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

  1. The Swim Whisperer

    by , February 24th, 2015 at 11:54 PM (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 09:36 AM by Rob Butcher

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  2. How surveys have helped USMS evolve

    by , August 9th, 2014 at 05:34 PM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    In 1968, the American Swimming Coaches Association was seeking ideas that would lead to growth. A survey went out to 2,000 swim coaches, asking for suggestions. Capt. Ransom Arthur, a Navy doctor, wrote back suggesting ASCA sponsor a committee of swimming for older ages. In the social upheaval of that time, the Vietnam War, and the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll culture, proposing that adults exercise for physical fitness and well-being was, at best, a fringe idea.

    That suggestion to establish an adult swimming program was the beginning of Masters Swimming, and it was first proposed in a survey response.

    Asking members, partners, and constituents for ideas on how to improve and grow is a business principle taught most business 101 classes. And for good reason—it works.

    Masters Swimming continues to utilize surveys to check in with our members and volunteer leaders. In 2011, prior to writing our current USMS strategic plan, we surveyed our LMSC officers, committee chairs, and House of Delegates members. The collective feedback was paramount in assessing our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and in shaping our vision.

    This spring, we conducted a survey of 2014 USMS members who registered with USMS for the first time. We wanted to learn from first-time members why they joined USMS, what they valued about USMS membership, and what benefits they believed would add more value to their membership.

    We received 1,256 completed surveys, about an 11% response rate. We learned some interesting things about our new members:


    • 33% had never been part of any organized team, and 34% swam on a club or summer league team as a child and/or a high school team.
    • 71% joined USMS because membership was required to swim in an activity such as a practice, clinic, or event, meaning 29% joined USMS by choice.
    • Of that 29%, the most popular reasons given for joining were: “I swim for fitness and thought being a USMS member would improve my swimming experience,” and “I wanted to improve my triathlon and thought being a USMS member would help me,” and “My Masters Swimming coach encouraged (but did not require) me to become a USMS member.”
    • The two most requested benefits—the ones new members believed would add more value to their USMS memberships—were more online technique videos and more stroke clinics.
    • We left a blank field at the end of the survey, open for any comments or suggestions. An overwhelming number or respondents told us how much they liked the quality and content of SWIMMER magazine and the STREAMLINES eNewsletters.


    All of this information is valuable to us. It lets us know what we’re doing well and where we can improve. But by far the most interesting result was not at all what we expected.

    Prior to publishing the survey, a staffer suggested we ask a question about new members’ perceptions of USMS prior to becoming members. Several us spoke up, saying we already knew what they think: “The word Masters is intimidating,” and “USMS is for people who want to compete,” and “You have to be 40 or older to become a member.” We decided to include the perception question, believing the answers would fall across those preconceived notions.

    And wouldn’t you know it, we were wrong.

    It turns out, 58% of new members did not have any perception of USMS prior to joining. In fact, most had never heard of us. This is valuable information—we see it as an opportunity to market the USMS brand without having to focus so much on dispelling what we thought were still popular misconceptions about Masters Swimming.

    Surveys will continue to be an important information-gathering tool. Should you happen to receive one from us, please know that your input is truly valuable and we take seriously all the feedback we receive. We pledge to continue to ask you how we’re doing, and how we can improve your member experience.

    Updated August 10th, 2014 at 08:35 AM by Rob Butcher

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