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Need Members?

Grow your club the old fashioned way: word of mouth

Kristina Henry | March 17, 2013

Many swimmers, your writer included, have had an initial hesitation to join a Masters program; after all, this is a team for serious swimmers, right? Super speedy Type As who thrive on competition or weekend warriors hungry to improve their swimming technique for triathlons?

Nope—Masters is a big pool, with room for everyone. But sometimes that’s hard to communicate to potential members. However, with a little help from USMS and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth networking, you can succeed in attracting new members to your program.

“Word of mouth is our most effective tool,” says Coach Nancy Brown of Severn Park Y Masters, near Annapolis, Md. “I often stop lap swimmers and ask if they know about Masters swimming. We have U.S. Masters Swimming brochures at SPY that people coming into the community center pick up; they will call me or email me. In the near future, we plan to try a pre-Masters program to educate the participants … what Masters swimming is all about.”

U.S. Masters Swimming can also help you grow your club—with a variety of brochures, banners, caps, luggage tags, and other materials, usually just for the price of shipping. The USMS website, usms.org is easy to navigate and provides club information by state.

USMS also employs a full time club and coach services director, Bill Brenner, whose mission is to support USMS programs nationwide and oversee certification and continuing education for USMS coaches. Brenner believes a committed coach is key to building a strong club. Brenner travels throughout the country certifying new Masters coaches—he sees a coach’s influence firsthand.

“The most successful clubs I've visited have strong coaching leadership,” says Brenner. “The strongest leaders communicate effectively with their members both on and off the deck. Making practices fun while accomplishing club and individual goals unifies the members.”

Brenner also suggests weekly emails to keep all club members and potential club members informed and engaged.

“Encouraging social activities and volunteerism among the members builds team unity for all swimmers, whether they swim for fitness, competition, or triathlons,” says Brenner. “This is an attractive environment for potential members. A member’s first experience when participating in a practice for the first time should be a reflection of the coach's and program's positive atmosphere.”

Our club is fortunate to have a very talented and committed coach whose fondness for her swimmers and love of the sport are evident; she’s definitely not in it for the odd hours and modest pay.

Sometimes it all comes down to the name itself. “A lot of people are very intimidated by the word Masters,” Brown says. “They think they have to be really good to get involved.”

We try to put that to rest when we meet a potential member. Like a cult, our club often falls all over itself trying to encourage others to join: “It’s Masters, you do what you want … we go out a lot … you don’t have to compete in the meets … our coach is really great … you get what you put into it … I’m proof that anyone can do it …, etc.”

If you need help growing your program, start on the Program Resources page at usms.org, under the “For Coaches” menu.

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About the Author—Kristina Henry

Kristina Henry has written about life on Maryland's Eastern Shore and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for The Washington Post. She has contributed first-person essays to The Washingtonian as well as articles for Maryland Life and is the author of four children's picture books. She swims with the TCY Manta Rays in Easton, Md.

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