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

  1. LMSC Leadership Summit: Observations from the Last Row

    by , March 26th, 2015 at 10:33 PM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    Last summer, I was on the phone with Gail Dummer, the chair of the Michigan Local Masters Swimming Committee. A longtime USA Swimming and USMS volunteer, Gail suggested USMS create a leadership summit for our LMSC chairs. Like the character Rod Tidwell says to Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire, “You had me (and USMS President Nadine Day) at hello.”

    The inaugural USMS LMSC Leadership Summit was held March 13 through 15 in Phoenix and 41 of our 52 LMSCs sent representatives. Summit objectives included networking, exchange of ideas, education, communication, motivation, recognizing volunteers, and understanding governance. Sitting in the back row, I observed three things:

    1. This first LMSC Leadership Summit was a significant undertaking that required an extraordinary team effort. The 11-member task force responsible for the planning and execution included chairs from large, medium, and small LMSCs. They came from the east coast and the west coast. Some are fitness swimmers and some are competitive. The task force was diverse. Healthy debate took place during the planning stages, and the task force members espoused the USMS values of respect and fun. They consciously listened, keeping their egos in check, both individually and as a group: The first agenda item of the planning task force was to survey our 52 LMSCs asking for input, suggestions, and ideas to shape the summit agenda. The desired outcome for the summit weekend was a conversation between our LMSC leaders, not a weekend lecture from the pulpit.

    2. Serving Masters Swimming programs, members, coaches, and instructors is a partnership, with all the partners having responsibilities in the relationship. The National Office can’t do it all and neither can the LMSCs. We are each entrusted with resources that allow us to serve and advance our vision to be the premiere resource for adult swimming and to make fitness through swimming available for as many adults as possible. We can only fulfill this vision through a commitment to and respect for our partnership.

    3. Many LMSCs have relatively new volunteer leaders and more are seeking new leadership. Another generation of leaders is emerging. Building upon successes of past leaders, the new ones are socializing and pioneering ideas to grow Masters Swimming. Our culture is evolving, and these committed and passionate leaders are excited to share their love of swimming with our members and invite others to join us and start their own Masters Swimming journeys.

    Many thanks to the 54 volunteers who gave up time from their families and swimming activities to attend our first LMSC Leadership Summit. And one final observation: I’m confident that Masters Swimming will reap many dividends from the Summit experience.
  2. The Swim Whisperer

    by , February 25th, 2015 at 12:54 AM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    “Swim whisperer.” This is what I call someone who can calmly and maturely communicate with an upset member and turn a negative communication into a positive one.

    I was included in a recent email exchange between a member and an LMSC chair. The member was initially antagonistic, and the chair took the time to respond in a personal and respectful manner. This response turned things around dramatically and the previously upset member, in kind, responded in a mature and thoughtful way after seeing the chair’s “swim whisperer” response.

    Dear [USMS Member],
    I was forwarded your comment on your USMS registration: “$47!?!? What a scam!” and I was requested to give you a reply. I’m sorry you feel this way toward the membership. You registered with [ABC] club, so I assume you swim with [ABC]. I suspect you pay more in a month for parking at the pool than the USMS registration. [ABC] club will not let us use their pool without a registered and insured organization—that is just one thing USMS provides. The insurance is only valid if all the Masters swimmers are registered with USMS. This insurance not only protects the facility and coaches (some who are volunteering to coach you), but provides liability insurance for the swimmers if they have no other insurance. You’d certainly pay more for a membership at the [XYZ] club (very expensive), or the … YMCA for $53/month. Of course, you may be able to find some pools that have free admission (lifeguards paid by taxes ... when they can be open for their limited hours and likely no coach or other adults too support you).

    I usually feel insurance is a scam, too—no question it’s a “for big profit” business. But USMS offers much more than that. Our Masters Swimming programs are geared for adults who want to swim with others, swim for fitness, swim for competition, swim just to learn to be safer in the water, and we think it’s a benefit to have knowledgeable coaches on deck. When you travel, there’s a network of USMS programs around the country where you can swim with others. You also get a bimonthly magazine with swim information, swimming tips, health tips, and more, and a monthly eNewsletter. You can go online to usms.org and create a fitness log online to track your workouts. There are also ePostal events in which you can participate.

    The [LMSC] only gets $10 of the $47 annual fee. In addition to maintaining a Masters Swimming organization here in [LMSC], we also put on … swim meets this year for free, which required paying some officials, renting the facility, etc.

    We do regret we can’t do more for open water swimming, but the restrictions for a USMS-insured event just don’t mesh with the opportunities provided by the open water events already offered. There also aren’t enough participants….

    If you still feel this is a scam, I’m sorry and hope you find another less expensive way to swim.

    Dear [LMSC chair],
    I appreciate your taking the time to detail thoroughly the benefits afforded to me through the USMS registration. I apologize for my tone in my comment during the registration process. I felt that I had been “nickeled and dimed” on another issue earlier in the day and wasn’t in the most pleasant of moods when registering with USMS. Your taking the time to write me is in some odd way worth the registration fee to me in itself.
    Regards,
    [USMS Member]

    Dear [USMS Member],
    Thank you for your reply. We’ve all had days like you describe, where it’s hard to contain frustrations that sometimes come out of nowhere. As it happens, that’s one thing swimming helps me with personally—relaxing my mind … on those tough days. Thanks for joining Masters. I think it’s the cheapest “health insurance” there is.


    My personal thanks to this wise LMSC chair who recognized an opportunity and took a little extra time to help this member understand the value of membership and community of Masters Swimming.

    Updated February 25th, 2015 at 10:36 AM by Rob Butcher

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