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What's With the Growth?

Did you know that as of October 31, 2008, U.S. Masters Swimming had more than 48,000 members?

Did you know that as of October 31, 2008, there were 96 new U.S. Masters Swimming clubs and that new clubs accounted for roughly 17 percent of total USMS clubs?

USMS membership is at an all-time high as we move into 2009 registration. New programs, new coaches, new volunteers and new athletes are contributing to the vibrancy of U.S. Masters Swimming.

So, what's with the growth?

"I think more and more YMCAs, recreation facilities and private clubs are starting to see the additional benefit of Masters programs to their organizations," said Mel Goldstein, director of Club and Coach Services. Mel, with the help of 25 volunteers, answers questions, mentors new coaches and helps to build new programs from the ground up. Paula Noel, a new USMS coach and the founder of one of USMS's newest programs, saw a need for a Masters program in her local area and said, "There is a large base of triathletes and adult swimmers in my area and I had received a lot of positive feedback from people I had spoken with about my desire to swim with other adults who had similar goals and interests."

Paula swam competitively with her local age group team and then swam in high school. "Swimming was truly my passion," she shared about her memories of swimming as a child. "I taught swim lessons and started working with younger swimmers on their stroke development," she explained of her experience coaching. Like other swimmers and coaches, Paula is enthusiastic about coaching adults, but it was Paula's proactive research and self-education that took her idea of building a Masters program and turned it into a reality.

Do you see a need for a new program in your area, but don't know where to start? No worries: U.S. Masters Swimming is here to help. Club and program registration is done through Local Masters Swimming Committees (LMSC). Visit www.usms.org and then click on the Local Programs link. From there, select your geographic area and the accompanying website, which will have information on registering your club or program.

"My biggest apprehension was that we would not be able to attract members or generate an interest in our new program," says Paula. But rather than allowing this trepidation to deter her from her goal of starting a Masters program, Paula forged ahead, educating herself on her local facilities, community and U.S. Masters Swimming. "My first step was to research through the U.S. Masters Swimming website," she explains. After researching Masters swimming culture, history, policies and procedures on www.usms.org, Paula looked to Mel Goldstein and his team of volunteers for guidance. "Not only did they respond, they asked a lot of questions, and really took an interest in how they could help," she says. Mel even flew to New York to meet with the aquatic director of Paula's facility to explain the process of structuring a successful team. Mel, his team of volunteers and USMS didn't stop their involvement when Paula's team started swimming; they continue to support Paula as she grows her program. Jeanne Ensign, a Club and Coach Services volunteer says, "in order to retain members, coaches, and clubs we really must focus on continuing education and support."

Do you want to start a new Masters program? Paula Noel's advice: "Go for it! There is always an interest in adults sharing a common interest like swimming that provides encouragement and camaraderie while promoting a healthy lifestyle." Jeanne also understands that starting a new program can be overwhelming and suggests, "You build a program one swimmer at a time. Start by inviting a friend to swim with you and see where it goes from there. It starts with one." New teams, new coaches and new members are a key ingredient in the life of U.S. Masters Swimming and coaches like Paula Noel prove that it just takes a little enthusiasm, a little commitment and a little willingness to learn, be taught and teach your local community and its leaders of the importance of adult aquatic programs.

Do you have questions about starting a new program or improving an existing program? Club and Coach Services is available to all U.S. Masters Swimming members. For more information contact Mel Goldstein at goldsteinmel@sbcglobal.net.


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