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by Mark Canterbury

April 26, 2009

The water has always drawn me back. Having been a competitive swimmer for so many years of my life and coaching Masters and collegiately at Southern Illinois University in addition to coaching with Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, the water became a part of me. I was always drawn back in some way or another. This draw is what finally got me to found Water Exercise Technologies. W.E.T. is dedicated to the fulfillment of life, happiness and health through exercise in the water. With three factions of W.E.T. established; the wide range of aquatic classes, the aquatic therapy and rehab, and the private swimming lessons for adults and kids, the fourth and final component was the incorporation of a Masters club.

Why did I want to start my OWN Masters club? Well, after having been around Masters swimming for most of my life, and after having been involved with it myself for a number of years, I developed an idea of how I thought one should be run. I wanted to establish it and then grow it with my own ideals in mind without having to adhere to any policies a club or facility might impose. It was important for me to have this not just be another program but something that offers quality and consistency. So, yes, I was going to start my OWN club from scratch.

The first thing I had to do was find a venue. Having already nurtured a good relationship with TC Donahue at the Winter Park Racquet Club through my work with W.E.T., I decided to start there. I observed that there were several swimmers that would come and work out on their own, so I approached them first and asked if they'd be interested in having a Masters group at the club. Having found that there was a definite interest, I went to TC and proposed having the Masters club there. I was interested to hear that he too had been approached by a few members as well, so he was most enthusiastic and open to the idea. Great! I now had a pool as well as a few swimmers to get started with. Now what do I do?

Having talked to several of the potential swimmers, I had already gotten a feel for the best times to hold workouts to ensure that I started with a sufficient amount of swimmers to make it cost-effective for me, so the initial workout schedule was set as well. Now to register the club. I contacted the LMSC to go about the process of doing all the necessary paperwork and was surprised to find that it was relatively easy. But here is where I hit my first snag.

Once I had sent the initial paperwork in, I didn't hear anything. I didn't know what the next step was or even if there was anything else I needed to do. Which leads me to my biggest advice for anyone wanting to start up their own Masters club: DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP! I decided to turn over every stone I knew, and I decided to start with my dad, Kirk Canterbury.

My dad had been involved in Masters for as long as I knew and I knew he had lots of connections. I had no idea the connections he had though. Next thing I knew, I got a call from Mel Goldstein, the national director of club development for USMS. Apparently my dad called Rob Butcher, who in turn called Mel. Mel was nothing short of AMAZING! He has a WEALTH of information and experience that is an invaluable resource to be able to tap into. He answered all my questions. Not only that, but he offered to fly down at no expense to me and help me set it up!

So Mel arrived, we picked him up from the hotel and brought him to the club so he could see firsthand what we were working with. Upon stepping out of the car and seeing the location, his jaw just about hit the ground! He was staring at the lake that sat not 20 yards from the pool. Beautiful Lake Maitland. He said he was looking at a gold mine! He asked if I was going to offer open water swimming. I told him that I had thought about doing some every now and then, but he said that if I offered regular open water swims along with the regular pool workouts, I would have something very few Masters clubs had and the swimmers would flock to partake. Well, guess what? Added to the schedule was regular open water training swims three days a week.

Now I had everything I needed. I had the pool (and lake). I had some swimmers. I had the club registered. Now I just had to get the word out to grow the club. But that's the subject of another article.

If you're looking to start your own Masters club, here's a short checklist:

- Find a venue. Local Y's are a good place to look. Also, any area clubs that have pools. A lot of them are just looking for ways to get usage up.
- Talk it up and have a few swimmers ready to go when you are. It's much easier to grow interest when people see a group (even if its only three to five people) enjoying a workout together.
- Register the club with your Local Master Swimming Committee (LMSC). It's easy and very inexpensive.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. The swimming community is a tight-knit group! You never know where a good resource will come from.

If you'd like to hear more or have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email at