays. About 12 errors were found whereby the middle time was not the one that timers submitted. A few races had only two times listed, requiring averaging. This could have resulted from timer fatigue, from sticky stopwatch fingers on the donuts and bagels, or from being in the potty too long. No USMS records this year to worry about processing.

    Next, another few days of eyeball callisthenics ensued - left, right, left, right. A comparison of all the times on the timer cards with those entered in the computer meet database was made to be sure they were entered accurately. Another 5 or so mistakes were corrected. These were minor mistakes this year, and a few altered the order of finishes. Last year a whopper mistake was found: a 1-minute error in a 100-IM time.

    Once the results were done, yours truly webmaster needed to whip up the web site with results. Let's see, pdf files, html web site files, and meet records updated. Then a submission to the USMS Meet Database and our LMSC site was kicked out. J-Rod contacted me to say my online results did not contain the officials' names and certifications. As per our Rule Book, I have always submitted them to our sanctions chair with the 'official' printed results after past meets, but never posted them on the web site results. I noted that most meet results I saw online did not do this (even the Zone SCM championship), and no one in Potomac Valley ever asked them to be posted online. But no problem to post them, so voila!

    Week One Aftermath was complete. Results were up, and it was time to move on to the other apres-meet duties.

    Updated February 12th, 2010 at 12:46 PM by Rnovitske

  4. Yes Virginia, The Coconuts Are Real

    by , February 7th, 2010 at 08:48 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure."
    -Russell Baker

    On Sunday, we had a swim meet.

    146 out of 189 attended. Usually, about 12-15 do not show up in a normal year. Subtracting those from the signup, we can assume 28 swimmers did not make it due to the snow. Most of them were out of towners - I do not blame them for staying home.

    Here's how meet day went down:

    I arrived at the pool around 7:05. The roads were mostly wet and a little slushy in a few places. The parking lot was cleared of snow. Jane and Michael already had the luau hospitality set up and roaring. The two rookie check-in people were there eager to receive their instructions.

    Michael Boyle from RMST was the first person to show up around 7:15.

    I requested that the pool manager turn off the underwater lights. These are an annoyance to us swimmers during our workouts there - they are like swimming into high beams on a highway.

    First problem - equipment. Again. For a third year in a row. Our Mother Hen head timer stopped by a coach's house to pick up the sound system early that morning because he was sick and snowed in for evening setup the night before. The coach had never bothered to set up the equipment (or pack it up) at home and check things out before handing off to us. Setting up the speakers on meet day, we found there was no power cord for them. Mother Hen offered to drive back to the coach's house to pick up the power cord after a quick phone call to him.

    Needless to state, the music program was obviously screwed up. No music for warmups, at least the beginning. She arrived back a half hour later at 8:00 in time to initiate our warmup music just as the sprint lanes began. Jimmy Buffet and Margaritaville would have to wait until next year.

    Officials showed up on time, were given the timeline, and told that we needed to speed it up if possible. We use one minute between heats as per J-Rod's experience and suggestion, and have been a bit ahead of time in the past.

    The check-in was going well. Teammates brought lots of donations - the luau hospitality room was well stocked. A group of swimmers posed outside in the snow with their swim suits and leis. One even did a start into a snow bank. I printed out the meet records and posted them in the hospitality room. I printed the meet seeding (with deck entries) and posted on the wall. My big meet director's surprise for the meet: our national anthem played on steel drums by the Trinidad and Tobago steel drum band to start things off. I remembered to set out the lap counter cards. We started 5 minutes earlier than the time line. Everything else from then on hummed along.

    After about an hour, we realized that we were ahead of schedule. At the half-way break, we were about 20 minutes ahead. I breathed a sigh of relief. The results were being compiled in a timely manner.

    A few coconuts were placed on the awards table to entice signups for the coconut relay. The reaction was amusing to me. Swimmers would walk up, curiously look at them, cautiously roll them on the table, touch them, pick them up, evaluate their weight. You would think they were looking at alien moon rocks. Yes, the coconuts are real.

    Kelley Lemmon, 97 year old DC Masters member and inductee to the International Hall of Fame showed up and swam his 50 free. After prodding the crowd on the sound system, he received a loud cheer and standing ovation at his finish. He and his friends had asked me not to make a big deal or fuss prior to his swim since he was nervous about his first meet in over 20 years. He was appreciative of the privacy, and of his recognition after the swim. Inspiration was not in short supply.

    The meet ended at 1:20 PM - 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Everyone seemed to have a great time. Several comments after the meet indicated swimmers enjoyed the meet. I will post them later.

    But wait, tranquility is not here yet. There is more work ahead.

    "I will post them later:" are a doll!! Thanks!
    Glad some counties know how to clear the streets!!!! It is still a sheet of ice around here....and of course no school for the kids tomorrow!!!! Maybe I should take up ice skating!!
    I do hope the meet was a success. I had heard that you guys put on a great meet and everyone has a blast....I am so sorry that I had to bag it.
    Thank you for your assistance with the refund! (No t-shirt.)
    Be safe out there and thanks again....hope to see you at the meet here in RH next month... Lisa

    Hi Ray,
    This was my first Tropical Splash ever ! I have heard of it for years, but I am not usually ready to compete in January ! It was tons of fun and of course, having Kelley there was remarkable.
    I have really missed out all these years.
    Thank you for everything ! I saw old friends and met a couple of women who were 60 + in their first meet ever ! They had a blast !
    I am sorry I did not order a t-shirt. Are there any more? If so, I would come pick them up; I live in Arlington. Not sure if Kelley ordered one - I would get him one and one for me as well.
    Thanks again for a beautiful, fun meet which has got me excited to train for National's !
    All the best, Ann

    Thank you for a great meet. The hospitality shown to those who managed to mush their way through the snow was awesome. The tropical theme reminded me of my younger days and brought a smile to my face. The competition was keen and the meet ran flawlessly, in fact I was a little surprised how swiftly it completed. Iʼm looking forward to next yearʼs event.
    Thanks again,Bob

    Hi Ray, So sorry , the weather didnt cooperate for us (MARY- team). We have always enjoyed your meet and the atmosphere it creates..Thanks for
    emailing me back regarding the check...Fondly, Sue

    Thanks for hosting a wonderful meet. We look forward to being there next year.
    Have you considered keeping track of the coconut relay results as a part of the meet records? It's a fun thing for us to look forward to every year and it'd be nice to see progression, I think two teams broke 1:40 this year, which based on what I could see back to 2004 are the fastest times.
    Anyhow just a thought.
    Cheers, John

    Hi - I just wanted to drop you a line and congratulate you on running a great meet! I look forward to TS 2011.
    Best regards, Tony

    Here are some photos I took at the Tropical Splash swim meet from my team. These photos are from the Arlington Masters swim team. I hope you like them. We had 9 swimmers from our team attedning and swimming in the meet. Thanks for hosting such a fun meet. I have swam in this meet for about 5 years now.

    . . . It is a great meet and lots of folks agree with me! It's all the little things you all do that makes it extra special.
    My new swimmers are looking forward to next year (and want to learn to dive & flip now). Thank you so much for all you do! - Ann

    Thank you for a great Tropical Splash meet! As always it is a fun meet and the little tropical touches and spirit of your team are
    wonderful. Michelle

    Ray, Thanks so much for the T-shirt and special attention at the Tropical Splash. I always enjoy swimming in Virginia and seeing my old friends.
    The meet was just great. I liked all the extra decorations (flamingos, fish handing from the backstroke flags). I really liked the meet program, listing the new masters swimmers is a great idea. And how nice to see so many names!!
    And the goodies were great. The Gatorade probably helped me swim better. I was hoping for 3:10 in the 200 breast, so I was really happy with 3:07. My days of under 3 minutes are long gone.
    Thanks again. See you next time I swim in Potomac Valley. Joann

    Updated October 20th, 2010 at 10:14 PM by Rnovitske (meet comments included)

  5. Serenity Now!

    by , February 3rd, 2010 at 08:52 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "Everyone knows I'm in over my head..."
    -The Fray

    Friday. Snow. I stared at the 1-2 inches predicted for Saturday, blinked, and watched it increase to 2-3 inches. Friday night, 3-6 inches. Saturday, 4-6 inches.

    11:00. Snow. The snow began Saturday as the team left our apres-workout coffeehouse. I tripped on down to Office Depot to drop off the meet program for printing, ordering 200 copies. I was pasting the advertiser-sponsor ads in, the day before. We charge $10 for a footer ad, which pays for printing the program. Did the gal in the copy center speak English? Did she understand me? Were there no forms to fill out?

    12:00. Snow. I posted a note to the web page that the meet's fate would be decided sometime in the evening, after evaluation of an updated forecast and of the roads. Emails were sent out looking for a fourth official for the meet.

    1:00. Snow. The flurry of phone calls and emails kept the telecommunications industry in business. Discussion centered on how to get the word out if canceled, refund policies, and rec center pool rental contractual requirements. Calls were made to find a substitute meet official.

    2:00. Snow. The chair movers were scheduled to be at the summer pool at 3:30 to load up chairs onto the rented truck. This was earlier than usual, because the pool guy with the key needed to officiate a regional high school meet in late afternoon.

    Since his meet was canceled, we could start the chair brigade an hour later. Chair workers were notified. Two 'no' answers came in from possible meet officials.

    3:00. Snow. It was decided to proceed with the pool setup as scheduled at 5:20. The hospitality room coordinator needed to leave home, but her swimming husband was not home yet. She asked to come in early before the meet at 6:00 AM. I gave her the pool's phone number and asked to coordinate. She decided to stay home that evening and arrive at the pool early morning to set up her end. A call to our sanction chair seemed to indicate the pool guy could be an official at our meet - his high school certification was acceptable by USMS.

    4:00. Snow. There were 5-inches of snow on my deck. I began clearing the car and loading up the lap counters, flamingoes, tee shirts, awards, hats, coconuts, power strip. The melted snow on the car from earlier that day had frozen to the windshield.

    5:00. Snow. I headed to Office Depot to pick up the meet programs. It was recently closed due to the weather. Were the employees inside having a party and laughing at me frantic knocking on the glass doors in the cold snow? After 5 minutes, one came to the door. I explained the situation, and was told to pick them up tomorrow morning after 10:00.

    I continued knocking. I was going to stay there all night knocking if needed. Another employee came over and told me the register computers were shut down, so I could not check out. I offered to hand over my credit card to charge it tomorrow when the registers started up again. Nope. Then, I dropped the bomb, "I want to speak to the manager."

    I explained the situation a third time. The manager let me in, obtained the copies, and checked me out on the register without talking much, trying to force a disgusted, disapproving look on her face. I will be sure to send a note of thanks.

    5:30. Snow. I arrived at the pool. The chair brigade was there waiting. Their truck would not make into the summer pool's driveway. Rather than risk getting it stuck, it was left at the street. Chairs were carried out, down the driveway through the snow to the street.

    The pool training classes which had kept us from setting up at 5:00 were canceled due to the snow. The canoe, noodles, foam belts and bar bells, kickboards were all cleared off the pool deck. The tables were set up. The few chairs the rec center owned (there are no bleachers) were set up. The lane lines were in. This year, the staff had actually done a lot of the work we were forced to do in the past. Our setup was completed in an hour - a record time.

    7:00. Snow. The snow was beginning to end after 6 inches accumulation. The weather forecast and radar showed it ending. The road crews had all night to clear the roads. I posted to the meet web page that
    the meet was on.

    I packed up the computers and printers for the morning trip, cored a pineapple for the luau hospitality room, set the alarm, and went to bed.

    Updated February 3rd, 2010 at 11:38 AM by Rnovitske