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Masters program information at my aquatics facility

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Q: What information about my Masters program should I have available at my aquatic facility?

A: Frequently, I visit aquatic facilities searching for Masters swimming or any form of adult aquatic programming of a horizontal nature. At each location, I picture myself as a swimmer with little or no knowledge of Masters swimming walking into a facility to swim laps or begin an aquatic exercise routine. I ask myself, What information is available that would identify this location as one hosting a USMS program? Furthermore, I assess the ease of finding and assimilating this information.

In many cases, I know the facility has a USMS program and when the practices are scheduled based on the information I receive from the coach or the USMS Places to Swim database. But the availability of accurate information at the facility can vary widely.

At most pools, my first stop is the front desk. As I approach the receptionist, I scan the area for any printed information about the programs and services of the facility, looking for clues that will assist my search. I introduce myself, present my USMS business card, and ask, Do you have a Masters swimming program at your facility? The replies, often accompanied by looks of bewilderment, vary as much as the accuracy of the responses and are too numerous to list here. Lets just say Im astonished that so many gatekeepers of our Masters programs dont have a clue what the program is or whether the facility has one.

As I pass the gatekeeper, I continue to scan for Masters swimming information looking to see if the information is prominently displayed. And if not, where and how would I advertise the program.

Entering the pool area, I look to see what activity is taking place. If a Masters program is practicing, I envision a new or prospective swimmers first impression. In many cases, the first question to pop in their mind will be, Will I fit in?

As I get closer to the practice, I start to zero in on the coach and how he or she is interacting with the athletes. I try to make eye contact with the coach to gauge their interest in a potential new swimmer to their program. Nothing is more welcoming than eye contact that produces a smile projecting an invitation to get closer to say hello. Coaches that initiate this welcoming approach make even the seasoned Masters swimmer feel at ease.

In the event no Masters practice is taking place, I look to have a conversation with the aquatic director, head lifeguard, or any other aquatic employee with information about the adult programming at the pool. In most cases, the accuracy of the information is an improvement from what I found at the front desk. If lap swimmers are present, I look at their caps for clues about their swimming involvement. Amazingly, its easy to approach a lap swimmer, strike up a conversation, and gain valuable information when you can identify something about them. I look to see whether these swimmers are wearing a USMS cap, a cap with a Masters or age group swimming team logo, or a cap signifying their participation in a pool, open water, or triathlon event.

I walk the pool deck looking for anything that gives me information about a Masters program at the pool. Many Masters coaches write the daily workout on a board and leave it out for swimmers who missed practice and may swim later in the day. If I see this, I read it and make sure I understand the workout. As with other foreign languages, swim workouts come in a rainbow of local dialects.

If Im lucky, Ill locate a USMS banner or a bulletin board with Masters swimming information. Remember, if a new or potential swimmer passively wants to learn more about the Masters program, information on a bulletin board may pique their interest. The best bulletin boards Ive seen include:

  • Welcome brochure
  • Program mission statement
  • Inclusiveness of the program, i.e.: "We welcome new swimmers of all ability levels, or try us for free.
  • Coachs picture and profile, pictures of swimmers, and pictures from events such as meets, open water swims, clinics, and socials
  • Practice schedule including the days best suited for beginners, triathletes, and stroke technique refinement
  • Website address
  • Team logo
  • Practice terminology
  • Practice and lane etiquette standards
  • Upcoming events
  • USMS mission statement and membership information
  • Sponsors
  • Contact information

If you have a bulletin board, make sure all the information is current. Keep the appearance looking fresh by replacing faded pictures and printed materials.

Take the time to keep the aquatic staff well versed in your program and the benefits it provides. Show the staff the USMS promotional videos. These videos provide an overview of what Masters swimming is and how important it can be to adults whove chosen aquatics as a form of exercise. Go out of your way to make the gatekeepers at your facility your programs strongest advocates.

And lastly, the next time you see someone new walk onto your pool deck, make eye contact and give your best come on over and say hello smile. I know Ill certainly appreciate it.

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Updated July 15th, 2016 at 02:51 PM by Bill Brenner