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Thread: What Does USMS Need to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

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    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    What Does USMS Need to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    One of Jeff Moxie's goals is to grow to 100,000 members. I'd like to hear suggestions on the programs, services, and support needed to to exceed this goal.

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    Very Active Member jroddin's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I'd be curious to get our end of year totals for the past 10 years. If there is a general trend, we can do a simple curve fit to predict when 100k might happen, despite whatever marketing efforts we may employ. In other words, if/when we hit 100k will it be simple growth or will it be a result of our time and efforts to woo people to our organization.

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    Very Active Member swimshark's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I think getting the word out to more older kids (teens) that their swimming doesn't have to end when high school. college, what ever ends. If we can hook them early, I think we can retain them longer.

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    Very Active Member Peter Cruise's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    How about becoming North American Masters Swimming? Seriously.
    Life keeps throwing curve balls; the trick, I'm learning, is to duck...

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    Very Active Member ALM's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Quote Originally Posted by jroddin View Post
    I'd be curious to get our end of year totals for the past 10 years. If there is a general trend, we can do a simple curve fit to predict when 100k might happen, despite whatever marketing efforts we may employ. In other words, if/when we hit 100k will it be simple growth or will it be a result of our time and efforts to woo people to our organization.
    Our membership history can be found in our Guide to Operations:

    Go to the main USMS page, then:
    >> Administration tab >> Guide to Operations >> LMSC Membership History

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    Very Active Member waves101's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I agree that we need to educate high school and college swimmers about masters swimming. If we can catch them early they may learn to incorporate masters swimming into their lifestyles. I believe we should have reps in the schools or utilize coaching relationships to spread the word. Possibly invites to state meets, etc.

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    Swimming gives me a buzz! Bobinator's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I think we need to build more pools! The ones I practice in are very crowded, we'll need room for all these new people!
    HTFU!

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    Very Active Member ALM's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    It has been suggested that one way to hit the 100,000-member mark is to better retain the members that we already have. Historically we have experienced about 35% turnover each year. Some of those members come back a year or two later; many do not.

    As of August 3,2010...

    51,159 people are current USMS members.
    19,660 people were USMS members in 2009 but have not yet renewed.
    15,205 people were USMS members in 2008 but have not renewed since.
    12,364 people were USMS members in 2007 but have not renewed since.
    11,695 people were USMS members in 2006 but have not renewed since.
    11,372 people were USMS members in 2005 but have not renewed since.
    11,153 people were USMS members in 2004 but have not renewed since.

    That's a total of 81,449 members that we have "lost" over a 6-year period.

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    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Cruise View Post
    How about becoming North American Masters Swimming? Seriously.
    This is a great idea. Add Canada and Mexico and the Bahamas, and very quickly we would have a lot more members.

    I think one of the best ways masters swimming will continue to grow is just all the kids seeing their parents swimming competitively now. They will grow up thinking this is a normal thing to do.

    I also agree with Bobinator's idea about more pools, or at least more pool time available for masters practices in existing pools. I continue to think that USMS could take the lead nationally, for instance, on bringing rational lightning policies to indoor pools (there has never, ever been a recorded death from this, yet pools routinely close down for a half hour at the most distant rumble of thunder.)

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    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I think in addition to more pools/pool time, we need more Masters Coaches.

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    Very Active Member LindsayNB's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I would say that USMS's biggest "competitor" is lap swimming, here in Canada Statistics Canada numbers say that there are 750,000 people who swim at least twice a week and consider swimming their primary form of exercise. We only have 10,000 Masters members or 1 in 75 of these swimmers. If the numbers scale with population there would be approximately 7.5 million lap swimmers in the US, so USMS would have 1 in 150 lap swimmers. You could reach 100,000 just by bringing your proportion up to Canada's!

    Anyway, if you could find a way to make it worthwhile for Joe lap swimmer to join you would likely surpass your target.

    I would guess that good coaching is one big advantage you could offer over individual lap swimming. Anything you can do to raise the coaching bar is likely to pay off. Your SwimFest program is probably a good start. If you could find a way to capture more of the expertise that was around that pool deck and make it accessible to your membership as a whole that might have some amazing results.

    I think programs like Go The Distance are a good start in having something that appeals to non-competitive swimmers.

    I have no idea what the revenue stream of SwimSmooth.com is but I suspect that it is completely dwarfed by the USMS annual budget. If you could direct a larger proportion of your revenue to producing enduring resources like the stuff on their website you ought to be able to build something pretty awesome. That would help raise your visibility and attract new members.

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    Very Active Member swimshark's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I think a good portion of lap swimmers would balk at paying coaching fees and USMS membership fees. I know of several "lap swimmers" who compete who have been given the opportunity to swim under a coach who led an Olympic swimmer but they don't want to pay the coaching fee. I think it's a resource to tap in to but I think it's one that won't attract as many as hitting up current, younger swimmers or ones who watch their parents swim.

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    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Copeland View Post
    I think in addition to more pools/pool time, we need more Masters Coaches.
    I am not sure I agree with this about the coaches, especially if you mean "highly professional coaches with various degrees of certification." Every masters team I have swum on with one exception has had a "player coach" who writes the workout and swims it, too. These "player coaches" have invariably been former college swimmers who take the sport seriously but not too seriously. To me, the key to building camaraderie that sustains people coming back, time and again, to practice is understanding that the social component is at least as important as the workouts themselves.

    Sometimes, I think "professionalizing" masters coaching works against this because there is the pressure to generate revenue to pay the coach, who then must justify his or her job by some measurable metric (our team did X in competition Y), and pretty soon the good natured workout becomes yet another area of our lives "striving for excellence!"

    Truth is, in my opinion, we need low pressure, "striving for mediocrity" venues, too, and goofball nice guy joking-around (albeit still knowledgable) former swimmer/volunteer coaches seem to be ideally suited for this.

    (Parenthetically, let me add that some of the most "certified" coaches I have met, with all kinds of titular accoutrements behind their names, ASA this, USSwimming Level that, etc., have, in fact, been the least effective coaches of all. In fact, at the risk of being just a wee bit incendiary here, I would go so far as to say that most masters coaches that insist on being referred to as "Coach X"--as in Coach Hortense, or Coach Freddie, or Coach Michelina--are almost invariably going to cause you, the swimmer, problems. But perhaps this is just an idiosyncratic pet peeve of mine.)

    Not that the amateur player-coach sans title approach necessarily means the swimmers thusly coached can't swim fast. Someone recently posted a link to a gigantic California team with hundreds of swimmers and 30 workouts a week, etc. I looked at their team records and was pleasantly surprised to discover that our little YMCA team here in Amish mudhole territory, lead since its inception by player coaches who only recently started to get minimum wage for their efforts, a team alloted exactly three lanes (including an end lane into whose space hand-busting ladder railings intrude) for three one-hour increments a week, whose practices are regularly cancelled because of thunder, and whose swimmers' lungs bare the scarring of poorly controlled pool chemicals roiling around in superheated waters, would nevertheless break many of that particular California team's records. (Perhaps we could arrange a David vs. Goliath virtual meet sometime?)

    I think one thing that would really grow USMS membership ranks is if the organization could make forays of some (admittedly not clearly defined) nature to employers and health insurers, who would then be able to offer regular swimmers some sort of financial reward for participation in the form of reduced health insurance premiums, free health club memberships, or any of the other perks that companies and insurers sometimes offer to keep their ranks healthy.

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    Very Active Member swimshark's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim thornton View Post
    I think one thing that would really grow USMS membership ranks is if the organization could make forays of some (admittedly not clearly defined) nature to employers and health insurers, who would then be able to offer regular swimmers some sort of financial reward for participation in the form of reduced health insurance premiums, free health club memberships, or any of the other perks that companies and insurers sometimes offer to keep their ranks healthy.
    Jim, you got me thinking... what about coaches group health insurance provided as a group through USMS buying power? That could bring in more coaches. The hard part would be making sure the coaches were actually coaching and such.

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    Swimming gives me a buzz! Bobinator's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Quote Originally Posted by LindsayNB View Post
    I would say that USMS's biggest "competitor" is lap swimming, here in Canada Statistics Canada numbers say that there are 750,000 people who swim at least twice a week and consider swimming their primary form of exercise. We only have 10,000 Masters members or 1 in 75 of these swimmers. If the numbers scale with population there would be approximately 7.5 million lap swimmers in the US, so USMS would have 1 in 150 lap swimmers. You could reach 100,000 just by bringing your proportion up to Canada's!

    Anyway, if you could find a way to make it worthwhile for Joe lap swimmer to join you would likely surpass your target.

    I would guess that good coaching is one big advantage you could offer over individual lap swimming. Anything you can do to raise the coaching bar is likely to pay off. Your SwimFest program is probably a good start. If you could find a way to capture more of the expertise that was around that pool deck and make it accessible to your membership as a whole that might have some amazing results.

    I think programs like Go The Distance are a good start in having something that appeals to non-competitive swimmers.

    I have no idea what the revenue stream of SwimSmooth.com is but I suspect that it is completely dwarfed by the USMS annual budget. If you could direct a larger proportion of your revenue to producing enduring resources like the stuff on their website you ought to be able to build something pretty awesome. That would help raise your visibility and attract new members.
    YES, YES, and YES to all of Lindsay's ideas. I think we need to appeal to all the lap swimmers who think they are "not good enough" for Master's Swimming! The GTD, hour swim, and various Postal swims might be right up their alley. I also think the Coaches who post workouts on the Forum is a GREAT RESOURCE for solo swimmers!
    I am always amazed by how many of our current members who do not know these tools are here and available on the website! I always have team mates asking me about my GTD caps, or where I found the great workouts!
    Maybe we need to advertise our benefits a bit more at places like community centers, YMCA's, health clubs, basically anywhere with pools.
    HTFU!

  16. #16
    Very Active Member LindsayNB's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I suspect that there may be a divide in expectations of coaches depending on the level swimmers have previously swum at. A swimmer at the college level may not value technique coaching as much as someone relatively new to the sport.

    What would be really interesting would be to look at those statistics of the number of swimmers who didn't renew and divide them into people who swam meets while they were members and those who did not.

    When I have tried to recruit lap swimmers to our club the number one reason for not joining was the workout schedule. Those larger clubs that have a lot of different slots available are able to draw in a larger number of lap swimmers.

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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Masters swimming is open to people at every skill level yet some groups are very unfriendly and actually rude to those who are not as skilled as they are. I don't know if this can be changed but I do know that a lot of people are turned off to Masters swimming because of this. Maybe the stats should be looked at to see who are the clubs who are losing the most people and maybe a survey could be taken to find out the reasons why those swimmers left. It takes a lot of perserverance and commitment to continue despite these outright "snobbish" attitudes and lack of support. More accurately there is a speedism that exists among some people and it's only discrimination. Members come to Masters swimming with diverse personal and professional backgrounds and people should be valued for who they are and not only for how fast they swim.

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    Very Active Member aquaFeisty's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Our club has had a lot of success gaining new members by offering "levels" or classes that lead up to being on the masters team to pull in some of the lap swimmers, or even non-swimming adults.

    We have swim classes:
    Beginner - for adults that can barely swim, can float a bit, or just never had any swim instruction
    Beginning Stroke - focuses on backstroke/freestyle

    Then there are 3 levels within the masters team itself:
    Beginner
    Intermediate
    Advanced

    There is a lot of shifting between the levels. Some practices are geared toward one specific level, some are open to all (and quite frankly, the coaches are extremely flexible with letting you swim at a different level practice due to family/work issues...)

    Anyways, the team has picked up a fair amount of people who started with the lessons that probably would have been wayyyy too intimidated to join a masters swim "team". Unfortunately, I don't know how applicable this idea is across other organizations, because you need to have the pool time to pull it off. Our team is based out of a private health club and (I believe) is the biggest money-maker for the aquatic department at the club. The lessons are really a win-win for the health club (great revenue stream) and our team (pipeline of new members, in addition to 'former' swimmers who return to the sport...)

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    Won Slowest Swimmer Award bzaks1424's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    I don't know what sort of P.R. or Advertising we can afford - but honestly in my area (northern burbs over Chicago) MANY people don't even KNOW about Masters Swimming.

    I have a few of the logos and my times decorating my cube at the moment and people are always asking "What's that?". Its always fun to tell people and get them excited but then most people don't even want to take the 15 minute drive to the nearest LMSC :/
    "Fran operated under the assumption that one’s ability to cope with the travails of daily life fluctuates in direct proportion to one’s willingness to work through hurt." -Ian Prichard

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    raced the 200 fly couldbebetterfly's Avatar
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    Re: What Does USMS Needs to do to grow to 100,000+ Members?

    Quote Originally Posted by swimshark View Post
    I think a good portion of lap swimmers would balk at paying coaching fees and USMS membership fees. I know of several "lap swimmers" who compete who have been given the opportunity to swim under a coach who led an Olympic swimmer but they don't want to pay the coaching fee. I think it's a resource to tap in to but I think it's one that won't attract as many as hitting up current, younger swimmers or ones who watch their parents swim.
    I agree that getting the younger ones in is the way forward. However as a teen my father (who officialled but never swam) used to joke about the "wrinklies" meets that he was asked to officiate at, how the timekeepers needed calenders and getting in/out of the pool was challenge enough for some swimmers. I hope this attitude towards Masters is not widespread...... if it is, there's a big problem.
    30something and way too young for my times

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