The RJA award annually goes to a volunteer who has done the most to further the objectives of Masters Swimming and has been awarded each year since 1973
Planning a U.S. Masters Swimming national championship isn’t rocket science, but helping to put together one of those meets and launching a rocket require a few of the same things: attention to detail, proper timing, and technology.
Jeff Roddin has helped plan for national championships for many years (in addition to his working for NASA). For his effort in support of Masters Swimming, the Montgomery Ancient Mariners member received the Capt. Ransom J. Arthur M.D. Award at the 2019 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship in Mesa, Ariz., on Saturday.
The RJA award annually goes to a volunteer who has done the most to further the objectives of Masters Swimming and has been awarded each year since 1973.
“It blows me away,” Roddin says. “A year ago, my wife asked me if I thought I would ever win this award, and I said, ‘No, heavens no.’ This is a lifetime achievement award. I just never thought that I’d be eligible for this big of an award. It’s definitely the biggest honor or award I’ve ever received in my life.
“I walked up here [to accept the award] and I’m blown away that I see Ted Haartz literally standing here. And that’s what’s giving me the jitters right now. I don’t want to diminish the other winners, but the fact that Ted Haartz is not only a past winner but that he’s here today means a lot to me.”
Roddin’s history of contributing to Masters Swimming is lengthy. He received the USMS Dorothy Donnelly Service Award in 2010, the USMS National Championships Meets Award in 2012, and the Ted Haartz USMS Staff Appreciation Award in 2013. In addition to his work on the Championship Committee, Roddin previously served on the Registration Committee and the Records and Tabulations Committee.
He might be all business when it comes to meet logistics, but he likes to have fun too. When researching possible national championship locations, he always considers destination cities, local attractions, and planned activities critical to the meet’s success.
His volunteer work began in 1995, when he ran into David Diehl, a member of Colonials 1776, at the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center (at the time named the Montgomery Aquatic Center). Diehl and Roddin’s father, Hugh, had been longtime friends. Diehl suggested Jeff attend an upcoming Potomac Valley LMSC meeting Diehl was hosting at his house. Roddin attended and was nominated and elected to be the LMSC’s secretary. He attended his first annual meeting in 1997 and has missed only two since.
Roddin, who recently stepped down as the Championship Committee chair after nine years but still serves on the committee, enjoys working with national championship hosts and doing behind-the-scenes work such as running estimated timelines and making seeding decisions. His engineering background helps him find ways to optimize the meet experience for swimmers and not overburden volunteers with long sessions.
“Our Nationals is a terrific product that is inclusive to all swimmers,” says Roddin, 50, who started in Masters swimming in the 1990s shortly after graduating from Lehigh University. “I strive to create an opportunity for all swimmers ranging from those who just joined a swim team for the first time in their lives to those who competed for Olympic notoriety to come away with a great experience.”
Masters Swimming has meant a lot to Roddin over the years, and it provided him with perhaps his biggest gain in 2007.
“While volunteering to process entries for our team's annual event, the Albatross Open, my friend Wally Dicks told me about a teammate of his named Julie who wanted to know if she could change her events,” says Roddin, who helped her change her events. “This year, Julie and I will be married 10 years.”
Roddin, the busy husband and father of two children, ages 8 and 6, manages early-morning practices three days a week before his family wakes up. He uses his lunch breaks at NASA to work on USMS-related tasks, dedication that’s made him stand out.“Jeff’s enthusiasm for data analysis, attention to detail, inclusive decision-making, and generosity with his time are just some of the attributes that have made him a superb Championship Committee chair,” wrote Oregon Masters’ Sandi Rousseau, Oregon Masters’ Barry Fasbender, and Sawtooth Masters’ Jim Clemmons in nominating Roddin for the RJA award. “The quality of our national championships and the event host experience have continued to improve under Jeff’s leadership. He embodies the volunteer spirit that has made USMS a great organization.”