Monday, March 16, 2015

First Annual LMSC Leadership Conference for U.S. Masters Swimming

So this past weekend was the first annual LMSC Leadership Conference.  Held at the Phoenix Airport Mariott.  Overall it was really neat to attend and I learned some pretty cool ideas that could make our LMSC better.

Friday night we had a light meal and listened to Misty Hyman talk to us.  She told us her story of growing up swimming.  She started out talking about 25,000 miles.  She asked if we knew what that number meant.  I knew where she was going with this.  It's roughly the circumference of the earth at the equator.  She talked as if many of the people there had already done it.  Including herself.  If that's the case, then I truly am a newbie.  Swimming that far means you are truly an expert according to the 10,000 hour rule.  Currently, I'm barely over 7,000.  Not even a 1/3 of the way there.  I had a late start through, as I found out later.
She talked about her days swimming at Stanford with Richard Quick.  Which I found very interesting since he's the coach for Jayme Jorgensen and he has produced some pretty cool swimming videos which I have been watching.  After her talk I had the opportunity to meet her, get an autographed picture of her, as well as a signed cap which I had her make out to Jayme.  I'm not sure if they ever crossed paths at Stanford.  Pretty cool though.

The next day was the full day of instruction.  We started out with Jill telling everyone what the plan was.

We learned more about the House of Delegates and their role in USMS.  The Hose of Delegates is a representation of a USMS by LMSC depending on size.  Since Utah is over 300 members we get 2 delegates.  Last year we sent Lynne Lund to represent us at the HOD conference.  This is where any big changes are voted on.

Then we learned about Non Profit organizations and the way they are organized and how they need to operate in order to maintain their non-profit status.  Basically, you can make a profit, but the money needs to be used for the organization and not go into any executives pocket.  Yes, travel expenses, contractual services and other expenses can be made to operate the "business" of the organization, but bottom line, nobody should be pocketing anything without providing a service for the organization.  And the compensation must be on a contractual basis and not just given to stakeholders for their investment in the organization.  Makes sense.

Then we talked about the Mission and Vision of USMS:

Mission of USMS: "To promote health, wellness, fitness, and competition for adults through swimming."

USMS' Vision:
"To be the premier resource for adult aquatic fitness in the United States and make fitness through swimming available for as many adults as possible."

We watched a short video where Bob Beach talked about his conversations with Dr. Ransom Arthur the founder of U.S. Masters.  He said that they struggled a bit with what to call the organization.  He said Authur didn't like the word "Seniors" swimming because it sounded like a bunch of old people.  He named it "Masters" because of his experience with Golf.  He also mentioned that its focus right from the start was NOT about competition, and said that "the competition is the carrot to the goal, which is to maintain cardiovascular fitness.

Three initiatives were identified to enhance USMS' vision:

  1. Website - "Encouraging adults to swim" being the slogan
  2. Opportunity - A picture of an empty pool was shown.  Unfortunately that picture is far too common.  The statistic was presented that there a 300,000 commercial swimming pools in the US, but only 1,500 programs.  Personally I find that 1,500 number to be extremely surprising, to the point where I don't know if I believe it's that low.
  3. Education - USMS is introducing their Adult Learn to Swim program.  With April being Adult Learn to Swim month, it's critical that more adults learn to swim.  We were told that roughly 30% of American adults can't swim across a 25 yard pool.  I'd be surprised if it was that low.  I bet it's more than that.  
An LMSC Board Members Duties:

1) Duty of Care
    a. Be prepared for board meetings
    b. Be involved, look for ways, and volunteer for tasks that can improve the services the LMSC provides the swimmers.
    c. Manage finances carefully.
    d. Use good judgement.

2) Duty of loyalty
    a. avoid conflict of interest issues
           i.  "Wear the right hat".  Do what's best for the LMSC and not just your special interest.

3) Duty of Obedience
    a. Understand and be faithful to the organizations mission.  

We talked about effective planning and what LMSCs should be doing for their respective swimmers.

  • Don't just save money, use that money for serving the LMSC!  And not just a piece of the whole group (competitive swimmers), but as many as possible.  From fitness swimmers, to triathletes, to competitive swimmers.
  • Delegate the responsibilities among the board.  It shouldn't just be a couple people, but more of the board needs to get involved.
  • Monitor and strengthen programs and services.  What are "Signature" activities in your LMSC?  Some responses were:  award banquets, 100x100 events, Lake Placid open water swim, "First meet" goody bags for new swimmers.
Funny note:  Someone in the back of the room (where all the USMS executives were) started to play a train whistle on their handheld device which I heard a few times throughout the conference which made the presenter "snap of out of it" and take control of the conversation.  I interpreted that whistle that the conversation was getting "derailed" with someone's detailed descriptions and they were hi-jacking the flow of the meeting.  Haha!
  • Measure the success of your activities.
Discussion around building a competent board:
  • Club reps - get the involved
  • Job descriptions for each member so they are aware of their responsibilities 
  • orient members so they now the time commitments
  • get new board members, the board shouldn't be "musical chairs" with the same board members just rotating roles year after year.
  • Comply with non-profit laws and obey the bylaws of USMS as well as the LMSC.
  • transparency and accountability (Make the LMSC meeting minutes available publicly)
  • Enhance the organizations public standing:  Get the clubs to actively teach and serve all their members.  
  • "There is a time to join a board, and a time to leave." 
They took a break and I met Jim Barber.  Jim is from Indiana and he has also swam the triple crown of open water swimming.  He's going for the Oceans Seven as well as going for the title of Oldest Swimmer of the English Channel.  The oldest swimmer is 73 year old Otto Thaning.  Which means Jim will have to stay in shape, or at least be ready for his swim 18 years from now in order to pass that 73 year old mark.  Wow!  He's swimming the Cook Straight in 2017.  

Jim told me some of the neat things the Indiana LMSC is doing (which has 27 clubs and 1,200 swimmers).
  • They waive the LMSC fee for college kids
  • For seniors over 80 years old, they not only waive the LMSC, but they pay the USMS portion as well.  Basically anyone of 80 gets a free membership.  Woah!
Later we broke out into four groups:
  1. Supporting coaches with the LMSC - Bill Brenner
  2. Non competitive opportunities - Laura Winslow
  3. Helping programs save space or gain pool space
  4. The value of LMSC Communication
I went to group #2.  There were two rules for participating:  1) Think outside the box and be creative! 2) Don't say "It's not possible", and don't go into details.
 
Some ideas from the participants included:
  1. LMSC wide workouts.
  2. What are non-competitive swimmers?  Triathletes, fitness swimmers, social swimmers.  
The question was posed "What can USMS do to attract more non-competitive swimmers" and everyone was asked to respond as they went around the room of about 20 participants.  There were many good answers, and many that I thought of.  So to avoid duplicating an answer, I thought of how USMS had essentially turned their back on open water swimming with the high surcharge on sanctioning those events.  Considering that there are several OW swimmers this year going without USMS membership because of it no longer being required in order to swim OW events, said "Get rid of the open water surcharge on event insurance."  Laura scoffed and said "I'm not going there."  So much for representing Mission and Vision.  Personally, I feel that the organization needs to fine tune the mission to preclude the word "swimming" with "pool".  For they have abandoned in my opinion, the mission to really include all swimming in their mission and including open water swimmers in their vision.  

There are many who are deeply involved in marathon swimming, that see the value of training in a pool, and swimming with Masters.  Including myself.  But there are some who are "lone wolf" swimmers that do not, that struggle from workout to workout.  And there are many who feel betrayed and resent USMS as the self proclaimed "Premier resource". If one of the goals of USMS is to increase the membership base of the organization, they should pay more attention to that special interest group, instead of "Not going there". 

At noon, the CEO of the publisher over swimming world magazine, Brent Rutemiller, talked about the problem with college swimming programs being dropped throughout the country.  Some things that we can do to help is to really support college clubs.  In our case, the club at the University of Utah, Utah State University and Weber State University.  These are clubs not associated directly with the athletic program and are driven and organized by the students themselves.  

What can the LMSC do to value coaches?  Answer: Recognizing them, help swimmers find them through the website.

What can the LMSC do to provide value to a USMS membership? 
  • Award banquet
  • 5,10,15 year recognition milestones for swimmers.  
  • Swimmer highlights in the newsletter rotated by club
  • Volunteer and coaches awards
  • Go Pro video of the swimmers
  • Free clinics
  • GTD type activities like "Associates degree" - 5 miles per month, Bachelors degree - 10 miles per month, Masters degree - 15 miles per month, PhD - 20 miles per month.  
  • Good communication: Electronic newsletters, Website, including keeping the website current.
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