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  1. How can I encourage my swimmers to join USMS?

    by , November 11th, 2016 at 04:31 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What suggestions can you give me to convince the non-competitive members in my program to join or renew their membership with USMS?
    A: Are you a believer? Seriously. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself if you believe in U.S. Masters Swimming’s mission to promote health, wellness, fitness, and competition for adults through swimming? The answer may come from your beliefs, love of what you do as a Masters coach, passion for swimming, and commitment to being an advocate who encourages adults to swim. This same answer may help you formulate your own response to your original question regarding membership in USMS.
    Masters coaches have the unique ability to provide more than an on-deck “transaction.” We have the opportunity to create a “transformation”—motivating each of our swimmers to set goals, feel positive, and have a meaningful swimming experience. In many cases, this transformation is a life-altering event; your swimmers may finally become who they always wanted to be or who they never thought they could be. We’re helping them transform their lives to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
    The enthusiasm we as Masters coaches display on the pool deck, day in and out, transfers to the swimmers in the water. Many swimmers carry this positive and enthusiastic attitude with them beyond the pool to their daily lives and are genuinely grateful for their improved self-esteem. Knowing this, use your enthusiasm, and the gratefulness your swimmers feel towards you, to promote membership in USMS.
    Swimming Masters is a journey, not a destination, and membership is a valuable component to enrich the journey. USMS membership gives swimmers valuable tangible benefits and, more importantly, gives swimmers the feeling of being part of something bigger than just a swimmer on a swim team. It gives them the chance to contribute their time, talent and resources to an organization that gives the gift of swimming to adults across America.
    Pledge—and ask your swimmers to pledge—to support our organization, which is working to:

    • Provide more opportunities for adults to learn to swim and swim for a lifetime
    • Educate Masters coaches and instructors, creating a better swimming experience for those they coach and teach
    • Expand the number of aquatics facilities with programs for adults to swim and exercise

    The success of USMS depends on everyone who contributes to the organization’s wellbeing. Each of us—members, coaches, swimmers, volunteers and staff—has a role to play as ambassadors for USMS. Together, we control our destiny. Together, we pave the path for our journey.
    Be a believer in USMS and those you lead will follow.
  2. USMS Is for Everyone (September-October 2016)

    by , September 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Three years ago, I wrote here about how we, as an organization, needed to continue dispelling the myth that “Masters” Swimming means you’ve mastered the sport of swimming before joining USMS. (“The M Word,” May-June 2013). I’ve also written about our efforts to make learn-to-swim classes available to as many adults as possible. (“Milestones,” November-December 2014, “April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month,” March-April 2014, and “Fear of Water,” September-October 2011).

    Diverse populations have been a topic, not only diversity in race (“The Swimming Race,” January-February 2010), but also in age (“Age Is a Whole Bunch of Numbers,” March-April 2016) and sexual orientation (“The Inclusive Sport—It’s All Good,” September-October 2010).

    I’ve written about the labels “fitness swimmer” and “competitive swimmer,” and how they don’t often make sense (“Classification,” September-October 2013). Likewise, the differences between triathletes and swimmers, which are often nondifferences (“Triathletes and Swimmers,” July-August 2012.)

    So when I write, “USMS is for everyone,” I’m really not exaggerating.

    This August, our marketing team got creative and tried a few new things to welcome potential members and generate interest in the sport of swimming. First, we lowered the price of membership by $19 for the remainder of 2016 when purchased with a full 2017 membership.

    Next, we created “Try Masters Swimming Day,” and encouraged members to invite friends and family to swim practice on August 15. And we encouraged coaches to invite local lap swimmers to try a workout. Our partner, Colorado Time Systems, is even donating a Pace Clock Pro to each of the five clubs who register the most new swimmers in the month of August.

    But it takes a village.

    At Spring Nationals I had the pleasure of meeting St. Pete (Fla.) Masters swimmer and legendary pitchman Anthony Sullivan of OxiClean fame. I asked him if he would tell his story for SWIMMER readers. He immediately turned my request for an interview around with a request of his own: “Swimming has done so much for me and I want to give back. What can I do for USMS?”

    Well, if you’ve been on our social media channels in the past month, you’ve seen he’s been busy encouraging membership in a way that only he can—with a hilarious and fun infomercial-style video touting Masters Swimming as “The Greatest Workout of Them All.” He’s also sponsored a contest in which a grand-prize winner will receive a one-year USMS membership and some cool (signed!) OxiClean and Masters Swimming swag.

    And we did land that interview; Managing Editor Elaine K. Howley’s profile on Sullivan, “As Seen on TV,” is on page 18.

    Also in this issue (Swimming Life, page 6, by Gretchen Sanders), we meet Mamenasha Tesfaye and Thaddeus Gamory, both lifelong swimmers who are passionate about helping adults—especially people of color—learn to swim. Both are recipients of Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grants. We also meet two of their students: Randa Azab and Martha Paniagua, whose lives have been forever altered by learning to swim.

    Finally, in “Olympians Among Us” (page 36), Katie O’Dair introduces us to a few of the many Olympians who use swimming to stay healthy and continue enjoying the sport they love. Although these swimmers have clearly mastered swimming, their stories, just like all of ours, originate from having taken that first leap into the pool one day long ago.

    So, ask your friends and local lap swimmers: “What are you waiting for? Masters Swimming is for everyone and the water’s fine—come on in.”

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:41 AM by Editor

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    Staff Blogs
  3. 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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    Staff Blogs
  4. How surveys have helped USMS evolve

    by , August 9th, 2014 at 06:34 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 09:35 AM by Rob Butcher

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    Staff Blogs
  5. Q: What can I do to encourage swimmers to register?

    by , June 15th, 2014 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I coach Masters at a community pool. The facility doesn't require USMS membership for swimmers participating in my program. What can I do to encourage swimmers to register?

    A: Many aquatic facilities across the country don't require USMS membership, but many of those facilities would if they were aware of the benefits USMS provides to the facility, coach, and athlete when each is properly registered. The liability and excess accident insurance provided with membership is one of the most comprehensive policies in the country. With rising litigation nationwide, most facilities would welcome the opportunity to protect themselves and the athletes that use these facilities as well as you, the coach, by adding USMS insurance coverage as an addition to any insurance they currently maintain.

    However, just because the facility doesn't require USMS membership doesn't necessarily mean you, as the coach or a member of the club in a leadership role, can't. There are inherent benefits for you, including protecting yourself in the event of a liability lawsuit.

    Achieving 100% USMS membership participation in your program can be accomplished in several ways:

    • Programs can mandate USMS membership and require each swimmer to renew yearly.
    • Programs can mandate participation in a USMS-sanctioned event (pool, open water, clinic or ePostal), which requires USMS membership.
    • Programs can offer an introductory fee to participate in the program and proactively register each new member with USMS.
    • Program fees collected by clubs and workout groups can be adjusted upward and prorated to accumulate funds to collectively pay to register and renew all participants' USMS membership.
    • Programs can ask athletes to participate in fundraisers to raise money to cover the expense of registering and renewing USMS membership.
    • Programs can find sponsors within the community that support health and wellness; these sponsors can, in turn, donate funds or provide grants for USMS registration.
    • Many health insurance companies refund membership fees for wellness related activities; encourage your athletes to contact their insurance representatives for more information.
    • Encourage your athletes ask their employers to sponsor USMS membership; healthier employees are more productive and help reduce insurance costs. Some employers might cover your program fees as well.

    Working towards 100% participation helps strengthen USMS as a world leader in adult aquatic fitness.

    Updated July 14th, 2014 at 06:06 PM by Bill Brenner

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    Staff Blogs
  6. Q: How do I attract more fitness swimmers to my program?

    by , February 15th, 2014 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: How do I attract more fitness swimmers to my program?

    A: Many adults are afraid they don't belong in a "Masters" swimming program. Their fears and concerns must be overcome before they will consider participating. The list of fears and concerns are daunting but can be minimized or eliminated by a genuinely caring coach. Once a coach demonstrates how much they care--rather than how much they know--a partnership between the athlete and coach can begin to form. Ideally, this partnership will develop into one of mutual trust.

    I recommend hosting a clinic for the first time Masters swimmer or novice. Many Masters programs around the country host an introductory clinic for new swimmers to meet the coach, explore the pool, and get a feel for the program's dynamics. Advertise the introductory clinic at your facility, the local sports shops, and nutrition stores. Ask your current athletes to refer a friend or family member.

    Organizing the clinic by ability level and making each swimmer feel successful during the time they spend with you greatly enhances the chances each swimmer will return. Improvement during this initial clinic should be viewed as a byproduct, not the primary goal; overcoming fears and concerns should be your primary objective of the clinic
  7. Q: What can I do to encourage 100% membership in my program?

    by , January 15th, 2014 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What can I do to encourage 100% of the swimmers in my program to become USMS members?

    A: Many programs across the country require all swimmers in their programs to be registered with U.S. Masters Swimming. Most programs allow swimmers a trial period of up to 30 consecutive days. During the trial period, coaches should explain the benefits of being a registered member of USMS and explain how a swimmer can join online.

    Another option is to provide an introductory monthly fee equal to or greater than the registration fee for USMS membership and-with their permission-register the new members yourself. Make membership in USMS a benefit for your swimmers. This could be a useful tool in attracting new members and retaining existing ones. Once new members begins to see and receive the benefits of being part of a national organization, they'll be more engaged and likely to continue their participation with your program and the sport of swimming.

    Updated July 9th, 2014 at 05:36 PM by Bill Brenner

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  8. Verifying membership when hosting swim clinics

    by , November 15th, 2012 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: If I host a swim clinic, how do I verify USMS membership of the participants?

    A: It's important to make sure that your clinic information and marketing materials state that USMS membership is required to participate in the clinic. This protects your liability insurance.

    1. Require each participant to show a copy of current membership card at the clinic check-in.
    2. Require each participant to provide current membership number, name as it appears in the USMS database, and LMSC. Verify this information with the LMSC registrars.
    3. Use the third-party event registration vendor, Club Assistant, that can verify the participants as they register for the clinic.
    4. Allow non-members to register for USMS the day of the event. Have a device capable of connecting to the Internet so online registration is possible or have paper entries available. Make sure registrants are aware that online registration requires either a MasterCard or Visa. American Express is not accepted. Checks are accepted for paper registration.

    Any one of these options should ensure that all your participants are registered for USMS.
  9. Lap swimmers are potential members

    by , August 15th, 2012 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: We have several lap swimmers who swim at our pool. How do I get them to try Masters?

    A: Try starting a conversation with lap swimmers after they finish swimming or when they take a break. Make a positive comment about their stroke or work ethic. Introduce yourself as the coach who works with the adult swimmers at the facility. Keep "Masters" out of the conversation during this initial encounter. Ask them leading questions using their first name as much as possible. Develop an idea of what health and fitness goals they might be trying to achieve. The more you know about them as an athlete and swimmer, the better chance you'll have in getting them to accept an invitation to try your program. Remember, the initial conversation should be about them, not you.
  10. How does the 30-day trial membership work?

    by , July 15th, 2012 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Can new swimmers try out my club without registering for USMS? I thought all swimmers in the water had to be USMS members to be protected under the USMS insurance policy.

    A: USMS insurance allows for a 30-day trial of a Masters program. Potential members who want to swim with your club can swim for 30 days before they have to register with USMS (this is separate from any club fees you may charge).

    To protect your swimmers' USMS insurance coverage, you MUST have the potential member fill out and sign a USMS application for membership. Write "30-DAY TRIAL" across the top of the application and keep it during the trial period. If an incident occurs, the trial swimmer is NOT covered by USMS insurance, but all of your registered swimmers are covered.