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

Fostering a Culture of Learning Through Team Training

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Each July, the USMS Board of Directors meets face-to-face for our summer meeting. The week leading into the board meeting, our National Office staff meets for its annual retreat. The retreat is an opportunity for our contractors, remote staff, and Sarasota staff to come together in one location, review the past year, plan for the next year, and continue preparations for our annual meeting.

Within retreat week, we set aside a day when all the staff goes offsite for team learning. Last year, we visited IMG Academy in Bradenton and learned from a renowned sports psychologist how great athletes overcome adversity. We also participated in an improv roleplaying exercise that pushed our comfort zones and required us to show vulnerability and trust in each other.

This year, a communications expert educated us on the concept of “emotional hijacking” and how we can help to prevent it. Emotional hijacking occurs as a result of an event, such as another driver cutting us off in traffic, and our perception of it. The perception we have or story we tell ourselves about the event can create an emotional hijack situation when our reaction—positive, negative, or neutral—may result in an undesirable consequence.

Learning is a promoted value in the USMS Strategic Plan. Our employees are encouraged to seek out professional learning opportunities. For example, CFO Susan Kuhlman is a member of the Sarasota CFO Network and participated this year in a 15-week Leadership Sarasota program. Marketing Director Kyle Deery has attended Sports Business Journal Marketing and TEAMS Conferences. Our IT team of Jeff Perout, Jim Kryka, Nancy Kryka and IT Director Jim Matysek last fall attended a PHP technology conference in Washington, D.C., where they were able to network with like-minded IT professionals and learn about industry trends. Communications and Publications Director Laura Hamel has attended workshops and developed meaningful relationships with the faculty of the Poynter Institute, the global leader in journalism education. At our annual meeting, our staff members are encouraged to seek out their peers from the other aquatic disciplines so relationships and opportunities for collaboration can be developed.

Our values are meaningless if we don’t support them. Providing opportunities for learning fosters a positive culture where employees want to work and are appreciated. We budget for professional learning activities, and I encourage our staffers to participate in them because they're valuable and necessary for individual and professional growth. Employees return from these learning experiences with an appreciative attitude and have enjoyed sharing these experiences with their colleagues.

One of the biggest rewards of having a staff that is learning and positive is better service to and relationships with our constituency of 63,000+ members, hundreds of engaged volunteers, and numerous other partners and supporters.

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Updated August 13th, 2015 at 05:06 PM by Editor

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  1. Celestial's Avatar
    Do you know, we APPRECIATE all you guys do for swimming! (I bet you don't hear that enough, do you?) How wonderful it is too, to come to Sarasota, and have all those lovely USAS swimmers time for us! THANK YOU!