How to Build a Community in Your Masters Club
Coaches play an integral role in building community
People join Masters clubs for different reasons. Some want to compete. Some want to get and stay fit. Some want personalized coaching and a structured practice. Others are in it for the meditative time away from their daily lives.
One of the added benefits of being in a club is the camaraderie established with fellow swimmers. Even if your swimmers aren’t best friends with their lanemates, being part of a community satisfies a fundamental human need: being connected to others.
Building community is about building relationships. Swimming brings us together. But if you, as the coach, miss the opportunity to reach out to swimmers in your club and encourage them to reach out to each other, you miss a key benefit of being a Masters swimmer: a chance to be part of an amazing community.
Everyone can participate in the process of building a community in their club. Here are some tips for doing that.
Plan Social Activities
Everyone is busy, but social, nonswimming time together can be beneficial for building relationships. You might learn that the person in lane 7 has a lot in common with the person in lane 2. Intergenerational relationships can be formed as people discover that their teammates can be friends and even mentors. Social activities don’t need to be elaborate. Coffee or breakfast after practice can go a long way in developing relationships. If you want to be even more social, create a committee to plan events.
Integrate Get-to-Know-You Drills Into Your Workouts
Fun activities such as social kick, in which swimmers kick side by side while having a conversation, can assist in relationship building. It’s amazing how much you can learn about your lanemate over 200 yards. You can also have your swimmers tread water for 10 minutes and discuss a particular topic, such as their favorite restaurants or best vacation. Not only does the time fly by, but people also get to know one another.
Have Your Team Give Back
Nothing pulls a group together like doing something for others. Whether you build a house for Habitat for Humanity or host a swim event in your community, giving back builds your club community as well. There are countless ways to give back in your community. To name only a few: sponsoring or conducting an adult learn-to-swim class or swim lessons for underserved youth, organizing a food drive during the holidays or a beach cleanup at your local open water swimming spot, volunteering as a group at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. The possibilities are endless.
Greet People and Know Their Names
All messages have two parts: the message (the content of what you’re saying) and the relationship element (what my talking to you says about my relationship with you). For example, when a coach says “Hi, Mary, how are you feeling today?” there are two messages. One is content: asking the swimmer how he or she feels. The second message is about the relationship: telling that person that you care enough about them to ask. Simply saying “Hi” acknowledges the other person’s presence. What may seem like routine small talk is much more powerful than you might think. Remembering people’s names is also a way of letting them know that you care.
Give Equal Attention to All Swimmers
Coaches can get lured into focusing on the fastest swimmers or the swimmers who need the most help. And swimmers, like all other groups, will form groups within groups. But one of the great things about U.S. Masters Swimming is that many members and coaches strive to support all swimmers, not just fast or slow swimmers, not just the breaststrokers, not just the swimmers who cycle together on the weekends. Being inclusive of everyone is important to building community.
- Coaches Only