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Thread: USMS Planning Committee wants your help.

  1. #1
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    USMS Planning Committee wants your help.

    To all swimmers ...
    Among other things, the USMS Planning Committee is looking at the long range future of USMS. I would like this forum to be an area to brainstorm about what you think USMS could and should be doing in the future. This does not mean let’s change a rule for next year; it means in 5 years or 10 years it would be great if ....
    No idea too “far out” to mention. Many times a wild suggestion, when discussed and modified, becomes a great idea.
    Rules for this discussion: Positive comments only. The purpose of this forum is not to “shoot down” or ridicule someone else’s comments, it is to put out some ideas for further thought. We’ll miss some good ideas if we make people hesitant to contribute. Making suggestions to modify an idea is good, just do it in a positive manner.
    As concepts are developed, I will make sure they are forwarded to the appropriate committee.

    Betsy Durrant, Planning Committee Chair

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    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    My wish is that USMS publishes annually top rankings by gender in SCY, SCM, LCM that go beyond a TOP10, but use the same database as the TOP10 does.
    These rankings that I envision for many hundred places, are indicative in the broader picture than just top 10 places, of how competitive many more people are.

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    Here are some ideas sent to me since the November convention...

    On the Registration front... five year registration (coinciding with aging up) options, photo registration cards, subscription style registration (your registration renews from the date you signed up, or on your birthday. Spreads out the work of the registrars). How about Facilities? USMS buys or builds a facility, and makes it the home to nationals, or as a training base.

    Betsy Durrant

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    Very Active Member Randy Nutt's Avatar
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    Hi Betsy,

    You bring up an interesting idea -one that I have thought about in the past. What if USMS were to construct a state of the art facility which would be along the lines of a Masters Olympic Training Center and Masters Headquarters. We could have office space to "run" the business affairs of USMS, a competition pool or two, plus space for all the scientific, testing, and sports medicine related activities. We could even have our own Hall of Champions. I realize this would take some work but rather then USMS being a step child in the sport of swimming I really see the future involving USMS as the leader in the sport. With the knowledge base of our members, from coaches, fitness experts, physicians, to administrators (and yes a few engineers) we have a bright future whichever way we go. Dream Big!

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    Very Active Member Mark in MD's Avatar
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    Hi Betsy!

    While I am new to this organization, I think a long-term marketing/public information/publicity/media relations (whatever you wish to call it) strategy should be given consideration. Having done public information work myself, I know how hard it is to get one's organization into the media.

    This strategy could include a plan which involves each LMSC's utilizing (or most likely finding a volunteer to do it!) their own public relations person to get information out to the media. The reason for each LMSC's participation is to not to place the responsibility on any one person at national level. Persistence may just pay off eventually as the axiom goes, "the sqeaky wheel gets the most oil." I am sure some LMSC's do have folks who publicize their group, but a unified approach might reap greater results.

    While I am not sure of the agenda for USMS' Annual Conventions, this could be a venue to bring in a media relations professional, or at a minimum, one who's "been there, done that" to provide guidance on getting the word out on this organization. Attendees in turn could then bring back this "how-to" information to their LMSC and share with those interested in handled media relations. This could also ensure uniformity on how information is provided to the media.

    I do not mean to mean encroach upon the baliwick of any standing USMS Committee. Rather, I am only trying make suggestion as an "outsider" looking inside and only offer it as a suggestion. Media relations, in my mind, IS important and hard work, but as I mentioned above, it can pay off.
    Mark in MD

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    Very Active Member Matt S's Avatar
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    Where do we want to take the organization?

    These are some interesting ideas, but in some respects they are too specific. I think the broader issue is what kind of organization do we want to have? Do we want to maximise the number of people registered as members of USMS? Do we want to maximise the opportunities for competition at the local level? Do we want elite level meets, or other vehicles which facilitate the very best swimmers having the best opportunities to lower USMS records as much as possible? Do we want to advance the science of coaching mature adults (as distinguished for children and teen-agers)? Do we want to have a training program for masters coaches with its goal being the improvement of the practice of coaching at the local club level? Do we want to offer elite coaching and support for elite masters swimmers (a la the USOC Training Center)? Do we want to publicize USMS more broadly in support of any of those goals (or as a goal itself)? Are things just swell the way they are, and we should try to let the good times roll for as long as possible?

    Those are the questions we should be asking. Then, when we think we have identified our most important goal(s), we should ask ourselves whether, for example, a photo ID or a USMS owned and operated swimming facility makes sense. I'm a bit uncomfortable with USMS having its own pool/office complex. A facility like that is a major investment both in terms of capital to build it and operating expenses. I would want to see a plan for how we are going to use it and pay for it before I would support something like that.

    One other subject I would like to raise is whether USMS should publicize itself differently. My impression is that most of the information we generate is aimed at swimmers, i.e. us. Is now the time to publicize ourselves to a broader section of the general public? One example of how we could do this would be to contact programs like Bill Littlefield's "Only a Game". This is an NPR radio program that covers athletics which do not appear in the major sports media (and presents off-beat takes on the "major sports"). It seems to me that folks in their 80's racing the 200 fly in Christchurch, New Zealand ought to be an easy story to sell to Mr. Littlefield.

    Betsy, this is a subject I have been inarticulately trying to raise for some time now. Thanks for the chance to cork-off.

    Matt

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    How about some response to Matt's questions? Where do we want USMS to go? Where should our emphasis be? I started this thread because I believe our long range goals come from the members.
    Betsy

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    I would like to see a greater emphasis on our non-competitive swimmers comrades-in-pool.

    Which also falls into the area of 'building' a team/support infrastructure (not necessarily for competition).

    jack

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    I think its great that Betsy has taken this topic to the discussion forum. I hope this results in a good discussion of the future direction of USMS. The early post that suggests the first place to start is with a mission statement is right on. Based on our experience here in New England things really began to happen once we all agreed on our a vision for the future. Around 1996 we decided as a group to measure all activity against one goal--to increase our membership. Earlier that year, we completed a marketing survey and I was amazed by the fact that most of the people who responded (and presumably our members) had some prior "organized" swimming experience (high school, summer league, age group and college in that order) BUT didn't compete as masters. That meant that our target should be people with some competitive swimming experience but not the "elite" competitors.

    We then built a marketing program to reach these people by offering them quality coached workouts. As we increased the number of coached workout in our area our membership increased. As we got more members to participate in meets, mainly through workout-group based relays featured in our championship meet, our retention rate rose from 60% (USMS average) to 85% (highest among large clubs). As a result , our membership doubled over the past four years.

    USMS should be the largest aquatics organization in the US. We have the largest demographic pool of swimmers with competitive experience. If USMS grew at the same rate as NEM in the past four years we would now have 100,000 members and not 40,000 members. We should have 1.0 million members.

    The biggest constraint to future growth here in New England is lack of pool time. We need lots more 50 meter pools. I suspect this is true in many other parts of the country outside of CA and FL. We need a much larger organization to give us the kind of clout to get those pools built now.

    I don't think we should build our own USMS facility until we surpass USA swimming in membership. Then we can see if such a facility will help us reach our goals.

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    Strategic Plan 2000

    As a jumping off point for discussion of goals, etc., take a look at the Strategic Plan adopted at the 2000 Convention. The only place that I can find it posted is in Nancy Ridout's President's Report, written prior to convention:
    www.usms.org/admin/conv00/officerreports.pdf

    The plan was modified/expanded slightly before adoption.
    *Under Goals, the original plan called for 45,000 members by the end of 2001. It was expanded to 50,000 members by the end of 2005.
    *Under Strategy 7, the target for the Endowment Fund was changed from $100,000 by 2001 to $250,000 by 2005.

    If anyone would like me to email an updated copy to you, contact me at durrant6@cox.net

    Betsy

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    Very Active Member breastroker's Avatar
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    Thank you Betsy for starting a great thread. I agree with many of the people, USMS could have more members that USS swimming. The strategic planning is no different than business, we just have to follow the marketing and surveys, develop strategies to accomplish our goals. Here in Sunny Southern California, SPMA has been stuck at 2500-2700 members for ten years. We have more 50 meter pools than any other area in the country, and probably more ex-high school and college swimmers too. I have adopted a strategic plan for additional growth, but would love to get a copy of the USMS Strategic Plan.

    My focus is contacting the pool owners associations, and the USS coaches who are always looking for ways to add to their income. Our web site is actively trying to support all our coaches. We try to mentor the newer coaches so they succeed. We try to give as much value to our members as possible.

    If the New England Masters could write up their methods for their exceptional retention and growth, all the LMSCs could benefit. Could you share both the marketing survey and the results?

    Wayne McCauley
    SPMA Chairman
    Southwest Zone Chairman

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    Active Member Steve Ruiter's Avatar
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    Rather than have USMS build and maintain a great facility out there somewhere, my priority is to have one built near ME!

    I'd like USMS to work on assisting people in grass roots movements to establish swimming facilities (where needed) and programs (where needed) in their areas.

    I don't know what shape or form this might take, but having some sort of clearing-house of knowledge on how to get an appropriate multi-use pool built, or even some resources on what the issues are (funding, licensing, city planning, etc.) and how things got solved.

    A collection of success stories would be valuable...as would some outline of what the budget is for an operating facility.

    Maybe sessions at a USMS convention would be appropriate (I dont have any clue what the structure of the conventions are, or if such a thing occurs).

    Steve

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    USMS goal(s).
    Bob Seltzer makes some good points above that I would like to pursue in this discussion.
    Bob mentioned that New England decided on one goal - to increase membership. That was accomplished by offering increased workouts. Increased workouts led to increased membership. He also stated that the biggest constraint is the lack of pool time. And, "We need a much larger organization to give us the kind of clout to get those pools built now."

    In the past, I have heard a lot of discussion about why we need to grow. Bob's point about having the "clout" to get pools built states it well. Is this where USMS needs to put the emphasis? Increasing membership through publicity, coached workouts, quality events? I recognize the contradiction of increasing workout opportunities if there is a lack of pool time. But, is there where we should put our efforts?
    Betsy

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    Thank you, Betsy, for initiating a thread on the long-range vision of USMS. Having read through the replies, I note some very interesting and viable ideas. Keep ‘em coming!

    Our Executive Committee met during February in Houston for our “mid-year” retreat. The first three hours of our meeting was devoted to this very topic – our mission. We discussed identity issues, our mission statement, goals and values. It is my opinion that to lead effectively in any endeavor, these “larger” issues must be clarified first, then on to the specifics.

    We do see the potential that USMS could be much larger in size than it is now. We, too, threw out numbers such as 100,000 or 1 million. Throwing out numbers is the easy part; developing a step-by-step plan that would allow for such growth is quite another matter.

    On a more specific level, I applaud NEM on their success at not only increasing their numbers, but their retention rate. We can learn many lesson from their innovative plans.

    On a personal note, I would suggest that there is one major incentive for pools to provide space for Masters clubs – money. While it is typical for USA Swimming club members to fork out $100+ per month for fees, most Masters swimmers pay only a fraction of that amount for monthly dues. For Masters programs to thrive, they will more than likely need a committed, professional coach. And that costs money. So, to obtain the desired pool time and attract quality coaching, it could very well be a factor of what we, as swimmers, are willing to invest.

    Thanks to all of your for your interest and I look forward to reading many more great ideas.

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    It is not obvious to me that NEM's methods are the way to go, if the goal is to increase membership, rather than retention rate (they are not the same thing, necessarily). For example, Emmett has described elsewhere how he has de-emphasized competition in order to get the team membership up so that he can make a living. I swim for a large team, but only a small fraction attend meets at least once a year, perhaps 10-20%. Triathletes make a larger percentage and they would never think of going to a pool meet (though they *might* an open water swim.) By far the largest fraction, however, are only (in the sense that that is all they swim for) fitness swimmers. They are quite happy, several-year members, and attend workout regularly. I think some attention should be spent on why they like masters swimming.

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    Very Active Member michaelmoore's Avatar
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    I think that Masters swimming is the best fitness adult physical fitness program out there and that we have a great story to tell. For adults who want to compete in a pool, we have great championships at the local and national level. We have great open water events. How many places will draw one thousand competitors like the Lake Berryessa Open Water Swim (for that swim, many will compete and many will be out there just have a great swim out around the island).

    To have great programs, Masters need adults who want enjoy a great fitness program. Pools cost a lot of money (accountants may say that most of a clubs costs are fixed). Once you have a place to swim, then you need a coach (I am not sure which come first but both are needed). Coaches need to be paid a living wage or else they will move on to some other occupation.

    To find the funds for paying a pool and a coach means that either you get a very wealthy clientel or you get a many swimmers to help share the expenses.

    I applaud NEM for going out to recruit new swimmers. When you have a successful Masters program, the words gets out to Aquatic Directors about how how much money a program is bringing in. The ADs are willing then to spend money for adult masters programs. Success feeds upon itself.

    With any recruitment there is always going to be some turnover. Some swimmers dont have the time they thought they would have to swim, or they decide swimming is not for them or job/family obligations limit their time to swim. But if you can keep your retention rate high and promote your program, the program will grow.

    The growth of USMS is going to depend on the LMSCs and their ability to organize their clubs. The LMSCs are going to have to make a committement to growth. (I have heard that there are some LMSCs dont want to grow as the LMSC leadership thinks that two in a lane is all the can be handled in a pool).

    Personally, I would love to see every city with a population over 20,000 in Pacific LMSCs area have a functioning Masters club. There is a lot of work to get that done. It will mean recruiting adquatic directors to start a Masters program. It will mean trying to find men and women who want to make a career of coaching and wanting to coach adults.

    I would love to work with other LMSCs that want to grow - Masters is a great program. I think the Masters program can double over the next five years, but that will take a committement from the LMSCs and national.

    What I would like to see from national:

    1. A list of every pool in the United States
    2. Good collateral material to send out to pool owners/aquatic directors
    a. about USMS
    b. How Masters can make them money
    c. How Masters is good for the community
    d. Posters to get the swimmer at a pool interested in swimming Masters
    3. An idea for a program of how Masters is going to promote Masters swimming to Aquatic Directors.
    4. Brochures for attracting people to Masters swimming
    a. to get the triathlete
    b. to get the "returning" athlete
    c. to get the older person who want to take better care of him/herself.
    5. Ideas for professional development of coaches.


    michael
    michael moore

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    I apologize for not responding earlier to Wayne's request for some feedback on how NEM approached the problem of growing membership and agree with much of what Michael Moore stated as necessary. Some of us are very busy right now in organizing the 2002 NE SCY Championship meet and it looks like another record turnout.

    Shortly after the meet (scheduled to be held 4/5-4/7) I will try to summarize some of the significant steps we implemented and try to separate them out from our analysis so that people can draw their own analytical conclusions.

    Re Emmett's comments. We really don't expect coaches to attend every meet. In fact, we only expect coaches to attend 2 meets a year plus the One Hour swim. I would say that such attendance comes back in fair compensation but as everyone here knows we vastly underpay all coaches at virtually every level of swimming.

    RE Phil's comments. The participation in competition is important but still only one in several elements of our success. Like many a good marketing machine it requires more than one moving part.

    More on this later.

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    Very Active Member Beards247's Avatar
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    Point Blank -

    Micheal Moore's points need to be addressed (There should be a goal to have a poster in every pool).

    In addition to Micheal's points, my perception of the "swimming path": the "traditional route" seems to be maybe agegroup, ususally Highschool, on to college... And then what? Nothing. I did not know about USMS until I began swimming on my own again after the traditional 5 year layoff after college when someone mentioned USMS as we swam laps.

    I feel we need to attach ourselves to the outflow of swimmers from college (or those that recreationally swim):
    a. Developing a relationship with our college swim coaches - maybe even a newsletter specifically for them.
    b. Having a yearly meeting with local college teams in your respective LMSC.
    c. Some way to encourage people out of college to keep on swimming, and not take off 4-5 years as has been the traditional model.
    d. Offer USMS up as a network - Of swimmers, practice availability, job networking (almost all other college alumni, frat, etc offer this type of enticement), or something else I have not thought of.

    I know competetive swimmmers do not make up all of the USMS. But I am focusing on competetive swimmers out of college b/c they are a concentrated market of people who would be interested in our product.

    Is there reason we should not go with this approach? I only ask this pointed question b/c I am working on putting this system together for my LMSC for the Fall...

    Chris B

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    One thing is that a lot of athletic directors don't really care how much a masters team is going to bring in for them. Most college pools these days are already so completely over-used that most ADs would prefer to eliminate programs, not add them. Here at Harvard, in our 25yx50m pool, we have to schedule in:

    * Men's varsity swimming
    * Women's varsity swimming
    * Men's varsity diving
    * Women's varsity diving
    * Men's varsity water polo
    * Women's varsity water polo
    * USS club swimming program (with lots of age groups)
    * USA Diving club diving program (2 of them, actually)
    * Masters club
    * Recreational swimming
    * Championship events (for any of the above, which impact the scheduling for everyone)
    * Events for 'outsiders' (such as the Special Olympics, etc., which have events)
    * Other 'program' activities like SCUBA lessons, swim lessons, etc.

    The pool is a very crowded place.

    -Rick

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    Active Member Steve Ruiter's Avatar
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    Which comes first, the great pool facility or the great swimming programs?

    It seems like most all great pool facilities have above average programs that happen there. (Harvard, Dynamo, Indy, The entire state of California, and the list goes on.)

    I am unaware of any great programs at crappy pools.

    It seems to me we need to get more great facilities built. I don't know how to make that happen, but USMS should be able to be influential through its planning and membership.

    Steve

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