View RSS Feed

Meet Director's Path to Tranquility

Meet Director's Path to Tranquility

No workouts here. No meet times listed. In the fifth year as meet director for the team's annual unconventional, quirky, entertaining, winter SCY TROPICAL SPLASH, this documents the path to the 2010 meet - problems and decisions, behind the scenes preparation, and the thought that goes into our local swim meet.

Maybe it's educational, and maybe it's entertaining. Maybe it's irrelevant.

  1. Tranquility

    by , February 22nd, 2010 at 06:32 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    There were a few problems with the final results, so before submitting to the USMS Top Times and Top 10, final final results were compiled.

    First, there was a 50+ year old gal who didn't show up at the meet, but somehow ended up with a 0:25 time in the 50-free. This is what happens when swimmers switch around their lane assignments during the meet and the results recording doesn't catch on. Second, the abbreviation for one of the relay teams was mixed up in the relay results due to my error. (WMS could be Warrenton Masters or Winchester Masters, right?) Both were corrected before the Hytek files were submitted to J-Rod.

    Comments from the meet swimmers included requests for meet records in the Coconut Relay, for holding the 500-free the night before (hmm.... maybe), and for automatic timing. We get that last one every year. It would be nice, but the cost and our lack of experience with it are the drawbacks, (not withstanding the possible problem of a shorter pool length.) I wonder if swimmers would be willing to pay an additional $7 for it, along with an additional $4 for online entry? I was thinking of adding a $4 surcharge next year for only those entering online, since I hear some triathlons and OW swims do that only for credit card entries. But hey, I am retiring from meet directorship (and can now concentrate on the Colonies Zone web site again). Next year, my rocking deck chair will be pointed toward the setting sun.

    Overall, the meet and planning went rather smoothly without any major incidents. So sorry about that; I imagine readers were hoping for some juicy drama to spice up this blog. Everyone loves a good disaster.

    Still, if you enjoyed the voyage to the Tropical Splash from the captain's seat, or if you learned anything, please drop me a line. If you didn't or didn't, please don't. Although I did not earn any blog stars, (I did pick up a few blog friends along the way), I still enjoyed blogging and reading the comments left. And, I learned a few things from you.

    I now close the final chapter of my telenovela.


    Updated February 22nd, 2010 at 07:26 PM by Rnovitske

  2. NUMB3RS

    by , February 18th, 2010 at 08:47 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "The success of any great moral enterprise does not depend upon numbers."
    -William Lloyd Garrison

    Most all post-meet tasks are now completed. There were 11 tee shirts that needed to be mailed out. I did not enjoy thinking about listening to the postal clerk's song, "Is there anything fragile, liquid, perishable, " 11 times. I bought the delivery confirmation for $0.80 each so I could be assured of delivery. Postal insurance on a $15 tee shirt was too expensive. I went to the post office in 2 trips because the Tyvek envelopes we purchased years ago for this purpose ran out after 6 shirts. These babies are expensive now - $26.00 for a box at Office Depot, about $0.50 each.

    This year 9 swimmers ordered the printed results. Results were copied, addressed, and mailed out Tuesday. They did not contain the officials names.

    The 189 swimmers signed up for the meet, along with 3 deck entries equalled 672 splashes =
    about 3.5 events per person
    146 swimmers attended the meet, the rest skipping out due to the snow on Saturday
    35 swimmers claimed this as their first Masters meet
    0 USMS records this year, although there have been a few in the past
    0 Olympic medalists showed up (we had one once)
    76 entries came in the last 3 days before the deadline
    6 swimmers sent in photos for the online meet scrapbook
    84 new meet records were set
    10 coconut relay teams entered
    19 relay teams entered the 2 relay events - 11 in the medley

    The tee shirts were a hit again this year. 52 meet swimmers ordered meet tee shirts. 13 team members not in the meet bought tee shirts (actually 12 - the meet director gets a free tee shirt.) There were 6 to sell at the meet - all sold. The last one sold after I received an email requesting one the day after the meet. 71 shirts were printed but 72 were ordered - the tee shirt printers messed up one.

    VMST sent the most swimmers to the meet - 20. Our team ALEX sent the second most, and RMST the third. GMUP sent the least - 0. I pick on them because none of their four signups attended (although swimmers 30-40 miles away made it), and they are the third closest team geographically to us.

    Who actually attends our meet? Well, Alexandria Masters has quite a few swimmers who do not compete except at our event. We have some very good swimmers in that group, too. Hosting the meet provides an opportunity for these people to compete who would not normally do so. Earlier, I mentioned that we aimed to attract the swimmers that shy away from competing. This seems to be true with our team as well as others.

    Since I embarrass myself at about half the meets here in the area, I am familiar with a lot of the names on those meet programs. True, a good many do show their face at our meet, but it is safe to say that many characters at our meet are never seen in other Potomac Valley competition. One team in particular - ARMS - is almost non-existent in other meets, although 13 of their swimmers attended our Tropical Splash.

    But, I believe that there is another dynamic at work, too. Not only do we attract the swimmers that like to have fun at meets, but this is translated to teams, too. I conclude that for two reasons.

    First, we actually do attract some elite level swimmers to the meet. And they return each year. They tend to be on the teams that have big turnouts. Second, there are some teams that we rarely see in our meet program, even though they are local and have good turnouts at other local meets. I believe their teams' culture and personality are more competitive; where performance and competition are taken more seriously. These are the teams where members would not attend our meet to have fun, but to seriously swim and compete. Starting blocks, breaking records, and automatic timing are what these teams get excited about.

    Other teams much further away have an unbelievable turnout at the Tropical Splash (and their elite swimmers show up) because I believe their team culture is more attuned to swimming and competition as fun. Coconut relays, leis, and sociable hospitality rooms are what attract these teams to competition.

    So, the teams where serious performance is the team culture tend to stay away, while the swimmers and teams with a fun, gregarious team culture tend to show up. This makes the meet even more enjoyable - a meet filled with only swimmers of this personality!

    One thing is for certain - our meet grows in popularity each year (and I fear may be too popular for its own good.)

    Updated February 18th, 2010 at 02:02 PM by Rnovitske (I can't believe these stupid grammar mistakes!!!)

  3. Post Apocalypse

    by , February 11th, 2010 at 10:14 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "Delay is preferable to error."
    -Thomas Jefferson

    Almost a week after the meet, I was acrobatically dancing around the obstacle course on my living room floor, littered with pink flamingoes, lap counters, clipboards, meet tee shirts, coconuts, backstroke flags, and timer cards. That's one of the perks for being a meet director - your house becomes Public Storage.

    Task 1: Attend to labor relations.
    I was grateful to our board president who took on the 'thank you' job this year and wrote a gracious thank you letter naming volunteers and their tasks. But, of course I needed to supply her with all the names and tasks, carefully weeding out those on the labor rolls who took unscheduled leave at meet time.

    Task 2: Keep swimmers in the loop.
    I posted a thank you message on the web site meet page, and announced that the results would be posted within a week. This year, I posted all the meet workers' names (since I had already compiled that list). This message was also sent out by email to all swimmers in the meet, with a mentioned that no-shows who ordered tee shirts would be receiving them in the mail.

    Task 3: Start the online meet scrapbook.
    About three swimmers immediately sent in some photos. In order to encourage more submissions, I needed to get posted up quickly, giving swimmers something to look at while waiting for the results. This task takes some time - receiving photos, and photoshopping them down to size, correcting color and exposure where necessary. This year, we received some entertaining ones - swimmers standing and practicing starts in the snow, martini glass glasses, and grass skirts among the happy shining faces.

    Task 4: Results.
    The pressing concern was to get those final results posted. Swimmers do not know what work goes on in the background, or how much it takes to finalize results. First, a few days of blurry-eyed reviewing 3 times per splash, 672 individual splashes, along with 4 heats of relays and 2 of coconut relays. About 12 errors were found whereby the middle time was not the one that timers submitted. A few races had only two times listed, requiring averaging. This could have resulted from timer fatigue, from sticky stopwatch fingers on the donuts and bagels, or from being in the potty too long. No USMS records this year to worry about processing.

    Next, another few days of eyeball callisthenics ensued - left, right, left, right. A comparison of all the times on the timer cards with those entered in the computer meet database was made to be sure they were entered accurately. Another 5 or so mistakes were corrected. These were minor mistakes this year, and a few altered the order of finishes. Last year a whopper mistake was found: a 1-minute error in a 100-IM time.

    Once the results were done, yours truly webmaster needed to whip up the web site with results. Let's see, pdf files, html web site files, and meet records updated. Then a submission to the USMS Meet Database and our LMSC site was kicked out. J-Rod contacted me to say my online results did not contain the officials' names and certifications. As per our Rule Book, I have always submitted them to our sanctions chair with the 'official' printed results after past meets, but never posted them on the web site results. I noted that most meet results I saw online did not do this (even the Zone SCM championship), and no one in Potomac Valley ever asked them to be posted online. But no problem to post them, so voila!

    Week One Aftermath was complete. Results were up, and it was time to move on to the other apres-meet duties.

    Updated February 12th, 2010 at 12:46 PM by Rnovitske

  4. Yes Virginia, The Coconuts Are Real

    by , February 7th, 2010 at 08:48 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure."
    -Russell Baker

    On Sunday, we had a swim meet.

    146 out of 189 attended. Usually, about 12-15 do not show up in a normal year. Subtracting those from the signup, we can assume 28 swimmers did not make it due to the snow. Most of them were out of towners - I do not blame them for staying home.

    Here's how meet day went down:

    I arrived at the pool around 7:05. The roads were mostly wet and a little slushy in a few places. The parking lot was cleared of snow. Jane and Michael already had the luau hospitality set up and roaring. The two rookie check-in people were there eager to receive their instructions.

    Michael Boyle from RMST was the first person to show up around 7:15.

    I requested that the pool manager turn off the underwater lights. These are an annoyance to us swimmers during our workouts there - they are like swimming into high beams on a highway.

    First problem - equipment. Again. For a third year in a row. Our Mother Hen head timer stopped by a coach's house to pick up the sound system early that morning because he was sick and snowed in for evening setup the night before. The coach had never bothered to set up the equipment (or pack it up) at home and check things out before handing off to us. Setting up the speakers on meet day, we found there was no power cord for them. Mother Hen offered to drive back to the coach's house to pick up the power cord after a quick phone call to him.

    Needless to state, the music program was obviously screwed up. No music for warmups, at least the beginning. She arrived back a half hour later at 8:00 in time to initiate our warmup music just as the sprint lanes began. Jimmy Buffet and Margaritaville would have to wait until next year.

    Officials showed up on time, were given the timeline, and told that we needed to speed it up if possible. We use one minute between heats as per J-Rod's experience and suggestion, and have been a bit ahead of time in the past.

    The check-in was going well. Teammates brought lots of donations - the luau hospitality room was well stocked. A group of swimmers posed outside in the snow with their swim suits and leis. One even did a start into a snow bank. I printed out the meet records and posted them in the hospitality room. I printed the meet seeding (with deck entries) and posted on the wall. My big meet director's surprise for the meet: our national anthem played on steel drums by the Trinidad and Tobago steel drum band to start things off. I remembered to set out the lap counter cards. We started 5 minutes earlier than the time line. Everything else from then on hummed along.

    After about an hour, we realized that we were ahead of schedule. At the half-way break, we were about 20 minutes ahead. I breathed a sigh of relief. The results were being compiled in a timely manner.

    A few coconuts were placed on the awards table to entice signups for the coconut relay. The reaction was amusing to me. Swimmers would walk up, curiously look at them, cautiously roll them on the table, touch them, pick them up, evaluate their weight. You would think they were looking at alien moon rocks. Yes, the coconuts are real.

    Kelley Lemmon, 97 year old DC Masters member and inductee to the International Hall of Fame showed up and swam his 50 free. After prodding the crowd on the sound system, he received a loud cheer and standing ovation at his finish. He and his friends had asked me not to make a big deal or fuss prior to his swim since he was nervous about his first meet in over 20 years. He was appreciative of the privacy, and of his recognition after the swim. Inspiration was not in short supply.

    The meet ended at 1:20 PM - 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Everyone seemed to have a great time. Several comments after the meet indicated swimmers enjoyed the meet. I will post them later.

    But wait, tranquility is not here yet. There is more work ahead.

    "I will post them later:" are a doll!! Thanks!
    Glad some counties know how to clear the streets!!!! It is still a sheet of ice around here....and of course no school for the kids tomorrow!!!! Maybe I should take up ice skating!!
    I do hope the meet was a success. I had heard that you guys put on a great meet and everyone has a blast....I am so sorry that I had to bag it.
    Thank you for your assistance with the refund! (No t-shirt.)
    Be safe out there and thanks again....hope to see you at the meet here in RH next month... Lisa

    Hi Ray,
    This was my first Tropical Splash ever ! I have heard of it for years, but I am not usually ready to compete in January ! It was tons of fun and of course, having Kelley there was remarkable.
    I have really missed out all these years.
    Thank you for everything ! I saw old friends and met a couple of women who were 60 + in their first meet ever ! They had a blast !
    I am sorry I did not order a t-shirt. Are there any more? If so, I would come pick them up; I live in Arlington. Not sure if Kelley ordered one - I would get him one and one for me as well.
    Thanks again for a beautiful, fun meet which has got me excited to train for National's !
    All the best, Ann

    Thank you for a great meet. The hospitality shown to those who managed to mush their way through the snow was awesome. The tropical theme reminded me of my younger days and brought a smile to my face. The competition was keen and the meet ran flawlessly, in fact I was a little surprised how swiftly it completed. Iʼm looking forward to next yearʼs event.
    Thanks again,Bob

    Hi Ray, So sorry , the weather didnt cooperate for us (MARY- team). We have always enjoyed your meet and the atmosphere it creates..Thanks for
    emailing me back regarding the check...Fondly, Sue

    Thanks for hosting a wonderful meet. We look forward to being there next year.
    Have you considered keeping track of the coconut relay results as a part of the meet records? It's a fun thing for us to look forward to every year and it'd be nice to see progression, I think two teams broke 1:40 this year, which based on what I could see back to 2004 are the fastest times.
    Anyhow just a thought.
    Cheers, John

    Hi - I just wanted to drop you a line and congratulate you on running a great meet! I look forward to TS 2011.
    Best regards, Tony

    Here are some photos I took at the Tropical Splash swim meet from my team. These photos are from the Arlington Masters swim team. I hope you like them. We had 9 swimmers from our team attedning and swimming in the meet. Thanks for hosting such a fun meet. I have swam in this meet for about 5 years now.

    . . . It is a great meet and lots of folks agree with me! It's all the little things you all do that makes it extra special.
    My new swimmers are looking forward to next year (and want to learn to dive & flip now). Thank you so much for all you do! - Ann

    Thank you for a great Tropical Splash meet! As always it is a fun meet and the little tropical touches and spirit of your team are
    wonderful. Michelle

    Ray, Thanks so much for the T-shirt and special attention at the Tropical Splash. I always enjoy swimming in Virginia and seeing my old friends.
    The meet was just great. I liked all the extra decorations (flamingos, fish handing from the backstroke flags). I really liked the meet program, listing the new masters swimmers is a great idea. And how nice to see so many names!!
    And the goodies were great. The Gatorade probably helped me swim better. I was hoping for 3:10 in the 200 breast, so I was really happy with 3:07. My days of under 3 minutes are long gone.
    Thanks again. See you next time I swim in Potomac Valley. Joann

    Updated October 20th, 2010 at 10:14 PM by Rnovitske (meet comments included)

  5. Serenity Now!

    by , February 3rd, 2010 at 08:52 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "Everyone knows I'm in over my head..."
    -The Fray

    Friday. Snow. I stared at the 1-2 inches predicted for Saturday, blinked, and watched it increase to 2-3 inches. Friday night, 3-6 inches. Saturday, 4-6 inches.

    11:00. Snow. The snow began Saturday as the team left our apres-workout coffeehouse. I tripped on down to Office Depot to drop off the meet program for printing, ordering 200 copies. I was pasting the advertiser-sponsor ads in, the day before. We charge $10 for a footer ad, which pays for printing the program. Did the gal in the copy center speak English? Did she understand me? Were there no forms to fill out?

    12:00. Snow. I posted a note to the web page that the meet's fate would be decided sometime in the evening, after evaluation of an updated forecast and of the roads. Emails were sent out looking for a fourth official for the meet.

    1:00. Snow. The flurry of phone calls and emails kept the telecommunications industry in business. Discussion centered on how to get the word out if canceled, refund policies, and rec center pool rental contractual requirements. Calls were made to find a substitute meet official.

    2:00. Snow. The chair movers were scheduled to be at the summer pool at 3:30 to load up chairs onto the rented truck. This was earlier than usual, because the pool guy with the key needed to officiate a regional high school meet in late afternoon.

    Since his meet was canceled, we could start the chair brigade an hour later. Chair workers were notified. Two 'no' answers came in from possible meet officials.

    3:00. Snow. It was decided to proceed with the pool setup as scheduled at 5:20. The hospitality room coordinator needed to leave home, but her swimming husband was not home yet. She asked to come in early before the meet at 6:00 AM. I gave her the pool's phone number and asked to coordinate. She decided to stay home that evening and arrive at the pool early morning to set up her end. A call to our sanction chair seemed to indicate the pool guy could be an official at our meet - his high school certification was acceptable by USMS.

    4:00. Snow. There were 5-inches of snow on my deck. I began clearing the car and loading up the lap counters, flamingoes, tee shirts, awards, hats, coconuts, power strip. The melted snow on the car from earlier that day had frozen to the windshield.

    5:00. Snow. I headed to Office Depot to pick up the meet programs. It was recently closed due to the weather. Were the employees inside having a party and laughing at me frantic knocking on the glass doors in the cold snow? After 5 minutes, one came to the door. I explained the situation, and was told to pick them up tomorrow morning after 10:00.

    I continued knocking. I was going to stay there all night knocking if needed. Another employee came over and told me the register computers were shut down, so I could not check out. I offered to hand over my credit card to charge it tomorrow when the registers started up again. Nope. Then, I dropped the bomb, "I want to speak to the manager."

    I explained the situation a third time. The manager let me in, obtained the copies, and checked me out on the register without talking much, trying to force a disgusted, disapproving look on her face. I will be sure to send a note of thanks.

    5:30. Snow. I arrived at the pool. The chair brigade was there waiting. Their truck would not make into the summer pool's driveway. Rather than risk getting it stuck, it was left at the street. Chairs were carried out, down the driveway through the snow to the street.

    The pool training classes which had kept us from setting up at 5:00 were canceled due to the snow. The canoe, noodles, foam belts and bar bells, kickboards were all cleared off the pool deck. The tables were set up. The few chairs the rec center owned (there are no bleachers) were set up. The lane lines were in. This year, the staff had actually done a lot of the work we were forced to do in the past. Our setup was completed in an hour - a record time.

    7:00. Snow. The snow was beginning to end after 6 inches accumulation. The weather forecast and radar showed it ending. The road crews had all night to clear the roads. I posted to the meet web page that
    the meet was on.

    I packed up the computers and printers for the morning trip, cored a pineapple for the luau hospitality room, set the alarm, and went to bed.

    Updated February 3rd, 2010 at 11:38 AM by Rnovitske

  6. One Day To Go

    by , January 29th, 2010 at 11:31 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Problem #1
    A record number of swimmers have entered the meet. The deadline was Monday, but 14 entires arrived Tuesday and Wednesday. Five other swimmers tried to enter late. Some got in, some are pre-registered as deck entries since entries were received after the seeding and meet program were printed. Did I state that late entries were not a problem? In total, 19 swimmers entered after the deadline, bringing the total to 189 swimmers.

    In addition, two swimmers were left out because their entries were never received. I am trying to get them in. Since there are always no-shows, I am hoping these two will be able to swim the events they want (along with using deck entries for some of their choices). This means real time juggling things around during the meet.

    Problem #2
    The weather is another problem this year. 2-4 inches of snow are predicted for Saturday ending Saturday night. Deja vu all over again. Fortunately, this storm is bringing cold dry fluffy snow (no ice), and should easily be removed.

    We received a note that one swimmer is staying home. The storm could drop up to 12-inches of snow and some ice south of our area, where he was coming from. There are another 6-12 swimmers coming from points south, and I expect many will not make it.

    The weather issue and forecast was posted on our web site meet page and updated for the past two days.

    Problem #3
    We received a note that one of the 4 officials is not going to make it - he is flying home tomorrow from somewhere, and believes the snow will delay his arrival. We are putting the call out in several places for a replacement.

    Problem #4
    Too many people means a bad experience for swimmers. Last year seemed crowded on deck. With an additional 24 swimmers, we need to think about restricting attendance or find a new pool next year.

    I sent out instructions to everyone on where to park, complete with an overhead Google image. The pool lot and adjacent school lot were identified. Hopefully the lots will be plowed out by Sunday. Television states the snow will be fluffy and easily removed, with heaviest snow Saturday afternoon. Our tropics will be appreciated. Right now, there is no plan to cancel the meet. Stay tuned.

    Problem #5
    With the additional heat of 500 freestyle this year, and with more swimmers, the projected timeline ends us at 2:01 PM. We need to be out of the pool at 2:00.

    In past years, we have ended about 10 minutes before the projected timeline. We have also made arrangements to start Heat 2 before one swimmer in Heat 1 is finished. The swimmer entered a seed time about 6 minutes slower than anyone else. We hope Heat 2 seed times are somewhat accurate.
  7. It's Snow Ice to See You

    by , January 26th, 2010 at 02:57 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Now that the workers are assigned, lap counters are in, and awards came through, I have another worry to take me to meet day. The forecast for "measurable snow" on Friday into Saturday is giving more of these hairs a gray tint. Canceling a meet is the biggest disaster one could face. We went through this already during our second meet, when a storm hit at the worst possible time for making a decision. So we should have some experience with it.

    The first year meet was very successful. Over a dozen emails were received complementing us on the meet - how much fun and organized it was, - and surprise that it was our first. The second meet had a 20% jump in the number entries over the first meet. But Mother Nature had a second plan.

    We were watching the weather report closely all day Saturday, after different watches and warnings were issued for winter weather. With eyes to the skies, nothing was happening as we arrived at the pool for our Saturday night setup. After the usual 2-hour prep, we exited the pool to find a few small white semi-frozen ice balls and pellets falling. Upon arriving home, the dreaded nightmare began - 20 calls on my phone answering machine asking about a meet cancellation. My email inbox had about twice that number.

    I answered every one and told swimmers to stay tuned to our web site (yep, I handle webmaster duties too) where announcements would be posted. First, I decided (notice the subject went from 'we' to 'I') to sit tight and not cancel anything until the conditions and facts were determined. The ice balls began to increase and small accumulations began to appear on the grassy areas. Surely the road crews had time to clear roads by tomorrow, I thought. The forecast was only for 2-4 inches of sleet changing to snow and ending before midnight. In my upstate New York hometown, that would barely keep anyone awake at night.

    The ice balls turned to snow and began to show up on the roads by 9:00 PM. Good, this is following the forecast. I had to make a decision. Why did this storm need to hit at just the time when making a decision was difficult? Because I was meet director.

    A trip to the NOAA web site to read up on the detailed meteorology nerd-speak was needed. It translated into the same - snow and ice falling, ending near midnight, and clearing tomorrow. I posted that forecast to our web site - our meet was still on! (based on the overnight forecast of course. Don't blame me if it doesn't pan out.)

    An insignificant amount of snow could easily be handled during the overnight hours, I thought. Although not heavy, the snow continued. I read every forecast I could find online until it was time to enter dream world. I called a few team members for their advice - weather was the same where they were. Our county pools tend not to close unless the parking lots are inaccessible and the guards can't make it to work. Would we get our money back on the pool rental if we cancelled? Who will eat all the food? Should we offer a refund to all the swimmers? Or a partial refund? Have we gone too far to turn back? Will it be safe to travel?

    Then, a new warning popped out - the Virginia State Police had issued a travel advisory requesting that only essential travel be out on the roads. Still, only about 1 inch on the ground. I thought Virginia was in its usual panic about a possible small amount of snow and went to bed. During my sleep, while dreaming of angry mobs with torches and pitchforks looking for a meet director who cancelled a meet, I heard ice pellets from time to time pelting the window. So, it did NOT stop in the evening.

    At 7:00 the next morning, all was quiet. There were about 2 inches on the ground, and roads appeared easily passable. Nothing had come out during the night to treat my residential street. I walked to the main street, and found it had not been treated, either. What were road crews doing all night? Maybe they did not considered themselves essential travel and stayed home? Fortunately, some light traffic on the main street had kept the accumulation down, but a sleet-snow mixture covered the untreated pavement.

    I loaded up the car and headed to the pool. On the way, I spotted a car in the gutter. A taxi was fishtailing and traveling up the hill on US Route 1 sideways. I made it with no trouble. It was slick, but driving was not a problem - for me. This main road was not touched by a plow blade, but the side road where the pool is located was cleared, treated, and trouble-free. The main road is cared for by state V-DOT, who contracts out care for the side streets.

    At the pool, there were three swimmers from Penn State waiting at the door with a message. I was going to be killed if the meet was cancelled after they traveled 4 hours to get here. Their pitchforks were put away.

    Swimmers arrived late. One official could not make it. I heard bad stories about the roads in the outlying areas people were coming from. One swimmer ended in his driveway ditch and never made it to the meet. Vehicles off the road dotted the main parkway from Washington. Still, 110 out of 150 swimmers made it to the meet that day. Before the meet was over, the sun came out and the roads were only wet.

    We sent refunds to swimmers who requested them - who could not make the meet. I entered and paid for the second day of a 2-day winter meet in Richmond many years ago. Day 2 was cancelled due to an overnight storm. The team refused to give any refund or partial refund - citing 'expenses.' Seems to me that there would be some kind of savings that could be returned if a meet was not held. I vowed not to repeat their public relations faux pas, and never entered their meet again.

    This year's storm is due to hit Friday into Saturday. I am hoping it stays on schedule, as there should be enough time to recover and hold the meet on Sunday. If a storm hits on Saturday, maybe we will offer refunds for those swimmers who decide to stay home. More tropical food for the rest of us.

    180 entries - a record

    Updated January 26th, 2010 at 05:16 PM by Rnovitske (grammar)

  8. Attached To You

    by , January 23rd, 2010 at 07:05 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    At•tach |əˈta ch |
    bind, fasten, tie, or connect;
    to make fast or join;
    as in 'attach a copy of your USMS card here'
    • fasten (a related document) to another;
    • include (a condition) as part of an agreement'
    ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense [seize by legal authority] ): from Old French atachier or estachier ‘fasten, fix,’ based on an element of Germanic origin related to stake

    What is up with the inability to read, comprehend, and perform? What does a box with "Attach USMS card here" mean to you? (Right. It means the meet director will cut out your card and attach it for you.) About 70% of meet entries come with the card copied on a loose full size piece of paper stuffed into the envelope with the entry and check. Can we afford online registration next year, please?

    With a week away, the meet seems to be coming together. Most timer slots are now filled, but the take down chores after the meet remain unpopular. The lap counter cards delivery by Fed Ex on Friday brought a smile to my face.

    I called Hasty Awards to ask where our awards are. I was told they are in transit and should be arriving Monday. This is news.

    Three years ago, the ribbon awards came printed with a different font than we used in previous meets. This year I requested that Hasty be sure to match previous years, so we don't have two styles of ribbons. I was told (January 6) that a proof would be sent to me for approval. There was no proof - there was no approval. The awards are printed and in transit. I hope they are what they are supposed to be.

    The equipment chairman says the stopwatches are all set. Time to wrap my brain around the entries received today, the next to last mail delivery before the deadline. Some statistics please…

    One entry remains without a USMS card. This poor gal was notified twice in the past two weeks, and wrote back that she would be sending it in. Thus far, nothing.

    Three phone calls and six emails asked for deadline extensions. Half of those entries have been received on time. In this area and with few exceptions, mail has been delivered to our post office box the day after it is postmarked.

    Two swimmers sent cash as payment.

    A local guy belonging to Egypt masters entered our meet again this year. It was a problem for me two years ago, because his card was in Arabic. I don't do Arabic. A friend of mine does, and translated for me - his card was expired. It was renewed before the meet. This year's card is valid. Did you know that the Egypt Masters card has the swimmer's color photo on it?

    Three entries were received with no individual events entered - never happened before. Only the (no-fee) deck-entered relay events were circled. I have two of these swimmers now in the meet and straightened out, pointing out the rule in the meet announcement stating that this is not acceptable. I await to hear from the third.

    I am guessing about 50% of the entries are from swimmers who have entered our meet two or more times in the past.

    The last two days saw 39 entries arrive - 27%.

    143 entries to date

    Updated January 24th, 2010 at 01:36 PM by Rnovitske (grammar)

  9. No Problem

    by , January 20th, 2010 at 10:23 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    “Laugh at your problems; everybody else does.”
    Things are looking up. The worker list is still filling in. The lap counter card nightmare is subsiding - our order has been shipped - by ground transport from California. We have a decorated swimmer from the International Swimming Hall of Fame attending the meet in the 95-99 age group.

    So what could go wrong?

    We received 19 entries - in one day. I am still concerned about overcrowding. I received my first complaint from a swimmer on our team. The meet order. Yep, I already knew that. This will be the first year the order was criticized, and it was justified - I wrote earlier that some event distances were clumped together instead of spread through the meet. I would recommend to future Tropical Splash meet directors that we trash this order, and go back to using the orders of the previous three years, rotating them year to year. Those meet orders rocked.

    In Meet #1, the pool manager turned off the heating system overnight to cool the pool water down, and started it up again in the morning. Unfortunately, the heating system dehumidified the air. Upon entering the pool that morning, moisture condensed on everything. Glasses steamed up. Paper timers cards felt like dumplings. Cameras fogged up, so there were no meet photos in the LMSC newsletter. And, my brand new laptop computer would not start up, presumably because there was condensation inside after being brought in from the car. First meet. Extreme panic.

    I had thought of everything, and had brought along my old desktop computer and CRT monitor just in case. But it was in the cold car trunk outside. I went out to retrieve it, but the monitor would not come out of the trunk! Twisting and turning every way, it could not come out. Sweat poured through my tee shirt in the subfreezing temperature. After what seemed like a half hour of geometry lessons, it came out - and I severely cut my hand on some sharp metal under the trunk lid. As I was lugging the behemoth into the pool lobby with a trail of corpuscles behind me, someone came up to inform me that my laptop had started up while I was outside.

    Next year, to cool the pool down, cold water was turned on to flood the pool early in the morning. After about the third event, an official came to me and said he was stopping the meet. The water level was about three inches over the top of the gutter, making the pool about 6-inches longer in each direction. He said it was dangerous for swimmers since the pool gutter was underwater. The cold water was never shut off. The pool manager quickly opened the drain.

    Last year, the officials started the first race before the national anthem was played.

    Two years ago, a confused checkin worker was mistakenly giving meet tee shirts (that other swimmers prepaid for) to anyone that walked through the door.

    In the meet #2, the pool's backstroke flags were falling off the rope during the weeks leading up to the meet. Some lanes had only a bare rope overhead. We bought 2 cheap plastic backstroke lines for the meet.

    A swimmer pointed out the starting blocks are not centered on the lanes. Obsessive? Swimming 9 years in that pool, I never noticed. After checking, we found that every starting block is installed about 6 inches left of center in every lane.

    The equipment director promised 14 watches from his age group swim team for Meet #4. He heard I had secured 8 (we need 21 - 3 timers for 7 lanes) so he only provided 8. He 'assumed' we only needed two watches per lane - as that was the Northern Virginia Swim League requirement for age group meets. We borrowed some from meet participants, and made a quick run to nearby Walmart to make a purchase.

    Last year the same meet equipment director provided the same watches. He waited until the day before to pick up the watches from his team rep. On meet day as timers were getting ready during warmups, we discovered no watches. He received a key to their storage room, but there were not enough watches, and some had bum batteries. Another trip to Walmart. He is in charge of equipment again this year.

    During Meet #1, the women's toilet stalls all ran out of toilet paper. No one told me about this until the meet was over.

    The next year, we got the staff to keep an eye on the women's toilet paper supply. So the men's room ran out - the staff never thought to check both during the meet.

    In meet #4, the luau hospitality coordinator thought to create a nice atmosphere by burning scented candles in the room . . .with the food . . .and chlorine.

    In meet #2 there was a snow/ice storm overnight before the meet. Another story, another post.

    And who can forget the year the pool ran 88 degrees.

    86 entries to date

    Plan backups in case the big things go wrong, but don't sweat the little ones (and don't cut your hand.)

    Updated January 21st, 2010 at 04:38 PM by Rnovitske

  10. Let The Music Play On

    by , January 17th, 2010 at 10:08 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without

    It has been a busy weekend processing entries and planning for the meet. Tropical themed music is played during warmups and during the break in the middle of the meet. Trying to keep the meet fresh, new music is substituted in and out of our play list each year. There are the annual standards (Margaritaville, Limbo Rock, Jump In The Line), but there are always a few new ones thrown in. Because the song list is now large, we can retire a tune and bring it back in a few years so the play list always changes.

    This year, the new ones include Wipeout (surfing tune), Under The Sea (Little Mermaid), Luna Barranquillera (Columbian salsa), and the Macerena. I had to edit the last one down - my brain can only listen to about 2 minutes of it.

    The play list is not just thrown together. No, no, no! It is carefully assembled with thought and tested like a fine cabernet. The warmups begin slowly as swimmers are entering the pool, stretching, and getting their bearings. Reggae, and melodic Hawaiian tunes start out from the sound system to tease the palate. As warmups progress, the noise level increases, and sprint lanes are started, the rocking calypso and latin rhythms are belted out. Later the pool begins to clear and swimmers begin settling in - the mellow steel drum tunes then drift through the air. The playlist for this year is now set. I've always wanted to be a DJ.

    Problem entries to date:
    • With the online USMS registration, there have been no outdated registration cards submitted to date. However, three entries did arrive without registration cards. Emails were sent to all. The first swimmer eventually sent in a copy of her card, but unfortunately, it arrived after the 500 free that she entered was filled. I told her she would be placed on standby - if one of the Florida swimmers on hold (who entered the 500) decides not to come, she's in.
    • The second swimmer said she was registered, but had not yet received her card. I pointed her to the USMS web site to download a copy last week. Nothing yet - I think she just pulled an excuse out of . . .
    • The third was a bit of a problem. The guy sent the payment receipt for his registration attached to his entry. After contacting him by email, he said he would send me the card. Minutes later, I received yet another copy of his payment receipt. I wrote back explaining that the payment receipt does not indicate his team, age, USMS number, and is not his card. I attached a copy of my card as a sample. No reply to date.

    The baseball caps and maracas pens arrived on Friday for our new swimmer souvenirs and coconut relay prizes.

    Still no lap counter cards. The local high schools have their regional season end meet the day before our meet (not at this pool). That means Plan B - borrowing their lap counter cards - may not be possible - from any high school. This issue is turning into one big headache.

    More workers were recruited with another email and with personal pleas after Saturday's workout. Still some slots need filling.

    66 entries to date, and 2 pending
    Expecting a boatload of entries the day after Monday's holiday and after weekend

    Updated January 17th, 2010 at 10:22 PM by Rnovitske (grammar)

  11. By Special Request

    by , January 15th, 2010 at 12:05 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    The meet is two weeks away. You can tell - there is less humor in this blog these days. These are some of the highlights of requests received in the past - maybe they can help compensate for being humor-less.

    Can you seed our team's two relays in two different heats? I want to swim in each one - the men's relay and the mixed relay.
    Are you nuts? No. You can only swim once in each event.
    This requirement was placed on the meet entry announcement in the years following this request.

    Since you do not charge for relays, can I enter the meet and just swim in the relays?
    No. You're not coming to swim for free. You must enter at least one individual event.
    We do not charge for relays because I do not like paying for them at meets. First, I do not like fumbling around with wet hands for money and wallets on deck at the meet, and trying to stick someone with paying for the relay. Second, our team often needs to wait to see who shows up at the meet before we can put a relay together, making preregistration and prepayment difficult. This requirement was placed on our meet announcement in years following this request.

    I want to deck enter, Can I show up at 10:00 to do so?
    No. You must deck enter by 8:30 AM.
    We do not charge more for deck entering. Since allowing deck entries only to fill empty heats, swimmers are already penalized. They are forced to swim in NT heats, and must take their chances on what events are not filled. Sometimes swimmers' personal schedules do not allow them to make a decision on entering prior to the meet deadline, and I don't want to penalize them further. (Remember that our meet deadline is a mere six days before the meet.)

    Can you put me in the lane next to my friend so we can swim compete against each other?
    Yes, but don't make a habit of this.
    I have had this request three times - once this year. I have always accommodated it. We want swimmers to enjoy themselves at the meet and have a good time. Two years ago someone asked that their seed time in the 500 be adjusted to compete head to head. The seeding was done, and it worked out that way without adjustment! I still told each that I adjusted the other's seed times for them.

    Since I didn't get entered in the 500 freestyle, can you put me on standby?
    Yes, if there is a scratch or a no-show, you can switch out one of your other events.
    I did this last year and it was no problem. Give swimmers a chance to swim the events they want if possible. But I had to make sure the swimmer was not going to end up swimming six events.

    Can I fax you my entry and card, and bring a check to the meet?
    No. If you don't have the payment in my hands, you take your chances as a deck entry.
    With a time constraint, we cannot afford to enter swimmers, potentially increase the length of the meet, then not have them show up to swim. Payment adds an incentive and shows they are serious.

    Can I practice starts during this break?
    No. It's too late to set up a lane for that.
    It takes a bit of time to clear a lane of warmup swimmers before safely using it for starts. The break is only 10 minutes long. This year before the break, I will try setting up a start lane and announcing it ahead of time.

    I am visiting from New Mexico and need to bring my toddler son to the meet. My wife is attending conferences in downtown D.C. that day. Can someone pick us up from the Metro (subway) station, baby-sit while I am swimming, and drive us back to the station after the meet?
    Wow. Take a taxi to the meet from the subway. Someone will love to watch your son a short time, and after the meet, lots of swimmers will be driving home, passing the subway station.
    If you stay after the meet to help take down, I will drive you. Maybe we can charter a plane for you back to New Mexico, too? Kidding aside, everything worked out well for this fellow and we were glad he made it. Let's end with a happy ending.

    55 entries to date

    Updated January 16th, 2010 at 12:56 PM by Rnovitske (include number of entries)

  12. Nerves of Steel

    by , January 12th, 2010 at 10:11 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.
    -Bertrand Russell
    The meet director is getting nervous after today's mail.

    We are now up to 47 bona fide entries. At this time last year, there were 25, with an eventual total of 172 swimmers. If current rate continues, we may end up with TOO MANY swimmers! Sardines on the pool deck and sardines behind the starting blocks don't go with tropical fish.

    If the meet attracts so many swimmers, maybe a move to another pool with better capacity is in store for next year. But, no other pool is closed on Sunday mornings like this one is, (meaning we put on the boxing gloves and go a round with the county park authority and lap swimmers to get another pool to close for us.)

    Past experience has been that 80 entires flood in at the last week. With about 3-5 entires arriving per day now, we could end up with about 190 swimmers.

    To be finished on time and to keep the meet from degrading into a slow burn, entires in the 500 free are limited. In bygone years, swimmers were turned away about 3 weeks before the deadline. To 'service the membership,' this year we added another heat to the 500, bringing the limit up to 28. At this date, there are 24 swimmers in the event, leaving 4 slots left. I expect these to fill up after my daily pilgrimage to the almighty post office box tomorrow morning.

    When too many entries chase the last remaining slots, how should we decide? Should he stay or should she go? I developed a tie-breaker system to decide who gets in over who does not on the last day:
    1. Entires that are complete get in - signed form, proper payment, card attached. Then,
    2. Entries with earliest postmark gets in. Then,
    3. Alexandria Masters and Potomac Valley swimmers get in. Then,
    4. Swimmers who have attended our meet in the past get in. And finally,
    5. The oldest swimmer(s) get in.

    If there is a fairer system, I want to hear it. In past years, the ties were decided in step #2. Last year for the first time, I needed step #5 to decide which 2 of 4 swimmers got in. One swimmer left out was let in on meet day to swim 500 after someone scratched. He was happy. He entered the 500 again this year, earlier.

    I'm still chasing down those lap counter cards. I called an online supplier today and inquired if I could purchase some (as a backup in case they did not arrive at our local swim shop in time.) I got a familiar answer: they are out of stock and not expected in before January 20. What happened to all the lap counter cards in the country?
  13. I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts

    by , January 11th, 2010 at 12:06 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "It is a happy talent to know how to play."
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    fluff for your entertainment

    Before the first Tropical Splash, I brought some coconuts to a workout to test them out for the fun relay we planned. Could a swimmer actually swim with a coconut or two or three? Do they float or sink? Do they get water logged? Do they break open? We had a lot of fun that night experimenting with the things only swimmers can dream up of what to do to/with coconuts in the water.

    First, we discovered that coconuts sink, although slowly. We thought that might be more fun - if you loose a coconut while swimming the relay, you have to dive down to retrieve it. No, they have a mind of their own, and upon sinking, follow the water currents, drifting into someone else's lane. This could cause swimmer collision. True, our insurance policy covered fun relays (well, maybe not with coconuts), but it did not include collision damage. We drill a hole in them, drain out the milk, and plug the hole with plumbers putty. The resulting air inside allows them to float.

    Next, we discovered that swimmers with Type A personalities were chucking the coconuts down the pool, and then swimming to them, without actually swimming with them. Concussions and lawsuits came to mind. The rules were quickly changed. We also came up with the rule that swimmers start in the water at the handoff. Passing the nuts to a relay member on deck and starting off the blocks with coconuts in tow sounded painful.

    Here's how the 3-person 150-yd coconut relay works.

    Swimmers sign up at the awards table with their relay name and any three swimmers in the meet - (another team or unattached). Masters swimmers are not as creative as I believed or hoped (just look at the USMS logo) - most relay names are uninspiring. Some of the better ones over the years: "Big Kahunas", "Slow Parents and Fast Kid", "Waheenies", "The Doctors", "Koo Koo 4 Coconuts". Come on, we can do better!
    • Swimmer #1 starts from the blocks and swims 25 yards. At the end of the pool, he picks up a coconut and swims back with it, handing it off to swimmer #2, who is in the water waiting.
    • Swimmer #2 swims 25 yards with the coconut and picks up a second one, swimming back to the start with both coconuts. Swimmer #2 hands them off to swimmer #3 waiting in the water.
    • Swimmer #3 swims 25 yards with both coconuts. Then, he picks up one more coconut, and swims back to the finish with all 3 coconuts.

    Last year there were 10 relay teams put together. One guy brought his own women's 'top' to wear in the coconut relay to have a place to store his coconuts while swimming. Women have a distinct advantage in this event, with more suit to stuff coconuts into, thereby freeing up the arms to use to swim. Men need to hold onto the coconuts, handicapping the arms and/or legs, and we do not stuff coconuts into our jammers. (Although some were getting wise and using a body suit.) With those suits banned by the time of our meet, the women would go back to having an advantage this year.

    But, we decided to allow full body suits this year in the coconut relay. After spending that money, swimmers need to get some use out of them, even if it is just to swim with coconuts.

    Think 'insurance liability' before deciding on a fun relay. For example, I know that water polo (balls) is not covered in our swim workouts (and I doubt coconuts are, either.)

    Updated January 11th, 2010 at 12:40 PM by Rnovitske

  14. Murphy's Law of Checks

    by , January 8th, 2010 at 08:57 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Well, it's the end of the first week in January and the lap counter cards are still not in after our November order. Our retailer says his supplier has now told him in another week. We will be contacting the high schools again to use their cards in about a week if the cards we ordered have not arrived.

    Three weeks to go and our volunteer list is only about 1/4 full. I have asked the coaches to recruit swimmers during all the workouts. Some of the sub-committee chairs have not been assigned, so it looks like your truly will be pulling double and triple duty.

    Here is an example of how a simple mistake can mushroom:

    Mistake #1
    One swimmer entered with a check dated January 2009. This has happened in the past. Our bank says it would submit those checks for payment and some will go through. If they do not and the check is returned, we pay a returned check fee. We are swimmers (some of us), not gamblers. I contacted the swimmer and she sent a new check dated for 2010.

    Mistake #2
    Unfortunately, I deposited both checks.

    Mistake #3
    Both cleared her account. We sent a refund to her.

    Two swimmers from Florida entered the meet. Their checks were deposited after learning a lesson from last year. I then received a note that there was some emergency surgery and that they may not make it, asking me to hold their entry and check until the deadline. I told them we would refund if needed.

    Last year, I turned in all meet entry checks to our treasurer, who deposited them after the meet. One neoprene check (there was no swimsuit ban that year) came back with insufficient funds. In previous five meets, that had never happened. Three months later, the swimmer paid up. We vowed this year to deposit checks soon after they arrive.

    30 entreis to date
  15. Task Master's Tasks

    by , January 5th, 2010 at 11:33 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Why are there 300 views of my tee shirt post????

    The second notice to the team was sent out Monday requesting volunteers. As predicted, there was minimal response. Five team members in all responded, and only 3 of 21 timer slots are filled. A sixth person, a friend of someone on the team, volunteered to be the the third timer. Imagine that. The other volunteers want to take the fun jobs at the awards and check-in tables. My next request will also emphasize that spouses and family members are welcome to volunteer, too. (then aunts and uncles, then pets and neighbors . . .)

    The first time swimmer souvenirs were ordered from Oriental Trading today: 2 dozen tropical hibiscus baseball caps to go with the 1 dozen we have left over from prior meets. Two dozen maracas pens were ordered as Coconut Relay awards. Total cost was a whopping $50.

    The ribbon awards were ordered from Hasty Awards. I really like their service and willingness to work with us, and they have always been true to their committments. We paid for a custom graphic setup on the ribbons at the first meet. Since it is on file, orders in subsequent years do not have that surcharge.

    What's interesting is that the number of first place awards has been relatively constant over the years. But, the more swimmers we have at the meet, the more second and especially third place awards we need. During our first meet, we ran out of second place ribbons. We ordered a few more and mailed them out to everyone after the meet, whether requested or not. That mistake (OK it was my bad planning) cut our profits a bit.

    The ribbon awards order cost about $105 this year - 150 first place, 75 second place, and 75 third place ribbons. These supplement those we already have, and also represent a number larger than we expect to use, just to be on the safe side. Last year for 165 swimmers, we had 230 firsts, 128 seconds, and 70 thirds. Of course, not everyone picks up their awards - usually about 75% do.

    Following J-Rod's advice during the first meet, (our unofficial 'LMSC advisor'), we left the date off the ribbons to ensure that we can use the extras in future meets. That was a good decision. Maybe all clubs hosting a meet for the first time should have a LMSC mentor/advisor assigned. He kept us out of trouble on a few other incidents, too.

    20 entries to date.

    Never run out of beer; or ribbons.
  16. The Little Things You Do

    by , December 30th, 2009 at 11:51 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "God is in the details."
    -Ludwig Meis van der Rohe

    During the first meet, a lot of attention was paid to the little things. The goal was to 'put a smile on your face.' I wanted to host a meet differently and one way was to pay attention to the details - make the little things pleasurable and enjoyable. This does two things.

    First, little fun things help relieve the pressure and tension of competition, especially for new swimmers. Somehow we pulled it off. Each year, swimmers tell us that our meet has a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

    Second, if something does go wrong, swimmers are more likely to overlook and forgive. This was especially important for the first meet, where there was a boatload of things that could (and did) go wrong. A bad experience could result in a tarred and feathered meet director, and could give the meet a bad reputation.

    The little things:
    • All timers and meet workers wear name tags, and are encouraged to wear their Hawaiian tropical shirts to give the illusion of warmth in winter.
    • Inflated tropical fish are hung from the backstroke flags, pink flamingoes grace the warmup gutters, tikis scare away evil from the awards table. I checked the rule book, and there is no prohibition of tropical fish on the flags.
    • The luau hospitality room's free food and drink is for everyone to enjoy.
    • Every swimmer (and worker) gets a 'cheap lei' at check-in.
    • First, second, and third place ribbon awards are teal, purple, and orange.
    • Ribbon award labels are printed in color with the meet logo.
    • Steel drum, calypso, salsa, and reggae music is played during warmups. Sometimes, the officials will dance for us.
    • Swimmers in the 3-person coconut relay can team up with anyone in the meet.
    • Small tropical prizes are awarded to the coconut relay winners (shark pens, tropical shirt magnets, hibiscus can coolers)
    • We list the swimmers entering their first masters meet on the front of the meet program so there is no hiding.
    • Swimmers entering their first meet get a tropical souvenir (hibiscus baseball cap) at check-in.

    All this requires more work in planning, setup, and more things to purchase ahead of time. So far, attendance is up and growing. The regular meet attendees are now beginning to respond, too. Last year, several swimmers wore their own tropical shirt 'warmup sweats' between races. A few from Virginia Masters preferred to use muumuus and brought their own leis (making our cheap plastic ones look, well, cheap and plastic.) And some fetching women are now sporting suits with stylish tropical floral designs. These haven't appeared yet on guy's Speedos. Maybe Paul can start a trend this year.
  17. Department of Labor

    by , December 28th, 2009 at 08:43 AM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "The mechanic who wishes to do his work well must first sharpen his tools."
    Last week, I sent the first request for meet workers out to the team. There is no expectation of receiving any volunteers yet, since this was the first announcement and it came during the holidays. It usually takes three requests before anyone will even notice the announcement. The plan is to send one out again this week, and then again after New Year - after people calm down and sober up.

    Meet timers were fruitful and in abundance at our first meet, and there were fewer members on our roster than today. We use three watches per lane, 7 lanes, and use swimmers from our team. The timers took turns in order to give everyone who volunteered a chance to time. Fast forward to today and the novelty has worn off. Last year, it was difficult to get all 21 timer slots filled, and I had to recruit instead of waiting for volunteers. I instituted the opportunity to work half the meet - before and/or after the break. This was to counteract two reasons for saying 'no' - "I want to swim", and "I want to sleep." Timers had a chance to swim in the meet (one half) and others had a chance to sleep in and work the second half.

    As of today, the Equipment Chairman and Head Timer are nailed down. They 'volunteered' at the last board meeting. (Shame and guilt are wonderful tools when recruiting.) We still need a Results/Awards Chairman. The equipment chairman is in charge of getting the counters, chairs, starter, stopwatches, and sound system. [November 16 post] The head timer organizes timers and results, before and during the meet.

    The Luau Hospitality Room Chairman is also aboard again. She has done a wonderful job since the first meet, although I need to restrain her every year from going off the deep end with decorations. This is a swim meet - not a kid's birthday party. ("More decorations means more time to set up and take down.") But still, it's the little details that make our meet stand out from the rest. She organizes the supplies, food, drink, tables, (and decorations) within the $1 per swimmer budget.

    Today I sent out a request to Rita for officials. Rita is our USA Swimming contact who rounds up three other officials to work. We use four, and will pay them $70 each, up a bit from previous years. I read a thread on the discuss board that some team was complaining that its meet officials actually wanted to get paid. We would not think of asking ours to volunteer five hours for free (unless they were on our team.) Rita has no problem finding workers since they enjoy working Masters meets (no raging parents), and have fun at ours in particular.

    Last month I ordered new lap counters from Gary at our local swim shop. He had the best price, beating the internet stores. Recently, I received a message that his supplier has no counters in stock, and that they would not be available until the beginning of January. Did everyone have lap counters on their Christmas list? Is this the first problem of the meet? If needed, we can borrow them again from local high schools.

    There appear to be two lap counter models - Keifer and Better Times. Better Times is what we ordered - they look like the normal counters. The Keifer counters have an arched top and are more expensive. (We ordered kickboards from Keifer as a gift for a local swim team, and found them to be less than advertised.)

    8 entries received to date

    Be proactive in seeking out volunteers - they need to be actively and personally recruited. Use shame and guilt if necessary.

    Updated December 28th, 2009 at 09:01 AM by Rnovitske

    Masters Swim Meets / Events
  18. Tee Time

    by , December 20th, 2009 at 07:18 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "I don't design clothes, I design dreams"
    -Ralph Lauren

    Our meet tee shirt design was developed quickly and posted on time to the web site at the beginning of December. To date, I designed all past meet tee shirts, although not because I wanted to. We tried another team member one year, but it didn't work out, and I ended up doing the shirt in the end. I would be happy if someone else would do it - for free.

    We offered a tee shirt for sale at the first meet, in hopes of making a few extra dollars. We also realized that the shirts become an advertisement for our meet during the year as swimmers wear them around at other meets and workouts. My first tee shirt design was fairly cleaver if I do say so. However, it was a learning experience into the wonderful world of tee shirt graphics, and there were errors made.

    First, the design was tall and narrow. This is fine if it was the design intent (it wasn't.) I learned later that the maximum size is about 12 or 13-inches square for a simple graphic, which will fit on most adult shirts.

    Second, my design had a good concept, but was poorly executed. The colored areas were small, which produced a lot of white space. The text was placed under the graphic, which made the entire image rather tall. Once it was printed, this became apparent - lots of white tee shirt and not attractive. However, we did sell a number of shirts to make some money and the future meet tee shirts were better.

    All the shirt designs over the years followed a few rules. Shirts have long-sleeves since our meet is in the winter, and few meets offer long sleeve shirts. All shirts creatively combine 'tropical' and 'swimming' themes into the design. Our team name is kept to a minimum if included at all, and the MEET name is emphasized. Personally, I do not want to buy some other team's tee shirt that someone is pawning off as a meet tee shirt (team turtles or team crabs) - with the host team name plastered across it. I want a MEET tee shirt. (Past tee shirt designs can be viewed in an album on my personal profile page.)

    This year's tee shirt design process was a lot like past years - it was done at the last moment, and ended up nothing like it started out. Always on the lookout for some graphic or idea that jogs creativity in the brain, I saw a graphic online somewhere that had a mirror image below it. Cool. I thought the idea could be conveyed to a concept of a swimmer's head with arm raised (standard, ho-hum design of most masters swimmer tee shirts & our new 'logo'), but with a hibiscus in/on the swim cap, and the entire image reflected below as on smooth water.

    While searching the internet for hibiscus images, I came across some underwater tropical fish, and thought of including them in the design instead of the smooth water reflection. I played with it, but the fish were too small: the swimmer looked like he was opening his mouth, ready to suck up the fish to eat.

    Next, I searched for swimmers images in hopes of finding some way to shrink the swimmer's head without losing the recognition of a swimmer. Result: headhunters. I gave up and decided to try making the swimmer smaller. However, I saw an online image like that of a 'caveman petroglyph' swimmer - rough and freehand, I altered the fish to look like petroglyphs, too; repeating them rather than making them all unique kept the graphic simple.

    I selected a font that matched the petroglyph image, played with colors (decided on a dark shirt color this year - a first), and came up with the tee shirt design. I always run it by a few people and ask, "would you buy this shirt?" If the answer is no, the design is scrapped or modified until it is acceptable.

    The profits on the shirts are about $3-4 each, depending on the shirt costs. Long sleeves cost more. Colored shirts cost more. More colors (= more screens) on the shirt cost more. About 50 out of 150 swimmers buy our meet shirt. I found this high compared to a few local meets, (probably because we leave off the crabs and turtles.) In addition, a handful of our meet workers will buy one. We order a few extra, bringing the batch to 72; and the extras have sold themselves at the meet. The per-shirt cost goes down at 72.

    I received two comments during the year from swimmers who reported that our meet has the best tee shirts. In the past, one even ordered a shirt but did not sign up for the meet. I will report how many shirts are bought this year after the meet.

    6 entries received to date

    If shirts are sold for profit, make sure the design will sell - don't emphasize your team name

    Updated December 21st, 2009 at 12:09 PM by Rnovitske (punctuation/grammar)

  19. I'm Late, I'm Late for a Very Important Date

    by , December 6th, 2009 at 10:34 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."
    -Mark Twain

    The meet deadline is about seven weeks away, and so far there are two entries. From past experience, one half of all entries will show up in the week before the meet. Since we make the best attempt to treat our swimmers to their benefit, we select a deadline as close to the meet as possible. Our deadline is determined by the deadline for tee shirt orders, which is Monday before our meet.

    If we did not have tee shirts, I would set the deadline for two days before the meet. It takes one minute to push the computer button to seed the meet, and half a day to copy the meet program at Office Depot. I never understood why local meets have a deadline two weeks before the meet.

    We send our tee shirt order in Monday before the meet. The shirts are ordered and delivered to the printers on Tuesday. The shirts are printed on Wednesday, and ready for pickup on Wednesday or Thursday. That leaves a day or two for unforeseen problems:
    1. Washington has seen some snow at that time of year. Everything shuts down here and people freak out at the thought of snow (from someone who grew up in upstate New York) And, there is a possibility that we could get a real storm.
    2. The printer could make a big goof and need additional time to make the shirts right.

    One year I sent in my entry to the local Albatross Open. I got a call from the meet director that went something like this:
    MD: We received your meet entry today, but the entry deadline was yesterday.
    ME: Sorry; it was mailed a day or two ago. Is it a problem?
    MD: Yes, it was a day late. You need to deck enter and pay an extra fee at the meet.
    ME: Did you do the seeding yet?
    MD: No.
    ME: So what is the problem? Why can't you enter me in the meet?
    MD: Because your entry was received past the deadline.
    ME: But if you haven't done anything yet with the entries, why is it a problem entering me in the meet?
    MD: It isn't, but you are a day past the deadline, so I can't.

    I did not attend the meet that year or the next. The MD returned my check. It was obvious that conforming to rules was more important than getting swimmers into the meet.

    I vowed not to repeat this attitude in our meet. Of course there are a few entires that trickle in after the deadline. I just enter them, and hope that if there is a tee shirt order in a late entry, we have an extra shirt ordered. Sometimes, a few people will contact me to ask if it is too late to enter. I tell them no, but don't order a tee shirt and I get an entry received WITH payment before Friday when I do the seeding.

    One year, I got a call from someone's mother pleading to let her son into the meet late. (CUBU swimmer, 18 y.o.) Sometimes I get overnight entries sent by Express Mail. Sometimes Santa (or the meet fairy) drops entries into my home mail box overnight (entries go to our team post office box.) I have also had entries personally delivered to my office during the day. In all, about five entires out of 150 arrive late. I can handle that.

    I enter swimmers into the meet database the day their entries arrive. There is too much to do days before the meet without becoming a hermit monk frantically holding and then copying all entries into the database at once. We also need to keep a daily tab on the number of entires in our 500-free, since we limit the entires and update the count daily on our web site meet page.

    Be real. Lose the attitude - it's easy to find one as the deadline approaches.

    Updated December 6th, 2009 at 10:40 PM by Rnovitske

  20. I May Be Easy But I'm Not Cheap

    by , November 23rd, 2009 at 10:48 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    "An investment in knowledge still yields the best returns"
    -Benjamin Franklin

    The Board of Directors approved the meet budget. There were a few questions regarding purchase of lap counter cards. In the past, we borrowed 4 each from two local high school swim teams and donated $30 to each. This year, my budget took that $30, added another $60, and proposed buying three lap counter cards for the club. The plan was to make an additional purchase next year to complete our set, making the purchases an investment to save money in the long haul.

    The board agreed, but decided to bite the bullet and purchase all this year from the meet profits. We will now own our lap counter cards, and can even allow others to borrow them in the future, possibly receiving a small donation ourselves, and certainly at least good will.

    A second item discussed involved online meet registrations. I offered to discuss the possibility for our meet. A lot of teams are going down that path with Club Assistant, and we already allow our swimmers to pay their club swimming fees online using our own Paypal account, so this was a natural progression. Later registration deadlines, more swimmers entering because of ease, no mail to open, no checks to haul to the bank - all sounds like music to my ears.

    In the past, it was initially very difficult to determine what Club Assistant charged. We received a lot of information touting the benefits, but little information regarding costs. This made us very suspicious - it was like talking to snake oil salesmen.

    Now, the Club Assistant fees are set in black and white on their web site, although one does need a bloodhound to find them. Churning out some numbers based on last year's meet and the Club Assistant formula, online meet registration for Tropical Splash would cost us about $400. Considering that the meet is a fund-raiser for our club, and that it nets about $1500 in profits, the decision to drop the idea was a no-brainer. With the time and work online registration saves, as well as the potential for additional entries, I can see this making sense for large meets and for meets where fund-raising is not the goal. But for our meet, it was out of the question. (Did I also mention that you don't get any of your money until AfTER the meet?)

    But wait. I inquired about the possibility of running an online registration that utilized something other than Club Assistant. New England, I learned, does such a thing. As webmaster for our club's site, I set up our Paypal online payment system, and can do so with a meet. A response from Mark Gill in our national office indicated that the rule book contains info on using online registrations. But, he reminded me of all the benefits that Club Assistant's online registration provides. And reminded me again in a second email, (Hmm, does he get a commission on sales?)

    It seems like a few of our online registration rules were written to require the use of Club Assistant without actually coming out and blatantly stating so. Some of the requirements seem impossible to meet without using Club Assistant, and a few are a bit vague and are stated more like goals than rules - open to interpretation, invention, (or denial.) A few examples would be welcomed.

    Club Assistant charges more than Paypal does for credit card processing - some savings there (5% v. 3%+.30). Club Assistant provides cross-checking (not the hockey type) with the USMS registration database which is a great benefit. Needless to say, we are not offering online meet registration this year, but will certainly consider it next year, if we can get the costs down.

    • Look at an annual meet as ongoing expense - consider some expenses as investments that will pay off in future meets.
    • If time, headaches, and manpower are money, consider online meet registration. If you have plenty of volunteer time, don't.
    The online meet entry requirements are not in the Rule Book, but in the Sanctions section of the Guide to Operations

    The fees would break down for our meet as follows:
    Credit Card Processing
    Paypal = $1.14 / swimmer
    Club Assistant = $1.34 / swimmer

    Online Meet Entry
    Club Assistant = $1.50 / swimmer

    Updated December 28th, 2009 at 02:02 PM by Rnovitske (postscript)

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast