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From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey

  1. Thank You

    by , September 25th, 2015 at 02:44 AM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    My wife Alli asked me, “Are you sure? You have poured your heart into USMS and given so much. You love it and have so many relationships. We’d like to have you home more but we’ll be fine if this isn’t what you want to do.” The topic was whether I was going to leave USMS for the Swim Across America opportunity.

    I vividly remember the USMS Executive Director interview process. It was intense, more mentally challenging than any exams I took in grad school. To the selection committee’s credit, an intense interview process was both intentional and necessary—whoever was hired as executive director was taking on a responsibility that was much greater than simply finding office space and beginning to generate new revenue through sponsorship sales.

    Leading USMS is both science and art. The science part is fairly easy to quantify. Our logo was outdated so we created a new one that presents a more inclusive image. We created a Masters Coach certification program that reaches more than 500 coaches each year. Our magazine had been outsourced and wasn’t meeting our quality standards so we brought it in-house to have full control. We now measure member satisfaction as it relates to SWIMMER magazine, and many other programs, ensuring their relevancy.

    The art of leading USMS, however, requires a very different skill set. Leading a nonprofit is not for the faint of heart. With boards that have term limits, turnover of the nonprofit leadership typically occurs somewhere in the three-to five-year range, so the original board that’s done the hiring is leaving and a new board comes in with its own ideas and visions of a leader.

    Nonetheless, I showed a “fire in the belly” during the interview process and was hired. My charge was to implement a transformation process from a mostly volunteer-operated organization to one that would be professionally managed. Since USMS had been volunteer-operated for more than three decades, the transformation was not going to be overnight. And surely there would be speed bumps and even some brick walls.

    In my eighth year as executive director, I reflect with pride on my time spent leading USMS. I am most proud of the National Office team we’ve assembled. They are passionate. They don’t have culture-destroying egos. Every day they ask “What can we do to make USMS better?”

    And the scoreboard displays their many accomplishments. In Lane 3 are our member programs, which have increased our retention rates to nearly 70%; Lane 4 is our education group, which is helping coaches and instructors deliver a better Masters Swimming experience for members across the country; Lane 5 are our communications and publications, from SWIMMER magazine to our digital content that inspires and encourages adults to swim; and Lane 6 is our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, which is providing adult learn-to-swim opportunities in communities across the country.

    So if all is going well—and I survived the five-year mark with a new board supportive of my leadership—why leave?

    My ethos is faith, family, and then career. Although there will be travel for Swim Across America, I will be home more with my family and remain within driving distance of Alli’s and my extended families. Our twins are four years old. In a blink, they’ll be off to college.

    I evaluate my career options on several criteria: Is it a mission that I believe in? Is the culture a mutual fit? Is it a place I can grow and see myself making sustained positive contributions? To Alli’s question, after thoughtful consideration, my answer was yes.

    I care deeply for USMS. I wake up every morning thankful that USMS and my life intersected. We found each other at the right time. I will forever cherish the relationships, stories, and accomplishments we’ve made and I will continue to be an enthusiastic ambassador for Masters Swimming.


    Footnote: My last day as executive director will be December 31, 2015 providing time for me to help USMS find a successor and transition knowledge.

    Updated September 25th, 2015 at 02:49 AM by Rob Butcher

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