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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. Looking For Earmarks

    by , November 16th, 2009 at 09:22 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it.
    -George W. Bush

    This coming Sunday night is the next club Board of Directors meeting where the meet budget will (hopefully) be approved. This year the sequence of the meet planning is out of whack. Normally in the past, the meet budget is first submitted to the board for approval, then the meet entry and fees are sent in for sanction.

    The 2010 budget projects a profit a little higher than last year's. I sent the budget to the board for approval last week expecting an OK. Not. A board meeting was scheduled for Sunday night. The board now wants to take a closer look, - I think they are searching for pork and earmarks to cut.

    This year, the board is busy playing catch up: making decisions on things that have already happened, or putting out fires. The meet was a long way off at the last board meeting in September, so no directors were thinking about it with the fires burning. (You can tell that I am not on the board.) It was noted at the meeting that we need a meet director assigned in order to get the meet sanctioned, in order to get it publicized. Since I brought up the subject and there was little time to do a professional executive search, I got expediently assigned meet director for 2010.

    Our budget is simply a list of projected income and expenses. The amounts are based on our past experiences. This year we budget 155 swimmers entering 3.5 events, buying 45 tee shirts. I predict that the tee shirt sales may be down from previous meets due of economic belt-tightening. The average events entered per swimmer has been about 3.5 events. (I would count my 200-IM as .5 event.) The number of swimmers has climbed steadily after taking a year off for pool renovations:
    - 2004 - 113 entries / 34 tee shirts sold
    - 2005 - 155 / 49 tees (snowstorm year)
    - 2006 (pool closed)
    - 2007 - 142 / 51 tees
    - 2008 - 146 / 51 tees
    - 2009 - 167 / 56 tees

    The entry fee is based on expenses that we would incur if we had to cancel the meet and send refunds. Generally, it covers pool rental, food, postage for refunds, and some rental of equipment. However, if the cancellation is due to weather, the pool rental, the biggest expense, might be refunded by the county.

    The event fee is just what we want to charge based on going rates, and covers other expenses such as awards, officials, and profit. Since we don't have the best facility in the region, we keep it at $5. (That facility inferiority complex keeps coming through this blog, or maybe it's jealousy and envy.) If the meet was cancelled, these fees would be refunded to swimmers.

    We borrow the sound system, starting system, lap counter cards, chairs, and some stopwatches. In the first meet, each organization doing the lending (high school swim team and local swim teams) received a $30 donation from us as a thank you. This has become traditional, although the practice went overboard last year. We budgeted four organizations lending equipment. Meet workers couldn't secure all the equipment from each source as planned (or in time), so on their own went to several others. The end result was that we borrowed equipment from a lot more sources, requiring a lot more $30 checks after the meet.

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    Budget.

    Updated November 16th, 2009 at 09:31 AM by Rnovitske

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  2. Caught Up In The Web

    by , November 11th, 2009 at 08:40 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "Study the past if you would define the future."
    -Confucius

    Raising the Standards
    Again, decisions on this meet were based on my experiences and ideas on swim meets. Another area where a new approach was taken was in the meet web page. Until our first meet, the only meet web pages I saw were for a local meet with a few links given, and for Nationals. Since there was a lot of information I wanted swimmers to have access to (that I seldom had for meets I entered), and since most swimmers had internet access, I wanted to take the meet web page to a new level. I gave our meet its own web page with its own menu of links and created an extravaganza!

    Information from the meet announcement was copied onto the page in the same order so it was easy for swimmers to correlate the two if needed. Leveraging the web, URL's in the meet announcement were replaced with actual hyperlinks on the web page.

    First, the menu contained a link to the entry form, a pdf file, and next, a link to the swimmers' entry status. After entering a meet, I want to know if my entry was received and everything was OK. Our status page lists all swimmers' entries received to date and their status (either OK, or something wrong with their entry.) Past problems included wrong or missing registration card, no tee shirt size given, not enough or too much payment, unsigned release of liability, and entering too many events. Of course the meet director needs to notify the culprits and ask them to make good. The status page also indicates who else is coming (your friends and foes) and how many slots are left in the restricted 500-free (more on this later.)

    Years ago, a fellow teammate and I went to a Thanksgiving meet nearby and ordered and paid for the meet tee shirt. It was OK. Next year, he ordered a shirt at the meet, I did not. Upon arrival, he was proudly given a light brown shirt with sh#@ brown 'Times New Roman' lettering and ads across the back. I joked about it all the way home, and felt relieved that I had not spent money on the shirt that year. Ordering a meet tee shirt was like rolling the dice. We included a web page link to our meet tee shirt design to let swimmers see the design before plunking down their money. You should only do this if you have a good tee shirt design. I noticed one Albatross Open (who always has good shirt designs) started doing this last year, too.

    Once again, the web was leveraged for the next link. Directions to the New World were given in a graphic map, as well as in a link to an interactive Google map. No one was going to get lost and show up late to our meet.

    Meg Smath from Kentucky put together a document that was distributed to first time competitors at her LMSC meet. I thought this was a great idea since we were reaching out to the first time competitor who may not know what to expect or plan for. Some swimmers may have been familiar with USA, college, or dual meets, but not Masters. There were a few surprises at my first USMS meet (Reston Masters SCM with warmups around 6:45 AM.) Meg's directives were condensed, revising some advice specific to our meet, and uploaded as My First Meet for our newbies.

    For some reason while putting the web page together, an idea flashed into my brain - usually they only leak out. I thought it would be good to allow swimmers to post their photos of the meet on our meet page. The friendly meet scrapbook showing shiny happy people was developed. Meet participants now send in their smiling faces each year. File sizes are reduced and pasted in the online scrapbook so others can see how much fun they missed.

    On the first meet's web page, I included a short background midi music file (low file size) that played once. Two teammates responded. One said the sound was normally turned off on his computer. The other said she worked at the Library of Congress and viewed the meet page at work, alerting her fellow workers to that fact when the music started up. I included another background music file only once since.

    No other swimmers commented on the music or web page then or since. However, these were the first clues to swimmers that our first meet was going to be a bit different.

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    If you do a meet page to encourage entries, leverage the web's interactive and linking abilities to your advantage

    Updated November 12th, 2009 at 02:46 PM by Rnovitske (grammar)

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  3. Numero Uno

    by , November 10th, 2009 at 06:59 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Doveryai, no proveryai (Trust, but verify)
    -Russian proverb
    First entry received

    The first entry to the 2010 Tropical Splash was received! I stopped by the post office box this weekend and there was one entry from a Germantown Masters swimmer. I think this is the earliest a swimmer has ever registered; usually entries start trickling in around Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, he attached a copy of his 2009 registration card that will be invalid at meet time in 2010. I contacted him by email and asked him to send a pdf of his card after he renews.

    Hosting a meet so close after the beginning of the year, we were expecting this problem, and we were not disappointed. In the past meets, about 20% of all entries received did not have a current USMS card. Entries would arrive with outdated registration cards, with or without explanations. The ones with no cards attached always had a guilty explanation. In order of popularity:
    • My renewal was sent in but I am still waiting for my card.
    • I thought I could just bring a copy to the meet. (Of course, and hold up the check-in and make us keep track of you until then)
    • No card, but here's my USMS number (The number is from last year, and I need your DOB, USMS club, and USMS name)
    • I sent it in to my club treasurer but she won't forward it until she has a batch to send in. (And did you tell her you need it to enter a meet?)
    • I lost my card and need to get another or find it (So soon after renewing????)
    • Sorry, I copied the wrong registration card. (Why do you keep your old one?)
    • My registration is with Egypt (the country)

    This usually created more work for the meet director: keeping a list of swimmers who need to submit valid cards and contacting them by email or telephone to arrange a method for receiving it. Try playing Sherlock Holmes when their email and phone number are left off the entry. Loads of fun. Being such a nice guy, (my philosophy is that we were HOST to the swimmers and as a HOST, should try to be gracious and as accommodating as possible) I usually allowed them to fax it to me and would attach it to their entry form. Some would send it in the mail if there was enough time.

    Still others were so late to sign up that they needed to bring a copy of their card to the meet check-in. This would make a good VISA commercial - everything is humming along at check-in and some dolt steps up to pay or copy their card, causing the entire process to disintegrate.

    J-Rod, our LMSC registrar, made updated registration info a bit easier to get in the Cretaceous Period before online registration. He would update an online list of pertinent info of Potomac Valley swimmers that only meet directors had access to - a BIG help in checking out cardless excuses. For our meet, he updated it almost daily. I usually found the late renewals here and copied their info into the meet before a copy of their card arrived. I also copied the page for our meet archives since rules state that evidence of USMS registration is necessary. I have also been known to contact a few neighboring LMSC registrars to get the scoop on their late bloomers not fortunate enough to belong to Potomac Valley.

    I had to check into that Egypt entry. Yes, a Egypt Masters swimmer could enter the meet. No, I do not report his times to USMS. Good thing because I did not know his LMSC. I could not read Arabic to determine the expiration date on his card. A Syrian friend eventually translated it for me - it was from the previous year - expired. Why did that not surprise me. We did get him squared away before the meet.

    Last year the renewal clouds parted and the savior arrived and his name was Club Assistant. The new USMS online registration made 'it's in the mail' excuses invalid. In minutes, swimmers could renew online, receive a pdf copy of their card, and print it out to enter the meet. The expired-registration card entries dropped to about 5% of the total. Those that tried some excuse received a quick infraction notice from me that included a web address to renew, and my email address to send their pdf card to.

    One more note on registrations. J-Rod also advised me at our first meet to have a LMSC registration form on hand at the meet in case someone needed to register there in order to swim, along with neighboring Maryland and Virginia registration forms. Only once in 2008 did someone need it to register at the meet check-in.

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    • Don't host a meet at the beginning of the year
    • Decide if you want to be a wicked director of the west, or a good director from the north

    Updated November 10th, 2009 at 07:08 PM by Rnovitske

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  4. Proper Form

    by , November 9th, 2009 at 10:58 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "I could say things with color and shapes that I could not say any other way - things I had no words for."
    -Georgia O'Keefe
    Meet Entry
    Entry Form


    The last step in getting the sanction this year was to submit the meet entry form. Since essentially the same form is used each year, only minor modifications need to be made: '2009' dates changed to '2010,' and some fonts and colors changed. Of course after Eric gave us our sanction, I realized one of the dates did not get changed on the form sent to him for approval, or maybe he wanted to restrict to masters swimmers with an expired registration. It was corrected before uploading to the web site.

    THE FIRST MEET ENTRY FORM
    The entry form was another area where I took a fresh approach. I wanted a stylish, more user-friendly form than other meets had. It was a brand new meet and we needed to grab attention. Most meet directors will launch Microsoft Word, and after the Times New Roman font comes up, start typing. I picked up a typeface from a font web site for the Tropical Splash title that shouted fun, lively, and 'tropical.' It happened to be named Ultimatum (as in ransom notes). OK, no one needs to know that. This would become the branded logo title for our subsequent meets.

    Next, I saw that every meet entry was black text on white. I wanted to convey a message that our meet was going to be different and colorful. Since we dream in color (except for those 'Times New Roman' meet directors), the title used tropical colors. (The first meet always seemed a dream to me until two events jolted it into reality - to be discussed later.) Tropical sun-washed colors look great on a Bermuda house, but are difficult to read on a white background. The second attempt at a colorful meet entry looked like I did it while tripping on acid (like some people's blog colors.) Too much of a good thing. I eventually got the balance of colors right.

    Subject headings were colored and used another fun-looking font. In fact, each year the smaller headings font is changed, again, to try to keep the meet fresh (although most people probably do not notice this subtle change.) Times Roman with its serifs was too formal looking, and our meet was going to be fun and informal, so the rest of the meet entry used sans-serif Arial font.

    I wanted enough space in the blanks for swimmers to write information without crowding into another line, and I wanted to be able to read it, therefore, an adequate line spacing was given to do so. Handwriting consideration turned out to be important, given that most people ask their chickens to fill in their entry forms. And, some swimmers make up their minds after seed times and events are already scratched in.

    Again, my experience ruled the decisions on this meet:
    Ever searched through an entire entry form to find if the meet was SCM or SCY? (Keep 'em guessing.) Our SCY course would be listed at the top of the page. In addition, the events would be 50-yd xxx instead of just 50 xxx.

    Did you ever leave a meet early because it lasted longer than anyone imagined? We placed an estimated end time on the entry form.

    "Staple your card here" was the instruction on some entry forms, although the space alloted was smaller than a cracker. Ample space was given on our form after measuring a USMS card.

    Where does the entry get sent? Who is the check made out to? What is the deadline? Instead of forcing swimmers to play "Where's Waldo" on the entry form, this important info was placed in an area set aside at the bottom of our page. And in keeping with Potomac Valley tradition, a two page document using a full page of info and full page for the entry was assembled.

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    • Try filling out and attaching your card to your own meet entry form (or test on others) before forcing swimmers to do so.
    • Graphically style your entry form to match the character of your meet.

    Updated November 10th, 2009 at 07:08 AM by Rnovitske

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  5. May I Take Your Order

    by , November 6th, 2009 at 07:45 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order"
    - Alfred North Whitehead
    Meet Entry
    Event Order


    Our next step this year was to finalize the meet entry and submit it with our application to receive our sanction. The meet entry first designed and developed during our initial meet has remained essentially the same each year since.

    When the procedures, policies, etc. were first put together for the meet, I decided (since I was the first director) to design and run a meet the way I thought it should be. Although not a meet-aholic, I did have some definite ideas on how not to run a meet based on what saw at our local ones. The order of events was one item to take a fresh new look at.

    First, I like to swim all breaststroke distances, so I wanted all stroke events to be spread out. I attend a local SCM meet every spring where two breaststroke events are separated by only one event, despite hitting the meet directors over the head every year to get them to move one of them. I did not want anyone whining at our meet, so the order was developed to benefit those who like to swim all three distances of one stroke.

    Second, some swimmers like to swim all 50s, and some nuts like to swim all 200s. These were spread out to allow swimmers to do so. Since the 500-free tends to drag on and is popular (we were the only Potomac Valley SCY meet offering this event), it was placed first to get it out of the way. If it was last, a lot of people would leave before the end of the meet out of boredom. The best attempt was made to separate stroke events from IM events, since almost every IMer has at least one good stroke event to swim.

    Ever been to a meet where you did not sign up for two events because they were too close to one another, and then discovered at the meet that there was a break between them? Our break in the middle of the meet would be clearly indicated on the meet entry to prevent those surprises.

    We planned the coconut relay for the end of the meet, and wanted swimmers to stick around to enter it. I tried a little meet engineering and swimmer manipulation. With the 50-free being the most popular race, it was placed as the next to last event, to keep a large number of swimmers around for the fun relay. The last event was the 400-IM to give the awards table time to enter the previous 50-free results.

    One final note about the event order. All local meets I attend have the same event order year after year after year after year. Unfortunately, this prevents me from trying certain events because they are too close to my prime events. Our Tropical Splash event order is changed every year. A few events like 500 and 50-free and relays remain constant in our order, but all others are rearranged annually to keep the meet fresh, and to give swimmers a chance to try other events.

    This year after the order was finalized and sent in for the sanction, I took another look. There were more longer events in the first half and more shorter ones in the second half. Oh well, maybe this year I will get our first complaints about the meet order. And maybe the sprinters will stick around to the end to "swim with the 'nuts."

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    • Come up with some way to keep the meet fresh every year.
    • Come up with a good event order (or end up discouraging swimmers from entering.)

    Updated November 10th, 2009 at 06:58 AM by Rnovitske

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  6. Measure For Measure

    by , November 2nd, 2009 at 11:03 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top"
    -Dag Hammarskjold
    The second step in getting the meet off the ground this year was to submit our application to the LMSC for a sanction. In the first year, the George Washington Rec Center pool needed to be measured to verify the length, since to our knowledge, there were no USA measurements on file. Some pools have USA Swimming measurements on file, making this step unnecessary. The LMSC loaned a long tape to us for the purpose. There were no real instructions on how to do this as I recall, except that the length of each lane needed to be recorded, gutter to gutter at the water surface.

    Oh, what a pain. During our measurement, the tape was consistently pulled tight for a measurement and out of someone's hands. Then, we stretched it across a few floating kickboards. Several people would need to hold the kickboards in one place ot keep them and the tape from floating out of line.

    Of course we were getting a longer measurement than the pool actually was, with the sagging between boards. So, we started with the kickboards lined up, then gradually took them away to get a tight level tape and took the readings. What surprised me was the fact the at the measurements varied by an inch or more from lane to lane. All lanes measured out a bit longer than the 75 feet requirement, but a few by only a couple of Michael Phelps butterfly finishes.

    We only measured lanes #2-7 that we planned to use in the meet. Information was submitted to the LMSC, and the pool's measurement record was accepted into the file. If we wanted to use lane 1 in the future, we would need to measure that lane I assume, and revise our pool measurement record. Measure all lanes in the pool, even if there is no plan on using them in competition, allowing their possible use in the future. This year, when we submitted our sanction request, we only noted that the pool was measured in the past and the results were on file.

    In the first meet, we copied the sanction language exactly as the USMS Rule Book stated. However, the LMSC sanction chairperson had other ideas. She wrote back that she wanted it stated a little bit differently. I guess it was personal preference. We have used her language in all meet entries since.

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    • Plan on lots of time to measure a pool using a tape, and have floating kickboards ready.
    • Measure all lanes in a pool, even if you do not plan on using them in competition.

    Updated November 10th, 2009 at 07:02 AM by Rnovitske

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  7. It's a Date

    by , October 31st, 2009 at 06:03 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Spring 2009

    The first step in this swimming year's meet was to pick the date. We generally aim for the last Sunday in January, but February 1 or 2 was selected in some years. Our first meet was held February 1 because it was the only Sunday open to us. After selecting that date, someone looked at the calendar: it was also Super Bowl Sunday. Gulp.

    Aiming to use the meet to raise funds for the team, some argued that the meet would be a financial turkey because we were competing with the Super Bowl. Their belief was that no one would attend the meet on the same day due to Super Bowl party planning and travel. Others (myself and those who compete in meets) argued that it made no difference. The Super Bowl was actually in the late afternoon and evening, and our meet was in the morning. We won the argument, and our first meet ended up attracted 113 entries. Other meets scheduled on Super Bowl Sundays had no drop in attendance.

    Picking a day in early January was considered but rejected. It was too close to the Christmas-New Year holiday when many swimmers (yours truly) are not looking for competition while coming down off the Christmas high. It was also too close to the annual membership renewal deadline, so many swimmers would not have their current USMS registration. Martin Luther King weekend is not good due to mini vacations and activities.

    This year we picked January 31. In the past four years, we have requested our date in the spring when we submit the team's annual request for workout lanes to the county parks & recreation department for the upcoming year. This way we choose the date, rather than plan around the kayak class or the blue-haired ladies [10/24/09 post]. Now they plan around our schedule.
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  8. Sprint Classic Memoirs

    by , October 27th, 2009 at 08:52 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    OK. A little diversion from the meet director blog posts. Since everyone else is bragging . . . Overall I had a few good races, and one train wreck. These are my Sprint Classic bullets.
    • This was my first 5-event meet (plus two 25's)
    • This was the first time in my life (3 years high school, 11 years masters) I got DQed. Thank you, I will always remember the Sprint Classic.
    • Continued to knock down my 50-hack time by almost a second (PR) over last year's Sprint Classic.
    • Better 100-breast and 100-IM than last year's SC
    • Bested last year's 25-breast
    • Beat my arch-enemy in one event and tied in one
    I have not been training for this meet, and certainly not the 200-IM. I have never entered this in masters in my life (except for one stupid LCM moment). My meet entry had a blank where there were no seed times listed, and I heard the 200-IM calling me.

    All through the morning I dreaded the race, and since Chio scratched her 200-IM, I thought this a sign from above for me to do the same. But no wimps here.

    After the first leg, I was toast. The brain was whole wheat by the time of the breast turn, and one arm started a freestyle pull as if in a 100-IM. DQ souvenir. Could not catch my breath, and ended up with no pullouts on the breast turns, open turn on the free, and too close to the wall on all the others. I could hear my name being shouted - somebody was actually witnessing this. No hiding in end lane 8. I vow to enter this again before I age up in May, at Tropical Splash or a Maryland meet, and do it right.

    I dedicated 2009 as the year of the hackstroke. (Reminder that only dead fish swim on their backs.) The dedication during workouts paid off, overall dropping about 2 seconds on the 50 hack this year, and 8 seconds on the 100. (There was a lot of room for improvement.) Not all came with breaststroke (double arm) cheating on my back. It's still 10-seconds slower than my 100-breast.

    Starts and turns in other events felt good, including my best hackstroke start ever. 25-fly felt smokin. Water temperature was normal (not the icebox that Geroge Mason usually is) which I think helped me stay warm and loose between races.
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  9. Genesis, part iii

    by , October 24th, 2009 at 10:00 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    “Let the will be set on the path of duty. Let every attainment in what is good be firmly grasped."
    -Confucius

    Origins of the Tropical Splash
    2003 Recollections


    WHAT!!??
    The pool manager was contacted to review times and procedures for the meet. We met to compare notes. This is when I learned that there was an aquatics class in session that utilized the deep end of the pool while our meet would be going on.

    I don't know what the class was, but I imagined blue-haired ladies wearing foam belts, bobbing up and down with foam barbells in their hands; Masters swimmers shouting on deck on three sides surrounding them; and someone sprinting butterfly in the lane next to them. Not knowing what a masters meet was all about, the pool manager assumed it would be similar to a USA Swimming dual meet, with about 40-50 swimmers (and all you need is love to get along with the blue-haired ladies.)

    Although the pool was willing to go through with it, I felt the arrangement was unacceptable, and would result in lots of complaints afterwards. If the class (whatever it was) complained, we might not be allowed to hold a meet again (thinking of the future and the possibility that the meet would become an annual event.)

    We discussed alternate times and alternate dates, but nothing worked. So the Blue-Gray Battle was history before being fought.

    Deflated, we thought about using one of the other pools. George Washington Rec Center was a 25yd x 25yd pool that did not receive a lot of use from the public or from rentals. It opened on Sundays at 1:00 PM, allowing us to have the pool to ourselves in the morning. Its deficiencies included small locker rooms and parking lot, small deck space, and no seating.

    We talked to the pool manager. There was a boat rental (canoe class) using the pool every other Sunday morning, and the last Sunday in January was theirs. This left us the first Sunday in February (the previous Sunday was a holiday weekend, and parents home entertaining kids would not be competing in a meet - they would be skiing and shopping we were advised.) And, the pool manager was willing to let us rent the pool as individual lanes - cheaper than renting at the 'entire facility' fee. The manager would be getting rental income from a time that the pool was normally closed, so he was happy.

    There were about 40 plastic deck chairs at the pool. Three of our team members were on the board of a summer outdoor pool where we hold summer workouts, and offered up their deck chairs to use during the meet. I counted 144 parking spaces and 128 men's lockers in working order. Seemed like enough for a meet. We agreed to hold the meet February 1.

    After a Saturday workout, we met as usual at the local cafe and developed the framework for the Tropical Splash - a fun meet with a tropical theme as a way to beat the winter blues. (A civil war battle theme seemed blasphemous at George Washington's pool.) The cannonball relay was converted to the coconut relay. In many many ways, the possibilities of a tropical meet were superior to the Blue-Gray Battle.

    And that's the convoluted history and background of how our meet was born. Next up... the decisions and details for this year's meet.

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    • Don't ever count yourself out - find a way.
    • Look beyond the obvious end - it is not the end

    Updated November 10th, 2009 at 07:03 AM by Rnovitske

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  10. Genesis, part ii

    by , October 22nd, 2009 at 12:49 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    “The superior man bends his attention to what is radical. That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up."
    -Confucius
    Origins of the Tropical Splash
    2003 Recollections


    WHAT
    Our Lee Rec Center did not have an automatic timing system, so manual stopwatch timing by volunteers was needed. We would run 8 lanes for competition, and leave the two lanes near the deep diving end for warmups. Lanes were standard width, water depth varied from about 9-feet to 4-feet.

    Although they were not yet crumbling, the county facilities were built decades ago and were managed and maintained without swim competitions in mind. With nearby George Mason University, Montgomery Aquatic Center, and University of Maryland pools hosting meets, we did not see our aging facilities as a big draw. We needed to rely on something else to attract meet entries.

    The super swimmers serious about their Top Ten times and national rankings were not going to flock to our minimum standards pool. So, the decision was made to pitch the meet to the new swimmer; the over-the-counter swimmer; the blue-collar swimmer. These are the everyday swimmers who slosh through their weekly workouts between kids' activities, work, spouses, and errands, but still keep on swimming. There were more of them than the elite swimmers, so there should be a bigger pool of possible entries. We were going after the swimmer who did not like to compete in meets.

    Now, does this sound really stupid or what? Raise money by hosting a meet for people that did not go to meets.

    Why didn't they like meets - we asked around our team. The answers came back as: Emphasis on competition; Not fun; Boring; Too much pressure. We decided to plan a meet where competition and pressure and boredom were eliminated, and a good time prevailed. We were going to plan a FUN meet! This is when our creativity (normally only released with illegal substance abuse) kicked in, and the Blue-Gray Meet was hatched.

    We were going to make competition fun. Being at Lee Rec Center (of General Robert E. Lee fame), we decided to host a meet where swimmers from DC, Maryland, and points north would swim for a Blue team, and swimmers from Virginia and points south would be the Gray team. We would award tchotchkes to all team members from the winning team. The regular individual awards would be custom blue and gray war medals. We would give a special souvenir tee shirt to swimmers making this their first meet. We would have a fun 'cannonball' relay where swimmers would swim with the plastic colored 'cannonballs' found in a basket at the kids end of the pool.

    The meet entry form was developed (click image) to submit with our sanction request form, complete with the proper wording of the release of liability found in the Rule Book. The pool manager was contacted to review times and procedures for the meet, and then the bomb . . .
    [2b continued]

    BOOK OF WISDOM:
    Arrange and firm up the pool, procedures, rules, and rental before doing or planning anything.

    Updated November 10th, 2009 at 07:04 AM by Rnovitske

    Categories
    Uncategorized
  11. Genesis, part i

    by , October 20th, 2009 at 11:45 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    “If a man take no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.”
    -Confucius
    Origins of the Tropical Splash
    2003 Recollections

    WHY
    In 2003, our team ended the fall-winter season with a $2800 budget deficit. We survived going into the spring and summer seasons by virtue of a loan, and by paying obligations with income from the next season. We made progress at chipping away the deficit, but we needed a fundraiser and a swim meet was one possibility.

    Over the summer, our county rec center pools were contacted to determine the rental cost for a meet. We chatted with officials and other meet directors during local meets. The USMS Rule Book was scrutinized, especially the sections about meet conduct and facilities.

    In looking at other meet programs, it was determined that swimmers enter an average of 3 events in a local meet. Prices we got for pool rental, officials, program printing, awards, etc were assembled into a spreadsheet blender, and voila! We could wipe out our remaining deficit with a swim meet. Ga-ching!

    It was believed that holding a meet brought a certain respect and prominence to our team, and might help with attracting more members. Well, some people thought that. I believed the 'vice-presidential selection theory' applied - a good meet would do no good, but a bad meet would be disastrous.

    WHEN
    We did not want to compete with another meet in our LMSC, and decided to stay away from the months where established meets existed, leaving 7 months to choose from. We were considering one of three SCY pools, so the LCM season was out, leaving 5 months. We did not want to compete with Nationals or Zones, leaving 3 months. We did not want the meet at the start of our Fall season, leaving 2 months - January and February. February had 2-day SCY meets in next door Virginia and Maryland LMSC's, leaving January as the only option.

    Years before, we sent swimmers to a January SCY meet at Wilson High School in Washington DC. The meet was in a decrepit pool, had limited volunteers, and had dwindling participants each year. (As an aside, my 100 breast at the meet had 3 timers - with a 2-second spread among them. I think it was the 8-year old timer that threw off the results.) This meet was discontinued a year earlier, and some of us thought we could revive that date on the meet calendar and take its place. There were no other meets in January to compete with.

    WHERE
    Our club swims at three different Fairfax County rec centers. Upon evaluation, each facility had serious flaws for a local Masters swim meet. We settled on Lee District Rec Center, a 50-meter x 25-yard mama with ample lockers, parking, bleachers and deck space. It was always set up in the middle as a SCY course (no movable bulkheads). Its problems included the need for a floating platform for the starter, and a long walk around the deep end for officials working one side of the pool. The backstroke flags were 20-feet in the air, suspended from the rafters, and each was a slightly different distance from the wall.

    With the date and pool set and financial due diligence complete, we proudly started the planning . . .
    [2B continued]

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    • A realistic budget with real costs determines if the meet is financially viable.
    • Before selecting a date, know what your meet's competition is (more on this later).

    Updated November 10th, 2009 at 07:05 AM by Rnovitske

    Categories
    Uncategorized
  12. In the Hot Seat

    by , October 18th, 2009 at 11:22 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    September 20
    Board of Directors Meeting.


    The board requested that I take the meet directorship again for the 2010 meet. Admittedly in some ways, I would like the job again. There is a satisfaction at running a successful meet where many swimmers enjoy the meet, express gratitude and a desire to return, and do so the next year. And maybe I am afraid that someone else will screw things up, discouraging swimmers from returning again.

    But on the other hand, I would like to swim in the meet as a participant. I found it mentally and physically difficult to do so a few years ago when I tried.

    As meet director, I signed up to swim the breaststroke events. All three races were disasters, with the 200 breast race the worst. I was unable to do a pullout at the last turn, having run out of steam, even though there was plenty at the pool. . .

    This was the year the water temperature clocked in at a tropical 88 degrees. I like to blame my poor races on the water temperature. But it was also mentally hard to run around the event ensuring things were running correctly, and then jump into the hot water warmup lane, loosen up, and swim a race. I decided to give up trying to swim and direct at the same meet.

    The pool manager was told in no uncertain terms that if the water ended up this way again for our meet, we would rent another pool. One thing that Fairfax County pool managers hate more than the seniors complaining about the cold water temperature is the loss of revenue. Since then, that manager has moved on, and new managers for the subsequent meets have been very cooperative and working with us to solve problems (like the water temperature.)

    BOOK OF WISDOM
    Only Superman and Wonder Woman can swim in the same meet they are managing.

    Updated October 21st, 2009 at 12:07 AM by Rnovitske (color)

    Categories
    Planning
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