Each time Spring or Summer Nationals rolls around, I get excited about the people I’m going to meet. Just walking around on deck at a USMS national meet is a treat—seeing old friends and making new ones—and experiencing a great facility, friendly volunteers, and fast swimming. The media staff stays busy interviewing swimmers for the daily recap videos and, although we’re working hard, we’re having a great time.
This year in Indy was no exception. Olympic silver medalist Emily Silver joined us for commentary and, in a special project made possible by USMS partner SwimOutlet.com, Silver and the legendary gold medalist and relay anchor extraordinaire, Jason Lezak (yes, that Jason Lezak!), dropped in on the social for a SwimOutlet.com Gold Medal Delivery.
Silver and Lezak delivered some great SwimOutlet.com swag and made time for autograph signing and photos with Masters swimmers, who lined up for a chance to meet them. As part of the video project, an exhibition 200-yard mixed freestyle relay was planned. We needed two Masters swimmers to pair with the Olympians, and I remembered a story I’d read on SwimmingWorld.com about a young swimmer who was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma but who planned to swim in Indy.
Esmerelda Perez, just 18, was a graduating high school senior facing an operation to remove tumors in her chest cavity. She’d been through months of chemo and radiation, and doctors had implanted a port in her chest to deliver treatments. Through it all, she wanted to keep swimming. Swimming is what makes her happy. She’ll be swimming at Carthage College in the fall, but her immediate goal was USMS Spring Nationals.
Perez’s quiet maturity and deep love of the sport was inspiring to us all (her 25-something split on the relay was pretty amazing as well). She was thrilled at the opportunity to participate with these swimming heroes, but it was pretty clear that the Olympians were honored to swim on her relay.
The relay lasted only a few moments, but created a lasting impression. Silver led off, followed by Jon Shope, a local meet volunteer and lifelong swimmer. Perez swam third and, of course, Lezak was the anchor. Don’t miss the video at swimoutlet.com/goldmedaldelivery.
The project turned out to be more meaningful than we ever could have imagined and it brought together the best elements of a USMS national meet: sponsor support, great swimming, amazing venues and volunteers, and inspirational stories. Gold really was delivered in Indy, by all who participated.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:36 AM by Editor
Q: What community partnerships should my program be pursuing?
A: There are three important categories of partnerships your program should actively pursue: community service, program growth, and financial benefit.
Identify local agencies that share the same values as you, your program, and USMS. Reach out to the leadership of these programs to explore opportunities for involvement. Once you have a plan for working with these other organization, use your leadership skills by building a support team within your organization. Assign a member of the support team to be responsible for community services. Work together to encourage your members to commit their time, talents, and resources to a common cause.
Collaboration with diversity programs such as Diversity in Aquatics and Urban Swim Program; local non-profit agencies and charities such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army Kroc Centers; and adult learn-to-swim programs, such as those offered by municipal parks and recreation departments and the YMCA of the USA will strengthen your program as a valuable asset to the community, promote growth and retention of your membership, and increase your program’s financial security. Added benefits include offering your swimmers meaningful community service opportunities, program growth, and financial growth.
Encouraging adults to swim for a healthier lifestyle is a common mantra that builds strong bridges with other swimming, health and well being, and fitness organizations. Don't assume everyone knows what Masters swimming represents. Make a personal visit to each of these groups and explore ways you can work together to bring more participation to your program. Collaborating with the following groups can raise your program’s profile within the community, while potentially attracting new members.
Approach local triathlon, cycling, and running clubs and offer to:
Host a swim clinic for their membersOffer a trial membership to your programVolunteer at their events. If it goes well, they may in turn volunteer at your events! Ask to make presentations about the benefits of swimming to health clubs and retirement communitiesHold an open house during one of your practices, followed by a social eventConnect with your local rehabilitation centers and VA hospital and offer to start a free wellness programInvite the director and staff of the nonprofit you’d like to collaborate with to join you for a swim practice
In addition to doing good in your community, focusing your efforts can also help the local economy by leveraging your members’ purchasing power. If you reach out to local merchants, some may be willing to provide discounts, promotions, giveaways, and donations to your group to spur spending in the community.
Sponsorships. Recruit local businesses to become sponsors of your program. My favorite form of sponsorship is a cash donation in exchange for recognition. List your sponsors on your website, along with their logos and a links to their websites. Put their logos on the backs of event T-shirts, or ask them to set up an informational table at a meet where they can demo their products or tell attendees about their services. Advertise your sponsors with a banner, at their cost, to be hung at your facility.Room discounts. When hosting an event, negotiate a block rate of rooms at a local hotel with a percentage of the room charges returned to your program as a cash incentive. Marriott, a corporate sponsor of USMS, is an excellent resource for event hosting.Local merchant contributions or discounts. Smaller, more localized chains and businesses might also be able to help with everything from providing concessions for a meet to printing T-shirts for your open water swim. Local athletic stores might be very interested in setting up a booth at your event to sell swimwear and gear at a discount to participants (and a percentage to your program). Pool supply companies might want to reach out to your members by offering discounted pool installation or chemicals. Vitamin, health, or nutritional supplement stores might also be interested in attending and providing coupons in race goody bags. By working together, both your program and these local entities can benefit.Referral incentive programs. Provide an incentive for the merchants who refer an athlete to your program.
Updated July 11th, 2014 at 02:34 PM by Bill Brenner