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Blog entries from the national office staff

  1. The Next Chapter (May-June 2018)

    by , April 18th, 2018 at 04:14 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    When I took the helm at SWIMMER in 2009, I was still high on the rush of diving into our local swim community in 2006 and finding a new family. The opportunity to work within the larger national subculture of Masters Swimming with smart and committed people was a dream come true.

    Establishing the National Office in 2009 was an adventure; our ragtag band of staffers started from scratch. We rented a steam cleaner from the grocery store across the street so we could spiff up the dusty furniture that came with our vacant-for-years historic building. We recruited local swimmers and suited up in gardening gear to beautify the overgrown and decrepit property.

    Slowly we built, broke, mended, and moldednot only our physical surroundings, but also our roles. We essentially threw spaghetti on the ceiling and picked it up off the floor if it didnt stick. And then tried again until we found a formula that worked to serve and support our members. Im honored to have worked alongside passionate and dedicated staffers and volunteers during that process, and Im grateful for their help and friendship along the way.

    Since those earliest days, the National Office has grown and now occupies beautiful downtown offices. We have many more and much improved publications, programs, and services. Im so proud of what weve accomplished and excited to see whats next.

    During this nine-year journey, Ive had the privilege of working with and learning from talented editors, writers, photographers, designers, artists, volunteers, and coaches. The list is too long for this page. Their expertise and contributions have made this magazine and our online content something we can all be proud of.

    And then there are the readers.

    Youre the reason Ive looked forward to every issue, despite snags, snafus, and the hectic pace of never-ending deadlines.

    Your stories have inspired me. Your letters have made me laugh, cry, swim harder, and helped me navigate what were once unfamiliar waters, but now seem like home. You have my enduring gratitude for sharing your stories and your support over the years.

    Through your inspiration, Ive realized that I still have time to see more of the world and thats my next chapter: travel.

    My plan is to stay involved with Masters Swimming, but this will be my last issue as editor-in-chief of SWIMMER, and Im stepping down as publications and communications director for USMS.

    Im confident that publications manager Daniel Paulling and the dynamic and growing staff at the National Office will continue to develop and improve all our membership offerings. Please give them your support and feedback, as youve given me.

    If my travels lead me near your town, Id love to drop in for swim practice. If youd like to stay in touch, you can reach me at

    My thanks and best always,

    Laura Hamel
    Staff Blogs
  2. The Generosity of Swimmers (March-April 2018)

    by , February 28th, 2018 at 02:09 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Its well established that many open water swims start with a group of swim friends on a shoreline gazing dreamily into the distance until someone says, I wonder if we could swim from here to ...

    Charity swims seem to evolve when a swimmer or group of swim friends who have encountered hardship often the hardship of a loved one, but sometimes a strangeris standing around saying, We should do something! And of course, a swim event is hatched.

    In a world where the GoFundMe movement has gotten out of hand (no, I wont fund your European vacation, trip to Burning Man, or wedding), there are scores of creative examples of the generous spirit of our tribe. Swimmers dont really need an excuse to swim, but theyre happy to connect their favorite recreational activity with a passion for people and planet.

    At and in the mainstream media, you can read about swimmers who swim across lakes for wetlands preservation, down rivers for water quality, or in the ocean for sea turtles. This is by no means limited to open water swimstheres a plethora of pool examples: fundraisers for equipment or repairs, holiday swims with an admission price of canned food for the local food bank, or fundraisers for a teammate whos fallen on hard times.

    In the profile feature of this years open water issue, Elaine K. Howley writes about Kitty Tetreault, a swimmer and race director whos dedicated years to helping Swim Across America in its fight against cancer and was diagnosed with cancer herself (page 16). She received treatment at a research center thats been the beneficiary of her efforts.

    The generosity of swimmers isnt just financial. Managing editor Daniel Paulling writes about three different USMS clubs that have made significant impacts in their communities with adult learn-to-swim programs, funded by grants from the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation. Coaches, instructors, and swimmers in these programs have received more than theyve given of their time and talent.

    Pastor Rob Bruendl rallied his entire flock after one of his parishioners drowned during a church outing. He became an adult learn-to-swim instructor, and now hes making sure everyone in his church knows how to swim (page 46). And ALTS instructors with both the Bozeman (Mont.) Masters Swim Club and the Queer Utah Aquatic Club have discovered club growth and personal growth in helping adults learn to swim (page 36).

    These and other stories remind me that Im fortunate to be swimming shoulder to shoulder with thousands of USMS members across the country who give their time, money, and passion to causes that make a difference in the lives of others.
    Tags: alts, sslf
    Staff Blogs
  3. A Few Changes (JanuaryFebruary 2018)

    by , December 30th, 2017 at 04:31 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    You might notice a few changes in the issue of SWIMMER youre holding (or viewing through your My USMS account).

    For starters, art director Annie Sidesinger has made subtle tweaks to give the 2018 book a fresh look while retaining its elegance and simplicity. (Get-out swim if you can spot the changesjust tell your coach I said it was OK.)

    Because were all about brawn and brains as well as beauty, weve adjusted a few departments and columns, based on reader feedback. Many readersof all interests and abilitiesrely on the Training and Technique department for swimming advice, so weve expanded it again.

    A new T&T column, Psych Sheet, will focus on the less-tangible aspects of training. Whether you swim for fun and fitness or are racing for records, a significant factor in swimming well has nothing to do with how high your elbows are. You might need coping skills to overcome prerace anxiety or motivation to stop hitting the snooze button at 5 a.m. Marty Munson, a content strategist whos written and edited for Dr. Oz The Good Life, Shape, Prevention, and many other publications, will be seeking advice from mental health and performance experts and bringing it to you on page 6.

    Were bringing the 2-Minute Tune-upa quick-hit topic that can be read in 2 minutes and remembered for your next trip to the poolback to T&T. Yes, it takes more than 2 minutes to make the changes once you get there, but youre in good hands with veteran swimmer and journalist Jeff Commings. A former NCAA All-American and longtime Masters swimmer, hell be sharing his accumulated wisdomand a practice set to go with iton page 7.

    Bo Hickey, a strength and conditioning specialist with Ritter Sports Performance, will be breaking down dryland exercises that are good for swimmers and showing you how to do them correctly and safely in Dryland Difference on page 11. Everyones favorite science writer Jim Thornton will be contributing our physiology features in 2018, in addition to his Healthy Swimmer column, Check-up, now on page 12.

    And managing editor Daniel Paulling will be uncovering inspirational stories and writing about everyday swimmers in Swimming Life, which youll find on page 46. Were excited to be adding new writers to our already deep talent pool and grateful for the opportunity to bring you the best swimming magazine possible.

    Always, thanks for reading.
    Staff Blogs
  4. Part of the Story (NovemberDecember 2017)

    by , October 31st, 2017 at 09:34 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    We spend a lot of time helping share the stories of our individual members, but U.S. Masters Swimming has a story, too.

    In two years USMS will begin celebrating its 50th anniversary. Of course, our longtime memberssome of whom were there at the beginningare excited about this. But our celebrations will include all our members. If you just joined USMS, you are now part of the story.

    You might wonder how our history affects your swimming. For starters, you might not be enjoying a daily swim workout if it werent for the efforts of John Spannuth, Ransom Arthur, June Krauser, and others.

    In her profile of Spannuth on page 18, Elaine K. Howley takes us back to when adults over the age of 25 were advised to approach exercise cautiously, as though they might endanger their health if they worked out too hard.

    We know better now. Thanks to advances in medicine and research, we know that vigorous physical activity has life-prolonging effects. Its also why nonswimmers are surprised when they find out your real agemany of you look a decade younger than your FINA age.

    Watching an organization spring up around the healthful pursuit of swimming has been fun for the early adopters, including Robert Beach of St. Pete Masters, who swam in the second masters meetheld in 1971and hasnt stopped since.

    Beach put his photo albums on long-term loan to the National Office, so we could scan and preserve them for generations to come. The images included in our profile on Spannuth are all from those albums.

    If you have a favorite image or two that tells not only your swimming story, but part of the overall Masters Swimming story, please reach out to uswed love to include copies in our archives and share them throughout the yearlong celebration in 2020.

    And they dont have to be from the 1970swell be celebrating Masters Swimming through all five decades of our history, so whether youve been with us for 50 years or five months, youre part of our story.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:24 PM by Editor

    Tags: history, photos, usms
    Staff Blogs
  5. Haven't Tried A Swim Meet Yet? Go for It! (SeptOct 2017)

    by , August 31st, 2017 at 04:54 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    In 2007, as a new Masters swimmersix or so months inI waited behind the blocks for my first swim race in 30 years. I was in the first heat of the first event, the 1,000-yard freestyle. The Star-Spangled Banner played as I stood alongside my fellow competitors, none of whom I knew, in my plain, wide-strap practice suit, new team cap, and comfortable goggles.

    When the anthem started, I was shocked to feel an unfamiliar maybe forgottenanxiety and emotion. My eyes stung and suddenly I was 12 years old again and all the other girls had grown taller and I hadnt and I knew I was going to choke and.

    I didnt know most of the people on my new Masters team because I practiced at an off time, and I really had no idea why I even signed up for this dumb event. Waves of regret lapped at my toes as I stepped up on the blocks.

    But off I went and before I knew it, 40 lengths went by. After the race, someone asked me, How did it go? Basking in a sense of accomplishment, I was proud to report, It was great!

    What I didnt know: Around length 27, the swimmer counting for me dropped the plastic lap counter into the (deep end of) the pool. She dived down, retrieved it, and scrambled back on to the bulkhead. Officials and coaches buzzed briskly to the end of my lane to see what, if anything, needed to be done. She had some difficulty with the wet numbers and there was confusion as to what number should be displayed.

    But I never noticed a thing.

    Such is the power and magic of a competitive event, even if youre not really a competitor. Although I had some long-ago age-group experience, I was a noob that day. I have no recollection of what place I came in or what my time was. I just remember feeling the exhilaration of doing something seemingly frivolous, yet oddly important to me.

    Some of my swimmer friends have literally started from scratch, learning to swim at 40 or 50 and never imagining they would step up on those (frightfully high) platforms, dive in, and race other swimmers. But they did, and have reported similar experiences at their first meets (minus any lap-counter snafus). They, too, dont remember speedy times or ribbons or glory. But they cherish those moments and how they felt when they touched the wall for the first time in a meet.

    Looking through the images captured in Riverside, Minneapolis, and Budapest this year, Im reminded of how much fun championship swim meets can be. Yes, the nonswimmers in your life wont understand why you would hang out all day or weekend or week(!) in the sun or inside a biodome-like natatorium, only to leap off the blocks occasionally, pitting yourself against faster swimmers. No, you probably wont win anything. But you wont care.

    Youll be too busy cheering for your teammates and discovering (or rediscovering) the crazy fun of relays. If you travel to an unfamiliar city, you and your swim peeps will enjoy exploring it after the meet, taking pics, and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

    Set your sights for Spring Nationals in Indianapolis or Pan-Ams in Orlando for 2018.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:25 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  6. 'I Have an Idea for an Article About ' (JulyAugust 2017)

    by , June 30th, 2017 at 02:20 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Readers ask me, Have you ever thought about doing a story on ...

    Some readers want to tell their own stories. (Hint: We love getting humorous or light-hearted first-person essays for the Hot Tub.) Some nominate a teammate or ask about a swimmer they saw at nationals. Some have training or sports medicine or rules questions, and those evolve into article topics.

    Some swimmers share their stories in the hope of providing inspiration or encouragement to others who might be struggling.

    In this issue, John Ramos of Masters of Yucaipa in Southern California shares with writer Gretchen M. Sanders how swimming has helped him in his struggle with PTSD following the San Bernardino terrorist attack (Swimming Life, page 6).

    Some readers reach out with questions or concerns about products, and ideas evolve from there.

    Gina Pond in Chicago was frustrated with not being able to find swimsuits that fit her and wasnt seeing swimmers of size featured in our publications. Elaine K. Howley spoke with Pond about body image issues and her quest for inclusivity (Bewitching Belief, page 18).

    Sometimes we get emails with interesting professional signatures, prompting us to ask, Hey, whats it like being a (winemaker, oboe player, xenobiologist) and can we write about you?

    Many readers want practical advice on how to swim faster or more efficiently.

    In this issues technique feature (page 24), Jeff Commings writes that you can go wider with your breaststroke out-sweep, providing you back it up with a powerful kick. So, if youre still mentally scraping the insides of a salad bowl, try his tips for more power in the armstroke. (I swear just reading that article has already improved my breaststroke.)

    Terry Heggy (whose online coaching and technique articles at are must-reads) asks Level 4 USMS coach Chris McPherson for a few drills to fix your freestyle (Ask the Coach, page 8) and multiple record-holder Dot Munger for some racing tips (From the Center Lanes, page 10).

    For the most part, there arent bad topicsonly ones that will interest or wont interest any given reader.

    If you have an idea for an article, let us know at, or contact me directly at

    Always, thanks for reading.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:25 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  7. Remember to Breathe (MayJune 2017)

    by , May 1st, 2017 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    It seems obvious, really. As mammals, we shouldnt need this reminder.

    But whether we regard human swimmers as interlopers in a hostile environment without the necessary anatomy to breathe underwater or lost merfolk returning to our home (who else dreams of having gills implanted as soon as biotechnology can do it?), sometimes we need to hear it: remember to breathe.

    This reminder could come from your coach, who notices that you flag a bit on the second length of your 50 freestyle because youre racing the swimmer in the next lane and you just put your head down and go. Or it could be that youve forgotten to exhale underwater and when you turn to inhale, you dont get enough air in because youre still holding some from the last breath. Even the most experienced swimmers need this reminder.

    Or it could be your lanemate reminding you, when youve missed practice for days on end because life is getting in the way of your swimming: Remember to breathe.

    This autonomic reflex, in which we fill our lungs with air and send oxygen to our blood, feeds all the tissues in our bodies. It also removes carbon dioxide and other waste products.

    When were anxious, afraid, or feeling threatened, our breathing is shallow and quick. Under stress, our brains want us to breathe quickly so we can fight or flee.

    During times when collective anxiety is palpable and its hard to put down the flashing electronic squirrel boxall the crazy news we can chasewere finding out how important it is: Remember to breathe.

    Respect to all the yoga enthusiasts and grounded swimming peeps out there. You know those teammatesalways a sunny smile and bright helloeven at 5:26 a.m. If youre a driven Type A who needs coffee more than air to be civil at that hour, you might brush off their gentle reminders to breathe.

    Until that day when you cant breathe and you realize the forced deep breathing from swimming a set of descending 200s or a 3-mile rough-water swim against the current is the only thing thats kept you from losing it at the office. Or at home.

    Go to swim practice. Remember to breathe.

    Not only will it get you through the tough times, it will make you smarter, as we learn in Workout for the Brain (Healthy Swimmer, page 14), where Jim Thornton explores how aerobic exercise improves our brains.

    And for merfolk longing to trade the pressures of everyday life for the comforting pressure of the deep, Elaine K. Howley shares the fascinating history of the Weeki Wachee Mermaidsa post-WWII Central Florida sensation thats making a comeback (Splashback, page 48).

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:26 PM by Editor

    Tags: breathing, stress
    Staff Blogs
  8. Shifting Sands (MarchApril 2017)

    by , March 1st, 2017 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    The March-April issue is traditionally our open water issue, in which we feature a variety of open water swimmers and adventures, and youll find some excellent ones inside.

    In our cover story, Elaine K. Howley explores marathon maven Sarah Thomass lifelong journey to a record-breaking 80-mile swim down Lake Powell from Utah to Arizona in October 2016. Accompanying the feature are beautiful images created by fellow marathon swimmer Ken Classen.

    In this issues Splashback piece, Howley also explores the somewhat obscure history of Bert Thomass 1955 swim across the cold and treacherous Strait of Juan de Fuca and introduces us to Andrew Malinak, a USMS member whos carrying on the tradition of marathon swimming in the Pacific Northwest.

    USMS partner SwimTrek shares a few images of exotic tripsthe kind of trips that appear on a lot of bucket lists these daysin Lens (Perspectives, page 4).

    Terry Heggy gets some open water efficiency advice from longtime marathon swimmer and coach Marcia Cleveland in Ask the Coach, on page 8 in the Training and Technique department. Also in T&T, Elaine K. Howley gives us some tips on how to prevent cramps in open water as well as what to do if you get one. She also gets some training advice from frequent open water race champion Ricardo Valdivia.

    But great open water content isnt the only thing in this issue. The March-April issue has evolved in recent years to include inspirational adult learn-to-swim stories.

    Our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation promotes a national campaign to recognize April as Adult Learn-to-Swim Month, now in its fourth year. With each passing year, as more swimmers and coaches become certified ALTS instructors, weve found that their stories are every bit as inspiring as the stories of their students who are learning to swim.

    In Swimming Life (page 6), Gretchen Sanders introduces us to Charlie Simmons, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and certified ALTS instructor. Simmons learned to swim as a young African-American boy in the 1950s, and ended up becoming a legendary swim instructor in the Army, teaching, swimming, and soldiering all over the globe. Hes now retired and wants to continue teaching adults to swim so that they can teach their children and grandchildren.

    A 10-year-old grandchild is who inspired Larry Crockett to learn to swim, and Linda Brown-Kuhn shares his learn-to-swim story, along with the stories of Cynthia Bradshaw and Fang Schmitz, in Discovering a New World in the Water on page 36.

    Recently published at is a first-person ALTS story, with accompanying video, told by both student Mari Soliman and instructor Megan Lassen. USMS has certified more than 800 instructors in the past two years, with 400 more coming onboard in 2017.

    Lastly, Elaine K. Howley, our managing editor, award-winning writer, and resident marathon swimming expert, has accepted an exciting new opportunity. Fortunately for us and for SWIMMER readers, shell still be writing the great stories shes been known for over the past eight years.

    Our new managing editor, Daniel Paulling, a lifelong swimmer and award-winning sportswriter whos covered Major League Baseball and NFL and SEC football, has just arrived. We look forward to working with him to bring more swimming stories to life in these pages and online. He and the rest of the publications staff can be reached at

    Know of a great story? Pitch it here.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:26 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  9. Thanks, Coach! (JanuaryFebruary 2017)

    by , January 1st, 2017 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    If youre fortunate enough to be swimming with an organized USMS program, complete with teammates and a coach, youre experiencing Masters Swimming at its best. An organized club leader creates an environment in which several other things can occur.

    For starters, just having someone whos made the commitment to get up earlier than early, to beat the swimmers to the pool and get things ready for morning practice, is often underappreciated. If youve ever swum in a program with no coach, or swum with a coach with spotty attendance, you know what I mean. If you get to the pool and get to jump in and start swimmingwithout wrestling tarps or dragging lane linesall the more fortunate you are.

    Some coaches are swimmers themselves, and like to lead by example. Some do their best work without ever getting in the water. Most Masters coaches Ive met have one thing in common: They derive a profound sense of accomplishment from helping their swimmers succeed.

    And success comes in different flavors.

    Whether youre learning breaststroke for the first time or training to break a world record, a good coach approaches all your goals with equal zeal. Whether you show up five days a week and grind out every length with gusto or a few times a month as respite from a crazy schedule because being in the water is the only time you get to relax and you just want to float up and down the lane in a meditative daze, a good Masters coach is there for you. A great Masters coach accepts that these situations can occur for the same person.

    This kind of support has a trickle-down effect. In my experience, there isnt a friendlier bunch of people than a Masters swim team, and a lot of that stems from good leadership. A smart coach taps the talent on the team for tasks that give rise to a vibrant social network, one that transcends scoring points at a championship meet and puts as much emphasis on each meet days after-party.

    And since swimmers are the nicest people on the planet, I dont need to remind you to thank your coachyou probably already have. Whether you show your appreciation with home-baked goodies and gift cards or a smile and thanks after a workout, a good Masters coach needs to know how much your swimming experience means to you. Words and deeds that translate to Thanks, Coach! are what keep this cycle going.

    Thanks to all the great coaches who are making magic happen on pool decks across the country.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 04:27 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  10. Vote for Swimming! (November-December 2016)

    by , November 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    In this election year, I vote for swimming.

    Swimming gives back more than what you put into it, an ROI that should appeal to fiscal conservatives. Consider the benefits of tweaking your off-the-wall technique, as described in Ask the Coach on page 8: Just a small investment in your streamlines pays big dividends at your next meet.

    In this issue we meet USMS members who have invested in swimming and received big health gains, including Kim Leigh (Kicking Cancer, page 6) and four swimmers who overcame significant obstacles to make it to Summer Nationals in Oregon (page 36). Voting to make swimming part of your life is indeed one of the best healthcare decisions youll ever make.

    Swimming also provides an important social support structure, in which the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats viewpoint flourishes. In the Healthy Swimmer department (Be True to Your Team, page 14) Jim Thornton takes a look at scientific research that supports what we already know: Our swim friends are keeping us healthy and happy, and everyone deserves a hug, even if they cannot afford one.

    Swimming has its mesh bag of problem peeps, to be sure. There are kickboard bullies, paddle pushers, and finners who never repent. Worse, the drill demagogue two lanes over who always complains that the interval is rigged. But with issues of pool overcrowding, rehabilitation is a better way to create harmony and ensure that everyone receives equal attention from the coach. Remember, someone might just need a hug.

    Debate topics in swimming dont need to go any further than pool versus open water, briefs versus jammers, or Waffle House versus IHOP for post-practice noshing. Granted, these topics can inflame the passions of their respective advocates, but its unlikely that anyone will be unfriended on Facebook over it. (Although partisan bickering between sprinters and distance swimmers has caused some coaches to erect a wall, or at least a bulkhead, between lanes.)

    Thankfully, USMS elections are quite civilized. The House of Delegates votes on the officers and at-large members of the Board of Directors in alternating years. You can read about our new at-large directors, who were elected or reelected at the 2016 USMS annual meeting in Atlanta, in Inside USMS, on page 41.

    Of course, the shenanigans from long-ago races will remain shrouded in mystery, as Managing Editor Elaine K. Howley discovered while researching the origins of the Peaks to Portland Swim, an event that spiked public interest in swimming in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Nowadays, stats are fact-checked in real time and races recorded electronically, making miscounts very rare.

    So, when you go to the polls this November at (registration opens November 1), please vote to renew your USMS membership, and help us make 2017 another great year!
    Tags: vote
    Staff Blogs
  11. USMS Is for Everyone (September-October 2016)

    by , September 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Three years ago, I wrote here about how we, as an organization, needed to continue dispelling the myth that Masters Swimming means youve mastered the sport of swimming before joining USMS. (The M Word, May-June 2013). Ive also written about our efforts to make learn-to-swim classes available to as many adults as possible. (Milestones, November-December 2014, April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month, March-April 2014, and Fear of Water, September-October 2011).

    Diverse populations have been a topic, not only diversity in race (The Swimming Race, January-February 2010), but also in age (Age Is a Whole Bunch of Numbers, March-April 2016) and sexual orientation (The Inclusive SportIts All Good, September-October 2010).

    Ive written about the labels fitness swimmer and competitive swimmer, and how they dont often make sense (Classification, September-October 2013). Likewise, the differences between triathletes and swimmers, which are often nondifferences (Triathletes and Swimmers, July-August 2012.)

    So when I write, USMS is for everyone, Im really not exaggerating.

    This August, our marketing team got creative and tried a few new things to welcome potential members and generate interest in the sport of swimming. First, we lowered the price of membership by $19 for the remainder of 2016 when purchased with a full 2017 membership.

    Next, we created Try Masters Swimming Day, and encouraged members to invite friends and family to swim practice on August 15. And we encouraged coaches to invite local lap swimmers to try a workout. Our partner, Colorado Time Systems, is even donating a Pace Clock Pro to each of the five clubs who register the most new swimmers in the month of August.

    But it takes a village.

    At Spring Nationals I had the pleasure of meeting St. Pete (Fla.) Masters swimmer and legendary pitchman Anthony Sullivan of OxiClean fame. I asked him if he would tell his story for SWIMMER readers. He immediately turned my request for an interview around with a request of his own: Swimming has done so much for me and I want to give back. What can I do for USMS?

    Well, if youve been on our social media channels in the past month, youve seen hes been busy encouraging membership in a way that only he canwith a hilarious and fun infomercial-style video touting Masters Swimming as The Greatest Workout of Them All. Hes also sponsored a contest in which a grand-prize winner will receive a one-year USMS membership and some cool (signed!) OxiClean and Masters Swimming swag.

    And we did land that interview; Managing Editor Elaine K. Howleys profile on Sullivan, As Seen on TV, is on page 18.

    Also in this issue (Swimming Life, page 6, by Gretchen Sanders), we meet Mamenasha Tesfaye and Thaddeus Gamory, both lifelong swimmers who are passionate about helping adultsespecially people of colorlearn to swim. Both are recipients of Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grants. We also meet two of their students: Randa Azab and Martha Paniagua, whose lives have been forever altered by learning to swim.

    Finally, in Olympians Among Us (page 36), Katie ODair introduces us to a few of the many Olympians who use swimming to stay healthy and continue enjoying the sport they love. Although these swimmers have clearly mastered swimming, their stories, just like all of ours, originate from having taken that first leap into the pool one day long ago.

    So, ask your friends and local lap swimmers: What are you waiting for? Masters Swimming is for everyone and the waters finecome on in.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:41 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  12. USMS Book Club (July-August 2016)

    by , July 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    When I took the helm at SWIMMER in 2009, we occasionally reviewed swimming-related books or works by USMS members. As a lover of books, I was excited to have a reason to read more.

    USMS boasts an array of talented writers across many genres: everything from childrens books and memoirs to science fiction novels and cookbooks. And not only writers, but artists, poets, musicians, photographers, and video storytellers. This is not to mention all the stroke technique, nutrition, and fitness books from industry publishers such as Velo Press and Human Kinetics.

    There were so many that we couldnt keep up with the volume of works submitted for review; the collection in my office could crush and bury me if an earthquake hits Southwest Florida.

    But I have a solution: Announcing the USMS Book Club.

    This idea isnt newfangled. Several threads in the USMS Discussion Forumsstarted by other book lovers years agocontain some great titles that we can include in our new club. For now, the club remains informal (in my brain and on this page) but stay tuned for future updates and opportunities to share reviews of your favorites.

    To get us started, heres a six degrees of separation breakdown of the connections between swimmers and books in this issue of SWIMMER alone:

    The cover story, a feature profile of illustrator and author Lisa Congdon, by award-winning writer and SWIMMERs managing editor, Elaine K. Howley, includes a review of Congdons latest book, The Joy of Swimming.The foreword to The Joy of Swimming was written by the legendary Lynne Cox, whose award-winning books have also been reviewed here. Several of the swimmers featured in Congdons book have written books, been featured in, or contributed to SWIMMER, including Karlyn Pipes, Jeff Commings, and Jane Katz.

    Sports nutritionist Sunny Blende reviews Pip Taylors The Athletes Fix from Velo Press as part of her feature, Five Steps to Creating and Following a Healthy Diet. Volunteer Profile writer Kristina Henry also wrote the children's book, The Fish Tank, which was reviewed in a 2011 issue. And Susan Dawson-Cook, who wrote the Spring Nationals wrap feature, publishes steamy romance novels under the pseudonym Sabrina Devonshire.

    Award-winning broadcast journalist Lynn Sherr of ABCs 20/20, whose list of accomplishments and awardsincluding a Peabodyis longer than many books, contributes an excellent review of the off-Broadway hit Red Speedo for the Hot Tub. A profile of Sherr appeared in our January-February 2013 issue, written by Laura S. Jones, whose collection of short stories, Breaking and Entering," was also reviewed in these pages.

    Sherrs book, SWIM: Why We Love the Water, is a must-read in the ocean of swim literature. It will be my first official USMS Book Club recommendation. (See the masthead for more recommendations by the staff.)

    Later this year, David McGlynn, whose darkly beautiful memoir A Door in the Ocean we reviewed in 2013, will be profiling New York Times bestselling author and swimmer, Susan Casey, who wrote the amazing nonfiction adventures The Devils Teeth and The Wave. McGlynn will review Caseys latest book, Voices in the Ocean.

    Summer is both swimming and reading season, so with this preliminary list of suggestions, I wish you happy reading, great swimming, and much enjoyment reading about swimming and swimmers.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:25 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  13. Heeding the Chlorine Call (May-June 2016)

    by , May 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    USMSs new CEO offers perspectives on challenges and opportunities

    Swimming has a way of sticking with you. Whether you learned to swim early or later in life, its impact is significant, and the lessons learned and skills acquired are numerous. For anyone who swam as a child, the chlorine call back to the pool is strong.

    Fortunately for USMS, our new CEO, Dawson Hughes, a sports marketing professional with a strong background in leadership and nonprofit management, also happens to be a former swimmer. Dawson joined the National Office in March, after a nationwide search overseen by a special task force appointed by the Board of Directors.

    Dawson most recently served as vice president of business development for the Orange Bowl Committee, a South Florida nonprofit sports organization that features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Capital One Orange Bowl, a top-tier college football postseason bowl game. Hes also worked for both the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball franchises.

    However, as much as hes accomplished in the greater sports world, Dawsons heart is with swimming, the sport he started at age 5 and the one that eclipsed his other childhood sports interests.

    SWIMMER asked him about his swimming background and his ideas for USMS moving forward.

    SWIMMER: Whats first on deck for you?

    Dawson Hughes: Im currently getting to know USMSs history, the team at the National Office, and our volunteers, including members of the Board, LMSC officers, and sponsors. Most important, Im focused on getting to know our members.
    Well be updating our strategic plan over the next several months and we want to continue to provide great benefits and opportunities, motivation, and support for adults who want to take advantage of all that swimming has to offer. Whether its learning to swim for the first time, getting in shape and staying fit, or competing, we want to ensure were able to meet the needs of all our members and potential members.

    S: Whats your swimming background?

    DH: Learning to swim started shortly after learning to walk. I grew up in Southern California and we had a backyard pool, so it was looked upon as a life skill in my family. The Balboa Island Yacht Club (which was more summer camp than yacht club) had programs that included paddle boarding, swimming, diving, rowing, and sailing competitions in Newport Harbor every summer for kids aged 4 to 16, so I was in the water constantly from age 5.

    At the same time, I was swimming in summer league meets in the pool. After a couple of years competing at BIYC, I decided I didnt like coming in second to the same kid every week and I wanted to start training all year so I could beat him the following summer. Around that time my parents realized that swimming was a good way to keep me tired and out of trouble, so I joined a year-round age-group team. The plan worked on both accounts, and I went on to swim competitively through high school and two years in college.

    S: How have your early swimming experiences affected your life?

    DH: While considering the opportunity to take the helm at USMS, I spent time reflecting upon my swimming background and realized that, although Ive been away from the pool for 19 years, swimming has continued to have an influence on many aspects of my life. The teamwork, goal setting, work ethic, self-motivation, and competitiveness I learned as an age-group and college swimmer are characteristics Ive carried into my career.

    On the personal side, lifelong friendships were fostered during those years. And a fitness base was built that has helped me recover from stretches of inactivity a bit more quickly. My wife and I had our kids in water safety and swim lessons as early as possible, just as our parents had done for us. I could never have predicted that my career path would bring me back to my swimming roots, and Im excited to be in a position to provide opportunities for adults to discoveror rediscover all the benefits of swimming.

    S: What are some of USMSs opportunities and challenges?

    DH: USMS has a strong tradition of competitive swimming and that will continue; for our members who love to compete, well continue to provide great events.
    And I believe there are opportunities to include many more adults of all ages and backgrounds.

    There are thousands of former swimmers who find it challenging to balance their careers and family lives, let alone find time for a fitness routine. I put myself in this category. Throughout my 20s and 30s, building a career and starting a family has been my focus, and carving out time to exercise is a constant struggle.

    Swimming was always in the back of my mind, but I didnt feel I was in shape enough or could commit the time that I assumed would be necessary for a Masters Swimming program. So I ended up at the gym with an inconsistent fitness routine: usually warming up on a treadmill followed by poorly executed weight training or the occasional outdoor run. Without a resource to easily obtain swim workouts, the encouragement of fellow swimmers, or a coach to provide structure, my motivation to get back to the pool waned.

    Finding ways to make fitness swimming fit into the busy lives of those with careers and families is both a challenge and an opportunity for us. The misconceptions about perceived time commitment and getting in shape before starting need to be addressed. Providing resources and programs that dont require more time than a run in the neighborhood, a visit to the local gym, or other fitness programs will be important.

    Fitness is a trend that isnt going away, and swimming is regularly acknowledged as a great way to get and stay in shape. But too often the ease of entry to other fitness activities stands in the way.

    S: How are we going to accomplish this?

    DH: USMS wants to appeal to adults regardless of their prior experience, fitness level, or competitive inclination. This includes adults who never had the opportunity to learn to swim. To do that, we must offer programs and benefits that appeal across many demographics, lifestyles, and goals.

    In starting to get to know our members these past few weeks, it has become clear that theyre our biggest cheerleaders. Ive been asking folks how they initially got involved with Masters Swimming. The answer is almost always that a member of a club or workout group approached them and convinced them not to be intimidated or concerned about their fitness level.

    Those tens of thousands of passionate swimming ambassadors, combined with simple options and encouragement to help people learn to swim, meet fitness goals, compete if they want to, or simply live a healthier lifestyle, will be our best avenue to introducing more adults to Masters Swimming.

    S: When can we expect to see you back in the pool?

    DH: Ive been back in the water a few times recently and I plan to stick with it as best as I can while balancing my family life and the responsibilities of my new role. My goal is simply to stay fit enough to keep up with our 3-year-old twins.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:26 AM by Editor

    Tags: ceo, staff, usms
    Staff Blogs
  14. Age Is a Whole Bunch of Numbers (March-April 2016)

    by , March 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    At a recent coaches meeting at my home pool, we were strategizing relays for an upcoming meet and surveying our swimmers in their various age groups and our head coach said: Our team is aging. After glaring at him for saying the word aging on a day I didnt feel like contemplating it (is there ever a good day?), I had to agree with him.

    We looked over our roster and, yep, our teammates friends wed been swimming with for the past 10 years were all, well, a decade older. Our graying gang was gaining crows feet and losing hair right along with the rest of world, and we had 10 years of event photos to prove it.

    This trend isnt unique to our club. Between 1987 and 1993, the three largest age groups in USMS were 25-29, 30-34, and 35-39. Between 1994 and 2001, that shifted to 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49. The 2000s saw two more shifts in the same direction, and in 2015, the three largest age groups in USMS were 45-49, 50-54, and 55-59.

    You can see where Im going with this. Of course our volunteer leadership and national membership team are crunching these and other numbers, including U.S. Census data, in an ongoing effort to better understand and serve our members. And our marketing team is taking a hard look at these numbers and other researchattracting younger members is an increasingly important endeavor for us.

    But what are we doing, as individual swimmers, coaches, and clubs, to encourage younger adults to join us?

    Other coaches Ive asked this question of have creative solutions. Some have reduced rates so that younger swimmers who are paying off college loans or raising young families can afford dues. Others recruit newly minted adults from their age-group programs and returning college kids on break. Not only does this encourage younger swimmers to join USMS, it can also be an effective way to win meetsas every coach knows, the deeper your roster, the more categories in which you can score.

    Its essential and comforting that motivated and knowledgeable people are working on these important issues, but my mind tends to wander (more so nowadays) to the less tangible aspects of our subculturethe empirical ether where those of us who are fascinated by the sociological aspects of it all live.

    And when I think of the younger swimmers who have joined us along the way some of whom have become dear friendsI know that its just way more fun to be at swim practice and events with swimmers of all ages. It never occurs to me that theres really much of an age difference until were at a restaurant and someone gets mistaken for someone elses mother (please dont ask).

    And there are older swimmers with whom Ive developed friendships. Not in the sometimes patronizing sense of older and wiserbut in the sense that I simply enjoy their company. Period.

    So yes, we might be ripe for statistical speculation, but in a real-life, every-day, get-your-butt-to-workout, swim, laugh, gossip, party, prank-each-other sense, our community is stronger and much more enriching when we have swimmers of all ages sharing the fun, chaos, and beauty of it all.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:27 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  15. Partners (January-February 2016)

    by , January 1st, 2016 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    U.S. Masters Swimming is fortunate to have great corporate partners. Some companies come and go; others have supported us for years. Were grateful beyond measure for our partnersas a nonprofit membership association, we depend upon their support to offer more and better benefits to our members.

    Sponsorship goes beyond writing USMS a check and getting ad space in SWIMMER magazine. Partners also provide products for special initiatives. Speedo gives hand paddles to coaches in Level 1 and 2 certification. FINIS provides coaches with several of their unique products, as well as donates directly to the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation. Aqua Sphere has given fins to coaches in certification classes. created an entire line of USMS-branded products and donates goggles to Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grant recipients.

    Our competitive members are familiar with nutrition partner P2Life, which provides samples of their products on deck at our national events. At those same events, personal product partners TRISWIM and Malibu C have stocked the locker rooms with chlorine-removal shampoos, conditioners, and lotionsmuch to the delight of swimmerswho are grateful for one less thing to pack.

    Agon, Nationwide Insurance, and Malibu C have provided generous gifts and convention supplies for volunteers at our annual meeting. TYR and Speedo have provided polo shirts and hats for officials and staff at national events. And anyone who participated in Go the Distance between 2010 and 2014 received prizes from Nike for just meeting their mileage goals. If youve competed in a pool event since 2011, Active Network has made it easier for your results to be posted to our Top 10 database. And every year for the past five years, Colorado Timing Systems has donated four digital pace clocks to USMS clubs.

    Most of our partners also provide discounts to USMS members. New partners this year, Rudy Project, XX2i Optics, and dryrobe, are offering discounts for USMS members, with special pricing for coaches. Also new this year, open water adventure company SwimTrek will be offering expanded trip options in North America. Nationwide Insurance offers a member discount on auto insurancewho among us doesnt need that? And Endless Pools helped Indiana University with a custom pool for research purposes.

    So, as well as ads in SWIMMER and exposure to our members at events, what do our partners get from us (besides our immense gratitude!)?

    We try to find creative, sensible ways to connect you, our members, to our partners. We do this with targeted promotions and offers on products youre likely already interested in. Each issue of our eNewsletter STREAMLINES contains an advertorial an article researched and written by a partner on a swimming topic that concludes with how a particular product might be of interest to you.

    How do they know you might be interested? Many owners and employees at our partner companies are swimmers, triathletes, and USMS members themselves. They arent just trying to sell products: Theyre living and working in the aquatics world with the same passion for performance, quality, and the excitement of seeing others succeedwhether that success is learning to swim for the first time or breaking a world recordas we have. And that makes for a beautiful partnership.

    So the next time youre considering a purchase, please consider supporting these companies that make it possible for us to fulfill our mission of promoting health, wellness, fitness, and competition for adults through swimming.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:27 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  16. USMS Leadership (November-December 2015)

    by , November 1st, 2015 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    In October of this year the USMS House of Delegates concluded its 43rd annual meeting, at the 2015 United States Aquatic Sports Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

    During the annual meeting, officers are elected and rules and policies are voted upon. If you want to spend some time on the dry side of the sport you love, visit the For Volunteers tab at for more information.

    Policy decisions and strategic planning are the purview of our dedicated volunteer leaders. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors comprises the president, four vice-presidents (administration, local operations, programs, and community services), secretary, treasurer, immediate past president, and legal counsel. Eight at-large directors, one from each zone, sit on the greater BOD. Most of the 20 USMS committees report to one of the four vice presidents. The House of Delegates is composed of USMS members whove stepped up to represent their LMSCs and their number depends upon the size of their LMSCs.

    The executive director oversees the National Office staff and reports to the Board of Directors. Its the staffs responsibility to enact the vision, mission, and strategic planning directives of the organization. This year, a special subcommittee of the BOD is tasked with an important job: choosing our next executive director.

    For the past nearly eight years USMSs current executive director, Rob Butcher, has presided over the period of the most growth and change USMS has seen in its 45-plus-year historya period in which USMS evolved from an all-volunteer organization to a volunteer-led and professionally-managed one. His tenure started with establishing the first headquarters and hiring the National Office staff. It will end on December 31 this year with USMS having tripled its revenue and increased its membership by more than 50 percent.

    When Rob started at USMS, he went on a fact-finding mission that would make NASAs Mars Rover proud. He met with longtime volunteer leaders for hours on end, soaking up as much organizational history and culture as he could. He visited clubs, workout groups, and events all over the country, talking to anyone and everyone about Masters Swimmingin context of both the bigger picture and how they, as individuals, were experiencing it.

    Hes the kind of guy who would jump in your pool and join swimmers in a lively argument over why breaststroke is better than backstroke, then hang out at your after-workout pizza party getting to know you. Most importantly, he listened and remembered your concerns and ideas and used them to formulate winning strategies that transformed USMS. Every single one of usand I mean all (as of this moment) 63,648 of ushas benefitted from Robs leadership and passion for Masters Swimming.

    Hes been an integral part of every important initiative undertaken in the past eight yearsfrom rebranding to educating and supporting coaches to USMSs growing adult learn-to-swim movement.

    On January 1, 2016, Rob will step into the president and CEO role at Swim Across America, a charitable organization that, through swimming events, raises money for cancer research.

    Thanks to Robs and the Boards hard work and dedication, USMS is positioned to continue thriving and growing, and providing you with an organization of which you can be a proud to call yourself a member.

    Updated September 1st, 2016 at 11:25 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  17. Thank You

    by , September 25th, 2015 at 02:44 AM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    My wife Alli asked me, Are you sure? You have poured your heart into USMS and given so much. You love it and have so many relationships. Wed like to have you home more but well be fine if this isnt what you want to do. The topic was whether I was going to leave USMS for the Swim Across America opportunity.

    I vividly remember the USMS Executive Director interview process. It was intense, more mentally challenging than any exams I took in grad school. To the selection committees credit, an intense interview process was both intentional and necessarywhoever was hired as executive director was taking on a responsibility that was much greater than simply finding office space and beginning to generate new revenue through sponsorship sales.

    Leading USMS is both science and art. The science part is fairly easy to quantify. Our logo was outdated so we created a new one that presents a more inclusive image. We created a Masters Coach certification program that reaches more than 500 coaches each year. Our magazine had been outsourced and wasnt meeting our quality standards so we brought it in-house to have full control. We now measure member satisfaction as it relates to SWIMMER magazine, and many other programs, ensuring their relevancy.

    The art of leading USMS, however, requires a very different skill set. Leading a nonprofit is not for the faint of heart. With boards that have term limits, turnover of the nonprofit leadership typically occurs somewhere in the three-to five-year range, so the original board thats done the hiring is leaving and a new board comes in with its own ideas and visions of a leader.

    Nonetheless, I showed a fire in the belly during the interview process and was hired. My charge was to implement a transformation process from a mostly volunteer-operated organization to one that would be professionally managed. Since USMS had been volunteer-operated for more than three decades, the transformation was not going to be overnight. And surely there would be speed bumps and even some brick walls.

    In my eighth year as executive director, I reflect with pride on my time spent leading USMS. I am most proud of the National Office team weve assembled. They are passionate. They dont have culture-destroying egos. Every day they ask What can we do to make USMS better?

    And the scoreboard displays their many accomplishments. In Lane 3 are our member programs, which have increased our retention rates to nearly 70%; Lane 4 is our education group, which is helping coaches and instructors deliver a better Masters Swimming experience for members across the country; Lane 5 are our communications and publications, from SWIMMER magazine to our digital content that inspires and encourages adults to swim; and Lane 6 is our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, which is providing adult learn-to-swim opportunities in communities across the country.

    So if all is going welland I survived the five-year mark with a new board supportive of my leadershipwhy leave?

    My ethos is faith, family, and then career. Although there will be travel for Swim Across America, I will be home more with my family and remain within driving distance of Allis and my extended families. Our twins are four years old. In a blink, theyll be off to college.

    I evaluate my career options on several criteria: Is it a mission that I believe in? Is the culture a mutual fit? Is it a place I can grow and see myself making sustained positive contributions? To Allis question, after thoughtful consideration, my answer was yes.

    I care deeply for USMS. I wake up every morning thankful that USMS and my life intersected. We found each other at the right time. I will forever cherish the relationships, stories, and accomplishments weve made and I will continue to be an enthusiastic ambassador for Masters Swimming.

    Footnote: My last day as executive director will be December 31, 2015 providing time for me to help USMS find a successor and transition knowledge.

    Updated September 25th, 2015 at 02:49 AM by Rob Butcher

    Staff Blogs
  18. Survey Says ... (September-October 2015)

    by , September 1st, 2015 at 01:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    In the August issue of STREAMLINES, we posted a survey link with 20 questions about your SWIMMER reading habits. We wanted to know which departments and columns you read regularly to help us determine which ones might need to be updated or discontinued.

    Actually, we wanted to know lots of things, such as: Do you like historical articles? Do you like profiles about members who swim fast or ones who have interesting lives outside the pool, or both, or neither? Do you prefer reading SWIMMER online or on paper? (Overwhelmingly, the latter.) How does SWIMMER compare to other magazines you read? (Seventy-five percent say as good as or better.)

    Nearly 84 percent of you responded that you read every issue and nearly 12 percent read most issues. About 80 percent of you agree that SWIMMER strengthens your connection to swimming. Technique, training, and science and health features are the most read and most desired articles.

    Near the end of the survey, we asked some open-ended questions about your likes and dislikes, as well as what youd like to see changedthis was your chance to sound off on anything and everything about the magazine.

    Some of the findings were expected; some were a surprise. All the data will be used to help us plan future issues. As a group, your range of interests and goals means that meeting everyones desires in every issue is unlikely, but its a challenge we relish and commit to every day.

    The majority of the responses were positiveWhen asked what youd like to see changed, many of you answered nothing or 12 issues instead of six! That answer triggered gasps from our small but dedicated magazine staff, but we felt an immense sense of gratitude and honor that were able to produce something that our readers want more of.

    But not everyone is happy with the magazine, and we appreciate the constructive criticism we received. It will help us become a better publication. To our relief, only a tiny few of the responses would be appropriate for the Mean Tweets skit on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

    Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts and suggestions. Thank you for your ongoing support and for helping us to continue making improvements to SWIMMERthis is your magazine and we want you to love it as much as we love working on it.

    As always, you can contact me directly with your feedback at

    Updated September 21st, 2015 at 09:31 AM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  19. The Joy of Masters Swimming

    by , August 13th, 2015 at 05:15 PM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    Tuesday, August 4, was a busy and important day for us. Many of our staffers and volunteers were traveling to Cleveland for the 2015 USMS Summer National Championship to support the 963 Masters swimmers who would be competing.

    Nationals week is both fun and stressful for our staff. On the fun ledger, we get to spend time with our volunteers and sponsor partners, cheer for the first-timers, and share inspiring stories and images via social media. Of course our Spring and Summer Nationals come with stress: Livestreaming is an all-day, manually operated job that can have unexpected delivery challenges, and most of the physical set up and breakdown starts daily before dawn and goes well into the nighttime hours.

    Something else happened on August 4. I got the first glimpse of its impact when my phone buzzed at 5:15 a.m., with an image of the front page of the Wall Street Journal Health & Wellness section headline The Joy of Masters Swimming. With a 2,400,000 circulation, WSJ is the largest printed newspaper. Throughout the day, as I was driving to Cleveland for the Summer Nationals, I received a steady stream of texts and phone calls. Coaches, partners, and members who saw the story offered congratulations and praise for the articles message.

    Although I had spent a good deal of time on the phone with the reporter Kevin Helliker, I didnt know what he was going to write and I didnt know that the piece would be on the front page. During our conversation, Kevin observed that the USMS business model is distinctly different than other participation sports such as triathlon, Tough Mudder, and Color Runs. Those organizations have seen large participation increases due primarily to an event growth strategy.

    USMS, by contrast, still offers relatively the same number of events at about the same level of participation as we did 10 years ago. In fact, the number of USMS open water sanctioned events is down from just five years ago. Yet, since 2005, USMS membership has increased from 42,490 to more than 63,000 members. Which provoked Kevin to ask this question: Has USMS growth been intentional or by accident?

    Well, the answer is intentional, but with the long view, and without compromising the experiences we are providing to our members.

    With resources provided by our Board of Directors and House of Delegates, weve made sustained and conscious investments into areas that are creating a more inclusive USMS. We rebranded in 2009 with an identity welcoming to any adult who wants to swim. Content in SWIMMER magazine and at resonates with all swimmers: those new to swimming, triathletes, those rediscovering swimming after a long break, and competitive swimmers. Nearly 1,500 coaches and instructors have attended our Masters coach certification teachings in the past four years. Our Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Program, launched this year, has certified 230 instructors. The past two years, our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation program partners have served nearly 5,000 adults with introductory swim lessons.

    So yes, its our intention to grow, but to do so mindfully with inclusive programs for our members, and by supporting our coaches, instructors, and aquatic directorsthe influencers who are having a direct impact in the daily experience that our members have through our 1,500 local Masters Swimming programs across the country. By doing so, we hope to foster a welcoming culture so more adults can experience the joy of Masters Swimming, as shared by the excellent Wall Street Journal piece, and as narrated by Rowdy Gaines in Masters Swimming is a Journey." .

    Updated August 13th, 2015 at 05:31 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
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  20. Fostering a Culture of Learning Through Team Training

    by , July 16th, 2015 at 10:47 PM (From the Executive Director: U.S. Masters Swimming's Journey)
    Each July, the USMS Board of Directors meets face-to-face for our summer meeting. The week leading into the board meeting, our National Office staff meets for its annual retreat. The retreat is an opportunity for our contractors, remote staff, and Sarasota staff to come together in one location, review the past year, plan for the next year, and continue preparations for our annual meeting.

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

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

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

    Our values are meaningless if we dont support them. Providing opportunities for learning fosters a positive culture where employees want to work and are appreciated. We budget for professional learning activities, and I encourage our staffers to participate in them because they're valuable and necessary for individual and professional growth. Employees return from these learning experiences with an appreciative attitude and have enjoyed sharing these experiences with their colleagues.

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

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

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