Everyone Swims in Michigan
Over half of Michigan Masters swimmers compete
Well, maybe not everyone, but Michigan Masters swimmers show up and swim in record numbers. How is the Michigan LMSC so successful at encouraging 50% of its members to come to its state championship meet? It’s a variation on "if you build it, they will come."
First, USMS Membership director Anna Lea Matysek puts Michigan’s 50% participation rate into perspective: “In 2011, 16,191 of all USMS members (56,158) participated in a pool meet sometime during the 2011 year. That's 29% of our membership. The MI-LMSC's state meet blows that figure away with nearly 50% of the LMSC in attendance.”
Skip Thompson, 60, who chairs the Coaches, Officials, Sanctions, and Top 10 committees in the Michigan LMSC and has attended thirty straight state meets, says a combination of hard work, being responsive to the needs of swimmers, offering good awards and employing the latest USMS technology has increased participation over the years.
Thompson says that 345 swimmers swam at the Lake Orion Community Aquatic Center in Lake Orion (between Flint and Detroit) from March 23 to March 25 in the 40th Annual Michigan Masters State Championship. It was a successful meet. Seventeen LMSC state records and 35 championship meet records were set during the course of the meet. It was the fifth year in a row that nearly 50% of the registered swimmers in the Michigan LMSC participated in the event.
The flat fee of $50 for the meet includes a T-shirt and the opportunity to swim in up to seven individual events, including all the distance events, and up to four relays. There are no qualifying times. Thanks to that policy, the Michigan LMSC has had to extend the meet over the years to allow for the growth. “It now lasts almost three full days. We have a lot more distance swimmers than sprinters and a lot of triathletes. They want to swim the 500, 1000 and 1650,” Thompson says. It’s that focus on customer service and the responsiveness to the entrants that makes any organization successful.
“There are a lot of logistics, but the satisfaction is great. We learn something new every year. I’ve learned a lot from looking at Nationals,” Thompson adds.
The meet moves around the state in the same way Nationals moves around the country This geographical equity has not harmed participation, even when in the less populated western part of the state. “The meet is so successful that people will travel for it and stay in a hotel,” Thompson explains with pride.
Team competition drives participation, too. In the past seven years, Thompson says, five different teams have won the point competition. The Ford Athletic Swim & Triathlon (FAST) team, pictured, has been dominant though, and won their third Large Team Combined Championship in their team history to go along with titles in 2008 and 2009. Ann Arbor Masters won the Small Team Championships.
Having a great meet drives LMSC membership too. Thompson says in the weeks leading up to the meet, the LMSC gets more than 100 new or renewing members.
And it is not just the state meet. Michigan Masters also has the highest participation rate of swimmers participating in all USMS sanctioned events combined at 68%. In addition to pool meets, this figure included participation in open water swims, postal championships, and the “Go for the Distance” program.
The Michigan LMSC has tapped into opportunity and fun offered by Masters swimming programs; at both the local and national levels.