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by Meegan Wilson

October 31, 2002

Swimming enthusiast and talented volunteer

Carl House (October 2002). 

USMS can be thankful for the series of events which brought us a swimming enthusiast and talented volunteer named Carl House. In 1987 at the age of 48, Carl House of Boca Raton, Fla., was told by his doctor that he would face a lifetime of back pain unless he had orthopedic surgery and that exercise might help. Since Carl had recently undergone knee surgery to repair damage from years of playing tennis, hated to run, and felt bicycling was dangerous, he decided to swim laps. He found lap swimming to be boring.

Fortunately for Carl and for USMS, he read a newspaper article about Masters swimming and joined coach Judy Meyer-Bonning's Mission Bay Masters swim workouts. In the beginning, Carl "was not a good swimmer" and thought "the workouts were not at all fun." Fear of back pain and the absence of alternative solutions combined with very attentive instruction and motivation from Judy persuaded Carl to continue swimming. Under Judy's supervision, Carl improved and began enjoying workouts by year end. Within another six months, he was enjoying Masters competitions. As a member of the Mission Bay Masters mixed 200+ free relay that ranked number two in the 1990 SCM Top Tens, Carl recorded his "first great swimming victory" which he attributed to the speedy presence of 65 year old Flo Carr. His eager willingness to swim relays was legendary.

Carl's volunteer service to USMS began in 1991, when June Krauser recognized that Carl "was new to swimming, but had a great desire to help." She put Carl in charge of Florida Gold Coast Local Masters Swimming Committee (FG LMSC) communications "since he always seemed to have something to say." The following year, he became FG LMSC newsletter editor and vice-chairman and built not only their first website but also the first websites for each of the other six Dixie Zone LMSCs and for three of the Colony Zone LMSCs as well. Carl began archiving the annual lists of USMS All-Americans and National Top Ten Times onto the world wide web in 1993 making them available for others to view. His massive project became the foundation for preserving and archiving USMS history and led to the establishment of the USMS History and Archives Committee.

In 1994, Carl attended his first USMS convention. He debuted on the individual National Top Ten list at age 55, placing 10th in the 800 scm (short course meters) freestyle, seventh in the 200 scm butterfly, and ninth in the 400 scm individual medley. The following year, he became a member of the Records and Tabulation Committee. His interest in top ten data and desire to improve prompted him to design and write "The Mucky Duck" computer program, initially to help himself set swimming goals and evaluate performances and later to help and motivate others.

Carl continued to accumulate and archive USMS data including the National Top Ten listings, stories about Masters swimmers, lists of All-Americans and All-Stars, and much more. He prevailed upon volunteers to help identify missing first names and club and LMSC affiliations of swimmers in the Top Ten and All-American archives. The emphasis was (and is) on accuracy. In 1997, Carl initiated the use of a permanent swimmer identification tag or "ID," unique to each swimmer within the archives, in order to identify top ten swimmers easily and accurately and to link swimmers to their data.

Drawing from his background in computer technology and programming, he wrote and refined software to simplify navigating the website, to expedite maintenance, and to link swimmers to their times and accomplishments. Updates or maintenance of the system have been and are performed by Carl in a timely manner, usually on the same day that information is received, with emphasis on efficiency and accuracy. The archive databases are designed so that newly entered information is automatically spread or linked to all of the places where it should exist. This new information can be as small as a spelling correction or as massive as the newest National Top Ten listing. Timely addition of data by Carl allows the contributor to check that the update is handled properly and correctly.

The 1998 USMS Service Award was bestowed upon Carl in recognition of his great and everlasting contributions to USMS. By initiating the preservation of USMS history in 1993 and by determined and prolific service, he has helped capture USMS history before it was lost and has made it available to view and share. USMS President Nancy Ridout established the Ad Hoc History and Archives Committee in 1999 naming former Executive Secretary Dorothy Donnelly as the chair to continue the efforts that Carl started in 1993. In recognizing the invaluable significance of the USMS History Project, Nancy Ridout stated, "the importance of the History Project, spearheaded by Carl House, cannot be measured." (1) Dorothy Donnelly reminisced that the History and Archives project had "come a long way since Carl invited some of us several years ago to play in his sand box, identifying swimmers who were named All-American. The project simply ‘growed like Topsy’, involving a few dozen Masters who were willing to dig down deep into materials that had been stored away."

With the untimely death of Dorothy Donnelly in May 2000, Carl was appointed chair of the Ad Hoc History and Archives Committee. The committee became a USMS standing committee the following year. USMS paper documents and electronic files are being carefully saved and permanently archived at the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). Additional, periodic back up copies of the electronic files are being archived at different locations throughout the country to guarantee their safety and availability.

The continued success of the USMS History and Archives project can be attributed both to the help of many volunteers in response to Carl's direction and to his productivity. In committee member Meegan Wilson 's words, "when Carl has the ball, he doesn't just run with it, he punts, passes and hands off as well." Ultimately, Carl will receive help in handling the actual input of new data or updates as the USMS History and Archives Committee converts its archive software to a database with "user friendly" maintenance software while continuing to preserve the accuracy, care, and diligence with which the data is handled and backed up.

Carl was named to the USMS Computer Online Committee in 2001 and to both the USMS Endowment Fund Board of Governors Committee and the USMS Database Task Force in 2002. At the 2002 USMS convention, USMS adopted the permanent swimmer ID concept with a goal of implementing a permanent and unique swimmer "ID" for each USMS-registered swimmer by 2003. Carl continues to live in Boca Raton with his wife, Nancy Stroud, an environmental and land use law attorney. His back pain has totally disappeared thanks to swimming, and he remained pain free even during his one-year break from swimming. He currently swims three times a week at Boca Raton Meadows Park Pool "with a great bunch of people." Carl swims for GOLD and comments that "it's always been true for me that it is the people I swim with who keep me on track for training. I've been very lucky that way."

USMS appreciates Carl's energy, expertise, and devotion to his various volunteer endeavors that benefit USMS including the creation of an extensive, multifunctional website containing accurate historical and current USMS data. The data is available, useable, and searchable; each listed swimmer is linked to all of the data archived for that swimmer as well as to the swimmer's most recent club and LMSC. USMS history is being preserved.

(1) Nov-Dec 1999 SWIM magazine "USMS History Project" article by Susan Ludwig

by Meegan Wilson and Barbara Dunbar, October, 2002