Sage Hopkins is currently the assistant national squad coach and head senior squad coach at De Anza Cupertino Aquatics. Formerly he was the head coach and chief operating officer with Bakersfield Swim Club, the assistant men’s swimming coach at California State University at Bakersfield; and the head women’s swimming coach at West High School. Hopkins’ other achievements include: ASCA Level 4 certification, USA Swimming National Select Camp coach, two published articles with ASCA, meet director at the 1999 Speedo Long Course Junior National Swimming Championships, SwimAmerica licensed swim school owner/operator, and team captain of the 1995-96 CSUB men’s swimming team. And the list of Hopkins achievements continues. He was a member of the Sierra College men’s water polo team in 1992-93, central California Swimming Coach of the Year in 1999, a seven-time Collegiate All-American, United Way recipient of the “From the Heart” award in recognition of his contribution to Kern County youth, placed a swimmer on the USA Swimming National Team in 1998, an ASCA Fellow in 2000, and had a world-ranked swimmer in 1998.
I was the meet director for the 99 Juniors West. When we started that process I went into it as a co-meet director and then about 3 months into the two year process I became the meet director. It started with a little bit more than I had envisioned. I was asked to do this talk largely upon the success of the meet, I feel is important to recognize some of the people that were instrumental in helping the meet achieve the level of success it did. From U.S. swimming Mike Unger, Wendy, Scott Alan, Eric Wonderlich, John Wilson, our head meet referee, And also people from Bakersfield such as the Mayos’, Jones’, Bob Steel, Ed Steel, Marilyn Bolton and her crew from Southern California Swimming that ran the timing.
I’m gonna tell a little bit about the history of Bakersfield meets to kinda set up and tell the Bakersfield story of how some things came about and why we needed to do some things in a certain way. First off, there is a realization that obviously with a meet of that caliber and that importance, everything needs to be run at the highest possible level and every accommodation made for the athletes. These were a couple of quotes that I thought were appropriate to our situation. “There is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right doing” – David Starr Jordan. “If we wanted to change the situation, we first had to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions” – Steven Covey.
The situation in Bakersfield was not ideal to hosting a high level meet when I arrived as head coach. In the previous summer they the swim meets had been disastrous with equipment failures and facility problems. Just after that there was a high school championship meet and the first heat sat on the blocks for over an hour and half while they set up the pool for the meet. There wasn’t a lot of trust from within Central California on whether Bakersfield could run a meet. Part of that perception was because from outside Bakersfield people thought there was just one entity that ran a swim meet where as we all know in each town there’s different contingencies that may put on a meet. So we had received a black eye per say, because of the track record of meets that had been held within the City. So when I was first called in by the City to ask if we would go along with them on the bid process, I told them that I would go along with it and I would put my name on it, but, there would be the one necessity that everything would be needed to be run first rate and everything would be need to run athletes centered and we would run the best possible meet. There wouldn’t be any short cuts, there wouldn’t be any equipment failures, there would be no margin for error. So we needed to adopt some excellence and also we needed to change the way a lot of people in Bakersfield perceived putting on meets.
A meet isn’t something that starts at nine o’clock and everybody shows up at eight or eight thirty to set up. It is something that at Junior Nationals there was over two years of very intensive planning that went into us hosting the meet. Things did start to go better in the year after that we got the bid. We hosted a number of meets that ran flawlessly, but still there were a number of detractors. Throughout the whole bidding process both before we won the bid and after we won the bid we had a small number of very vocal people that were expressing concerns to U.S. Swimming about our ability to host the meet. Unfortunately those people were from within our own LSC and there was probably a little bit of rivalry there. Some were probably honestly concerned about our track record. So we knew we had to prove some people wrong and that was part of our conviction.
So, we ran our series of meets, they all went well. We were three weeks out of Juniors and we were hosting our annual summer invite. We got the same crews working hospitality that are going to be working hospitality at Juniors. We are trying to mirror as much as we can in an age group format that is gonna happen at Juniors because we know everybody that has been complaining is at the meet watching to see what happens. Friday night goes off fine, no problems, everything is good. Saturday morning, I walk on to the pool deck, I don’t know about you but I like to be the first person on to the deck when we are hosting the meet to make sure everything is the way I want it, I walk onto the deck at about 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and there was a little bit of a problem. Our pools have a solenoid switch which controls and governs the level of the water in the pool. The switch had gone out sometime during the night, and the pool had kept filling and filling and filling until we walked into the gate at 6:00 in the morning and the water was flowing over the top of the gutters and flooding the decks. All of the officials and all the nay sayers started walking in and seeing this and we realized that we needed to do some things real quickly, and this is where some creative problem solving came in.
We called the Bakersfield fire department and within about 15 minutes they were out there with high level pumps and pumped thousands and thousands of gallons out of the pool and got the meet up and running. I think we started the meet about five or ten minutes late. It was great publicity for the meet, it was great publicity for the fire department, the T.V. stations got out there and it was kind of a win, win situation for everybody.
Question: Did it cost you anything. Answer: No, it didn’t cost us anything, the fire department got some free publicity, community service and things like that out of it.
When you go into a meet like this you need to ask yourself what the objectives for the meet are, what your personal objectives are, and it is my feeling that if you’re hosting a major meet, the number one criteria needs to be that it is athlete centered. There is a lot of people that run very large meets in the country and they do that solely to put money into their budget. There are people that run meets that are solely athletes centered and don’t really make any money. There is a middle ground, you can run a very fine meet and make some good money for your organization. There just has to be a planning process and you have to make sure that you have all of your basis covered.
We are going to go into the roll of the meet director. first off you’ll have in your handout the little communications story: “COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY – A STORY OF FOUR PEOPLE. This is a story of four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to do and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure that somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It turned out that Everybody blamed Somebody, when actually Nobody asked Anybody.”
I’m sure everybody’s seen that as many times as I have. I would like to reiterate the importance of the meet director’s role. Every person has to be assigned specific tasks, they need to be held accountable, there needs to be specific time lines and we will get to the manners that I was able to manage that. Look at the hand out on Tips for Successful Committees. This is something that there was such an array of committees set up that it was essential that 1) I knew what all the committees were doing. 2) the committees knew what they were supposed to be doing, 3) that everything was getting done on time and 4) everything was getting done in compliance with U.S. Swimming’s contract. If you are running some other type of meet and have major sponsor issues, you need to make sure that everything is flowing with those issues. Basically, this isn’t anything we invented this is straight out of U.S. Swimming’s recommendation for how to set up the committees of a major meet.
These are the committees we set up. Basically you have time trials as its own separate committee and you run that with its own separate meet, with it’s own meet director. Publicity and public relations, that is going to be where you generate the media, the attention that is going to help with sponsorship. Finances sets the budget for the meet, lets the committees know what there allowances are. Marketing and promotions, again tied in with publicity and relations. Clerk of course, we all know what that is. Ceremonies protocols and awards. Credential and registration. Entries. Hospitality — one of the most important as far as the coaches are concerned. Drug testing at the junior level, its usually not an issue but you usually have to have a contingency plan if they do show up. Security and medical, again something very important, we will get into it a little bit. Facilities, accommodations and transportation. We had subcommittees of coffees and equipment.
Now in my opinion the meet director needs to be a jack of all trades and in some sense try to be a master of as many as you can and maybe there is a little bit judge to position there and that, but the meet director needs to play the part. I was the first person at the pool in the morning at 5:30 or 6:00 I was the last person off the deck at 10:30/11:00 at night. For two years before that in addition to running a club I lived and breathed junior nationals. Something that was real important for me to keep my sanity for the meet to be run well and for my wife not to throw me out of the house was for me to make sure that I did things in a way that still allowed me to accomplish the other important things in my life and this is just something that I put up, I’m sure everybody has seen it, if you haven’t I would advise you to read the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey, basically be pro-active, take charge, go out and do something before it needs to be done, before there is a crunch.
We literally started preparing for junior nationals the day we were awarded the meet at the symposium, two years out. Begin with the end in mind — we had a picture of what we wanted the meet to look like and then we worked backwards. Put first things first, in this type of a situation the athletes, if you’re looking at the meet from my angle as administrator and as a coach and a person, I needed to make sure I had my priorities and I was still having time for myself, time for my family time for my athletes and also enough time for the meet. Think win when, now this is again a situation such as when we had to call in the fire department there is also if any of you have been meet directors, there is always going to be somebody that is mad abut something and you want to try and find a solution, that is in the best interest of the athlete while also keeping the rules and regulations in mind. And again dealing with people at the meet level, seek first to understand and then to be understood. Major meets are going to have big things happen. at our meet, we had a very major conflict between two sponsors and it went up to the highest levels of U.S. Swimming and basically the call came down onto my shoulders as far as what would happen and that was the situation. I really had to do some quick homework on make some calls around the Country and then act. I had to get a lot of information and then explain to some gentleman, I’m sorry that you flew out here, I think they had come from someplace out of the Country, but you’re going to need to fold up your tents and go home basically. We will kinda get into why that happened and how to avoid things like that. Synergize, basically if we all work together we can do a whole lot more separately and sharpen the saw — take time out to do some things for yourself.
Here are some of the other things that I did as far as playing the role of meet director. I knew we were in a situation where there was a couple of volunteers and one coach in particular, we were doing their best to tell everybody of what a poor job we were going to do, so I knew that we were going to have a lot of coaches walking into the door looking for what was wrong. And so I wanted to stop that before it even got a chance to start. So the week before the meet, I went through the California teams and I tried to call every single major team in California, and I did my best to try to contact a lot of the major teams that would be coming from other states out of the West. The phone call was basically “hi coach my name is Sage Hopkins, I’m the meet director of the junior championships, is there anything I can do to help you, do you need any information.” I told them that we were having a little bit cooler than usual weather, they might want to have their athletes bring a parka or a jacket. The conversation usually went, “no I don’t need any help, thanks that’s great that you called.” There were a couple of coaches that I was able to give some helpful advice. That took probably sitting at my desk maybe sitting down at 6:30 in the morning and doing phone calls straight through until the evening for a couple of days, a lot of phone calls obviously but it made an impact. A lot of couches walked into the game and they said wow, you must have really had your stuff together to be able to sit down and call everybody the week before the meet. So again it is a perception that you want to give that everything is under control, that you are doing the best possible job and that you are ready.
Other things that I had to do as meet director. I had four walkie talkies strapped on to me with the little microphones. Were any of you at juniors west? You would have seen me kinda running around the pool constantly and I had four different mics on my call that were all tuned into a different channel so I can listen to the awards people, I could listen to the officials, I could listen to registration, I could listen to security and monitor the whole meet. Now that was good in the sense as far as meet management and playing the part, but it also made it difficult to coach my swimmers that were there and we happened to have a fairly large group that year, so we were lucky enough to have a fine coaching staff. My wife in particular, who was our head age group coach, had a couple of swimmers that had qualified out of her group there and so she was able to do a lot of the coaching and some of her other coaches did also, so that is how we covered that, but I don’t think that we did that the best possible way and I think in an ideal circumstance we would have kept two meet directors so that I could have focused more on the athletes once the meet got going.
We are going to move on to delegation next. Probably the key job for the meet directors to be an effective delegator and an effective manager. Now this handout is I picked up from ASCA on delegation:
A Short Primer on the Art of Delegation
By Guy Edson
The more you are responsible for, the more authority you have. With more authority increases in stability and compensation usually follow. But since you cannot do it all, how do you take on more responsibilities? The answer is learning how to delegate. Here are some tips on effective delegation.
- Learn to let go. Some things have to be done your way. But many things can be done with the same result by other methods. Be willing to let other people run with the ball.
- Analyze potential people to delegate to. Look for levels of commitment. Look for levels of loyalty to you. Look for levels of experience. Look for levels of competence.
- Analyze potential jobs to delegate. Rank jobs from lowest level of experience required to highest level. Rank jobs from least important to critical.
- Match jobs with people and provide appropriate support. See matrix below. Give critical jobs to people with experience, commitment, and loyalty. For these people provide the goal and then get out of the way except to provide support when asked.
Give less critical jobs to people with less experience but still high levels of commitment and loyalty. Provide the goals and coach (train) people as needed. With people with lower levels of experience and commitment provide frequent supervision. Generally, do not delegate critical jobs to people of questionable commitment or loyalty.
- Think in the long term. If you have people of high commitment and loyalty but without experience coach them. The time invested will be time saved later on. Also, pair up people of limited experience with people of high experience. In the long run, you will have someone always ready to take over.
Do not give critical jobs.
Set goals and let them run.
Delegate nothing critical.
Give less critical jobs.
Coach as needed.
Prepare for more critical jobs in future.
The important part that we are going to focus on is right here – high commitment, high experience. When I was assigning to various committees and I was looking for chairs, when I was talking with the chairs about who should be on the various committees we had to really look at the people and their personality. Were they right for this specific role? There was one chair in particular that we removed and that wasn’t a fun thing to do but that was a necessary thing to do for the meet. Basically, you have an array of jobs from very high degree of difficulty or of importance to low. The menial tasks can be assigned to people that can just get a lot of things done. There are some things like hospitality that you want to give to some people that are very capable. Clerk of course you want to give to somebody very capable. Entries somebody very capable.
Now as far as workers, there is a wealth of people in all of your towns other than your own clubs and organizations to tap as far as people to help out. We used university clubs, sororities, fraternities, high school clubs, high school honor societies. We used high school students that needed to fulfill community service hours. We used sports management students and interns, ROTC students could be used, national honor society, senior citizen group, the list is really endless and it is as big or small as you want it to me.
Now as far as the actual way that I set up the structures is that I can see it in a way that was clear to me was like this. These were basically the committees and this is how many people we knew we needed in each committee. We filled in the chair and their phone number. That is how we kept track and everybody that was a committee chair had one of these. It was something simple that worked for us. Again another thing that was done was generally this was just a list and this went up I think, on the bulletin board with the contact numbers and we asked the team, we asked both the club team and the university team, the Cal State Bakersfield, if they had any interest in these committees and there was a sign up sheet right there with the person’s phone number. We had several parent meetings where they could sign up and to get information on the committees — not to sign their name in blood that they would be on the committee. The reason for that was two fold, we didn’t want to scare people off with a commitment and also we wanted to make sure we had the right people with the right committees. We wanted to make sure that we selected and we placed people where we knew that they could be effective. This sheet is in your packet and basically I took each committee and most of this again comes right from what U.S. Swimming recommends, each committee was assigned a list of tasks and there was probably like 6 or 7 pages like that: basically start date, targeted completion date and a little check off when it was done satisfactorily and it had been reviewed. Again it was something invaluable so that nothing falls through the cracks. As I said before, there is a lot of management that goes into something like this. You’re managing probably in excess of 150 volunteers. When I say volunteers I mean meet volunteers from Bakersfield, plus you have a couple of hundred officials that you’re helping, you have a couple of hundred coaches that you’re helping and a thousand or so athletes. I felt that it was important that we had them around, that we had a sense of team with the whole group, because we weren’t just drawing from our team we were drawing from a few different resources in the town.
Some of the things that we consider, again this comes from Covey. Basically seek first to understand. You want to understand the person not just talk at them, listen with your heart, really listen, don’t think of what you’re going to say as you’re listening to them. Listen with your eyes, look at the person. Pete Malone, I remember listening to a great talk of his a few weeks ago where he talked about reading peoples body language with his eyes, and that is important, listen to the people and let them know that you are listening.
Keep your promises. When we went through the bidding process as I said there was a lot of nay sayers and at the time site selection was run by Pete Raykovich and Mike Hastings was also on the committee. I swam for Mike and also knew Pete just through their relationship together and what it came down to was me promising Mike and giving my word that we would run a first class meet. When I made that promise to Mike that was it and there was no going back and that was how it was going to be done. Also, along with that Pete’s exact words to me, and I probably won’t ever forget them, you now have one of the biggest targets in the country on your back. You better do a good job.
Use affirmations, give compliments. Simple things, but things that you want to do and you don’t want to have lost in the hustle and the bustle. Things to stay away from, general non-supportive attitudes. Unfortunately there were a couple of people on the board who didn’t think that we should be hosting Juniors. They thought it was too big of a pain in the neck, they wouldn’t volunteer for anything, they wouldn’t do anything, they wouldn’t even attend the meet. So, we had to compartmentalize them. They had already alienated themselves from the rest of the board with some of their statements and actions but, we still needed to have the board and the team operate but we didn’t want their non-supportive attitude to taint or poison our well.
Negative assumptions — same thing. As meet director you need to listen to people, you need to have thick skin. You’re going to have people yelling at you, screaming at you, acting completely irrational, and you may need to have a time out room where you can yank somebody off the deck and let them scream and yell and vent at you where it is not going to detract from the meet. That is just something you need to understand. Back stabbing. Obviously breaking promises. If you say you’re going to do something do it. Gossip, fairly obvious.
Host basics. These are just some general things to consider when hosting a meet, and again this is right out of U.S.A. Swimming. The contract, for juniors we had a specific contract that stipulated exactly things we could and couldn’t do. So we needed to make sure that everyone understood it. Every single committee we had was given a copy of the Contract and I had gone through and highlighted specific parts of the Contract to their committee. It was very important that we didn’t do anything that was gonna get us in trouble with Speedo or U.S. Swimming or any of the other U.S. Sponsors.
Pre-meet planning. Document everything. I’ve got so much documentation and paperwork on this meet that it is just amazing and I don’t want to throw things away. In my new position on Deanza Cupertino Aquatics, Pete would like me to start hosting some major meets and that is something that is going to be valuable. You also want to document everything so you have a record of who said what at a meeting, because like it or not, there are sometimes disputes that arise after the meet, and you want to be able to look back and say, “O.K. at that meeting we decided this.” If you want to have specific minutes, you want to keep your notes. You want to save everything. You obviously need to be highly organized. I had an entire filing cabinet that was juniors and that’s all that went in it. I had one desk that was juniors. All the other swimming stuff was in another desk that was in my office.
Delegate everything. One of the main recommendation that U.S. Swimming gives the meet directors is the meet director doesn’t chair any committee. Rather than get immersed in one committee, they oversee all. There was some concerned that I had with a couple of areas, mainly with facilities because the problems that we have had in the past, and by “we” I mean Bakersfield in general, and I wanted to make sure that we had all of our bases covered in the proper way and that everything was done well in advance. We didn’t want any surprises.
Pre-meet, entries. We paid for a group from Southern California Swimming to process our entries and run the computer. I believe the cost was around $3,000.00 and it was money very, very well spent. We used Marilyn Bolton and her crew, probably some of the finest in that end of the business that there are. You want to make sure everything is done accurately, you want the whole registration and check in system to be as smooth as possible for the coaches. Their very first impression of their meet is going to be registration and if they walk in and they don’t know where to start, they don’t know where to finish, and it is a jumbled mess. If there is lines, the coaches are going to get frustrated, and they are going to go into the meet frustrated and already angry. You want the coach to zip through registration without any problems.
Another thing that we did with phone calls, we tried to identify problem entries as soon as we got them, and with juniors you received the entries less than a week before the people get there, so we wanted to call people and get them to fax us the correction, or tell them what was wrong and what do we need to do. We were able to solve a lot of problems before the meet even began.
Pool set-up. Obviously there needs to be safety issues and security issues. The college was good enough and it was also time that they put about a half of million dollars into the facility. The college put in a new score board, resurfaced the pools, redecked the pools, new lane lines, new blocks, new touch pads, new bleachers — there was a lot that went in but we still needed to bring in new bleachers from local high schools, not all of it which were in brand new condition. We had to go and make sure there wasn’t sharp corners, there wasn’t slippery spots on the deck. You need to go through your whole facility and realize there is going to be however many thousand people on your deck crowded around and eliminate any hazards. We were lucky enough to have only two injuries. We had a young lady unfortunately have her nose broken getting run into, I believe it was in a pace lane and somebody was trying to pass and they ran into her. She actually came back and swam believe it or not, with a broken nose. Then John Wilson our meet referee, on the final evening was parading out and he tripped and fell and broke his arm very badly and had to have surgery on it.
Security. I don’t know about other parts of the country, but in California, and some of you that may have been out to the Santa Clara International meet and some of the other big meets in California, there are some weird people that follow around the meet circuit and there is actually people caught at Santa Clara and caught at Clovis with little video cameras running around shooting video’s of peoples butts and all sorts of whatever those kind of people do and so you need to watch out for those people. We actually had somebody that just looked like they weren’t supposed to be there that was sitting outside the gate and somebody came and informed me and we went and checked the guy out and sure enough the guy was there with a little camera pointing it through the fence, and we had the campus police come and escort him of the campus. You need to be prepared for that.
U.S. Swimming has a very, very problematic rule for a meet director of a championship meet to enforce and that is the whole deck pass system. We went to two championship symposiums in Colorado Springs and they ingrained in our minds, do not let anybody on the deck without a pass. If Dara Torres walks on and tries to get on the pool deck say, “I’m sorry, you don’t have a pass.” It doesn’t matter if you know that they are a swimmer or not, obviously when you are in the meet situation, if you take that stance you are going to have a lot of people very angry with you. So there needs to be a balance, you need to have people at the gate that can make a decision and keep things as secure as possible, while also allowing people to move about as they need to. As far as when the meet starts, again we talked about the importance of being proactive and there is a daily grind and that is something that you need to be prepared for. It was a week long and actually it started as far as the daily grind, probably 16 hour days started a couple weeks before, where Boggs, Steele and I would go to morning practice together, we would work our tails off all day and we would go to evening practice and we would work our tails off late into the evening and then go to bed and do it all again the next day. You need to make sure all of your details are covered. Again you need to be accessible, it was obvious that I was the meet director because I was playing the part. Who ever your meet director is put them in a bright shirt, do something that makes that person stand out. That person needs to be approachable and needs to be somebody that can take being yelled at a little bit.
The final night, make sure that you hold the same level of expectations that you started the meet with, through the end. We’ve all been to meets where everything ran great, and then the last day there is no hospitality, this happens that happens and it looks like everybody went home except for the athletes. You need to make sure that the meet starts and finishes with the same level of enthusiasm and the same bang. Then post meet. Depending on your meet there is going to be some contractual things you need to do. You need to send out results.
We are going to move on to ceremonies and awards. We were lucky enough to have two very good people in this position in chairing this committee. Bob Steele, who some of you may know, Bob Steele’s wife, she brought a lot of expertise to this and also my wife Tammy, brought a lot of expertise and the two of them did a very good job. John Wilson said that it was the first meet that he has refereed that they had to stall because the award system was being run so efficiently. Generally when we are at meets the award system is slowing the meet so much that you are wanting it to get it over with. We also tried to add a little bit of pizzaz to the meet. We had tried and we had planned to have some fighter pilots do a flyover on the opening night with the opening celebration but with the air war over Iraq, all of our military was on standby. We focused on not doing community service type things around California. As far as presenters, we tried to have local dignitaries involved. The mayor, city counsel people, the president of the university, the athletic director. You want to bring those people into the event, so the community feels they are a part of it. We also had sponsors present. The winning coach we always included we felt that was important that the winning coach, got some recognition. Often times at a meet, whoever is presenting the award and the winning coach doesn’t get a lot of recognition, we also were able to have some dignitaries to present the awards. Mark Schubert was invited and was very happy to come. Chuck Warner came out and was very happy to do so. We also had Natalie Snyder Barttleson who is a member of the ‘96 synchronized swimming team that got all perfect 10’s, perform about a three minute routine before finals one night and also present awards. Again it was something that the crowd enjoyed.
Facility issues, this sheet is not in your handout this is just a general look at some of the things that we needed to face in our situations. Basically it is a list of things that needed to be done and when they needed to be done in order to move the bleachers onto the deck, in order to set up the misting system, in order to set up the water cooling system, in order to set up all of the things that needed to be done. We had a specific schedule that everybody knew about and was communicated to the university staff as well so that everybody was on the same page and this was done well in advance. Anybody that has worked with the state bureaucracy knows that you just don’t walk up and tell the college electrician that you are going to run a high power wire across the ground, cause they want to talk to everybody about it and they want to review it because nothing is done at the last minute.
Here is a glimpse of what the facility looked like. We had the 50 meter competition pool right here, we had a small warm up pool right here and we had shade set up as much as we could. There was actually shade along right here, shade here as well, athlete entrance, spectators entered from over here, ready room from up here, award staging room right here, clerk of course. Athlete rest area was a major concern for us. A couple years before when Clovis hosted juniors which is about an hour and a half north of us, I think that they hit highs as high as 107, 108 degrees, and so we needed to be prepared for that, have contingency plan, so we had the gym right here which is right off the deck, available to the athletes. We kept it well air conditioned. There were computers in there, where they can sign on to the internet, and they could play around with that, and they also had close circuit T.V. so they could watch the meet from the gym so they could keep track of the meet, keep track of where the events are, and be aware of what was going on.
Now the water cooling, that was one of our major situations that we had to deal with, as all meet hosts in hot weather climates do. Our basic options were to build a water cooling tower at about a hundred thousand dollars, to rent an industrial water chiller at about twenty-five thousand dollars, to dump about a hundred thousand dollars of ice into the pool or come up with something unique and that was what we needed to do to make it work. There is an aeration system that we had already built a couple years before, basically spa pumps that pulled water out of the pool and shot water back up into the air and it cools as it drops down, it is effective but obviously you can’t do it during the day when it is hot, it doesn’t work if it is humid and you can’t run it doing the meet, or doing warm up. So, we had to do a little bit of constructive thinking, and what we ended up doing, is getting a piece of machinery which cools. Bakersfield, is a big oil community and it is very, very oil rich and we used the machines that cools oil drilling fluids. And, it was set up in a specific way and it basically sucked water out of the pool and ran it through the system and put it back into the tank. And with that we were able to maintain the competitive pool at about 79 degrees, there was a little bit of fluctuation, it got about as high as 80 and as low as 78. The smaller pool we got a little bit over zealous, Monday evening and Tuesday morning it was 74 degrees, so we had to flip the heater on for a couple of hours. That was just because we had a very strange cool night, and it wasn’t something we were prepared for. We had set up weeks in advance. I had literally gone out there checked the pool temperature every hour for an evening for an entire night, and monitor how well the water chilling system was working, how it was bringing down the pool temperature, giving different circumstances.
We are going to go to the generally meeting of the coaches meeting, again this isn’t in your packet because it is going to be specific to whatever meet you’re hosting. This is the actual outline for our general meeting. Something that we did was a little unique. The winning team from the previous juniors got front row parking spots right at the entrance to the pool. There was a big sign that said Phoenix Swim Club. The official of the day also got a parking spot, there was a certain lot that people could park in, we wanted to make sure that everybody parked there and didn’t pay the fee to park on campus. The medical emergencies — we were lucky enough to have an on site doctor at the student health services and there was also a hospital less than a quarter of a mile away. The health center hours there and also the phone numbers with both the hospital right next to the pool and the downtown hospital. We went over basically the closed circuit T.V. that we had not only in the gym, but also in the coaches hospitality room and in the school café which was about a quarter of a mile across campus. Water cooling was basically to alleviate the fears, because the group of nay sayers had gone around telling everybody that our pool was going to be 86 degrees and we wanted to assure everybody that we were going to keep the competitive pool at 79 and work to maintain the warmup pool between 79 and 81 and we did stay within those ranges.
Now the big thing that you want to do in your coaches general meeting, if you have any problems, any issues anything that is going to make any of the coaches angry, you want to bring it up, you want to state what the problem is and what you are going to do to fix it. A perfect example of that is just this past summer juniors in San Antonio. There was this serious problem with the pool temperature. Denny explained to the coaches what the problem was, what they were doing and why it was the way it was. Nobody was very happy with it but everybody understood that they were doing the best that they could do.
In your packets are U.S. Swimming checklists to go over for a meet director and we are not going to go over this more than just putting it up here, you can look over it at your leisure. No need to reinvent the wheel entirely. Each meet is going to have some particularities, you are not hosting a U.S. Championship meet, there is not all these hoops that you need to jump through. If you are hosting a college conference meet or just a large invitational, there might be different things to add or subtract, but these are just some things that I thought would be helpful for you to look over.
The next thing we are going to briefly look at is the contract check list. Basically again, this is what U.S. Swimming supplied to us and I had a very expanded version stuck on my wall of the various details and various steps that needed to be taken for more of these complex tasks, and this was also stapled right above my computer, and as we did things, we just checked them off and went down the list. Again if you cover all of your basis from the start, plan what you need to do, start with the end in mind, and then follow up on all of your steps you’re going to run a very good meet.
This is also in your packet under problem solving, and again it is just some strategies, there is going to be problems that arise within committees. We had some major knocking of heads within the committee chairs about a day before the meet, and it was in relation to the sponsorship issues that I had raised. There had been some, I’ll just call it miscommunication on the part of somebody that was dealing with sponsorship, and two conflicting sponsor’s showed up. One I, as meet director and Mike Unger at U.S. Swimming had approved and somebody else that had kind of slid in, that I didn’t know that was going to be there and Mike Unger didn’t know was going to be there and that caused some major problems that needed to be rectified. So we had an emergency meeting and it didn’t go to blows, but people were not very happy with each other. And so these are just some steps. Decide what the problem is, don’t get into personalities, address the issues address, the facts, deal with it and then move on. Once you have made the decision you go from there.
What a lot of you are probably interested in, money. This is basically some of the benefits that we listed out for the meet. This was in our sponsorship packet and the person that was in charge of sponsorship went out to sell our package. This is what she brought with her. Now it is important, very, very important, in today’s marketplace, that you don’t go in with the traditional outlook, “hi, I’m here. We are running a swim meet. Give me some money.” You need to have the idea of a relationship with your sponsors that is win, win. And maybe not use the word sponsor, but community partner. If let’s say, he owns a sandwich shop and he is going to sponsor the meet and give me 400 sandwiches for lunch one day and I’m going to do some things that a lot of athletes go to his sandwich shop to eat and we did things like that. Our sponsors were very happy that they took part in our meet, because the meet, like juniors would generally bring about two million dollars into your community and that is very significant when you are going out. You’re not asking for hand outs, you’re bringing two million dollars into the hotels, restaurants, etc.
T shirts, at juniors is a huge money maker. I think that we made somewhere around six thousand dollars, off of just T shirts alone and that was contracted out, we didn’t even have to deal with it. Other things: There are different organizations like SCA promoted out of Dallas, an American hole in one that you can buy insurance policies that if somebody breaks an American or World record at your meet, they will put up the prize package. We can all remember the publicity their dash for cashes, and you can argue the validity if that helps or hurts a sport. That is the way that you can run one of those.
U.S. Swimming has some very good publications and is way too big of a topic to really get into, so if you are going to be doing this and you really want to go after some serious sponsorship dollars, there are three publications U.S. Swimming has that you need to get. The first is marketing nuts and bolts, the second is sponsorship secrets from A to Z and the third is ten steps to securing local sponsors.
The next page in your packet is a sample letter from very early on in the meet. I thought it would give you a good perspective of how we started this. This is before we had a set in stone sponsorship package. This went to the person that was the marketing director of the Sheraton Four Points hotel, that is who we wanted to be our host hotel, that is where we wanted to host the social. It was probably one of the nicest hotels in town, and so we went to them first and we worked out a very good relationship with them. They ended up hosting our coaches and official’s social, they sponsored the meet and there is also several, several thousand dollars in hotel expenses from housing officials and what not, and I believe they covered a large portion of. Now here’s a real biggie, now this is something that as a meet director you want to keep fairly quiet, because the coaches and athletes and people coming are not going to like it, but it is a fact and it is out there and it is being done and you need to do it as a meet director. That is set up a co-op bid agreement with all the hotels that you are going to house athletes at. Industry standard is that you get five dollars, per room, per night, that an athlete or whoever is staying in the block of rooms for the meet. You can do a quick add of the significance of that if you are running a meet where everybody is going to be staying for six days, seven days and you have six hundred rooms or so — that is some pretty significant numbers. And this is something that is standard in the industry and you should be doing it. If you are not you are giving money away. What we did was, we got bids from the hotels of certain dollar rates that they would offer, and then we went to them with this so that they wouldn’t pad this in, into the rate, and so we really didn’t cost the coaches or the team extra money, because they were charged the same rate that they would have been anyways.
Next, there are some example letters in the packet that you can go through at your leisure, the first one is a sample letter to Pete Raykovich, who at the time was chair of the site selection. We had one of these from every hotel in Bakersfield, saying that yes we do have the room. We were told by site selection that we had the best prepared proposal that they had ever received, every member of site selection received blue prints to the pool, every member of site selection received a packet of information that was several inches thick. Next was a request for volunteer timers. This I believe is for time trials — at juniors you need to provide your own timers for time trials, so we looked to local other swim clubs, rec teams, people in the area, and then again a letter to the central California swimming officials asking for volunteer officials for time trials. The next letter is a letter that I wrote to the Kern County Rec league coaches. We offered all the rec swimmers in town, which there, I believe is about a thousand to fifteen hundred in Bakersfield, we offered them free admittance to the meet, in hopes, obviously, if they come probably their parents are gonna come and pay some money, but more importantly the stands are going to be full, there is going to be some excitement and it is going to add to the meet. And finally the last page in there is just a generic letter to a hotel that was sent out.
The last couple of topics that I’m gonna touch on before we finish up is the announcer, climate control and hot weather. An announcer, or good announcer can really make or break your meet. We had Sam Kendricks who I personally feel is the best announcer and a good announcer is very inexpensive. I believe Sam charged $500.00 for the entire week, that is not a lot of money to be someplace for a week. He is doing it because he loves it, and it’s not just Sam, there is a lot of other very good announcers out there, that is who I’m most familiar with and that is who I would recommend above and beyond anyone else. U.S.A. Swimming has an approved list of announcers and you can call up, I’m not sure who now, it used to be Mike Unger and they just have a list of people and they’ll give you their contact information. They also have a list of people that can run the computers. So if you are running a major meet use U.S. Swimming as a resource.
Climate control and hot weather meets. Bakersfield had the potential to be as hot as 110 degrees, luckily our weather was in the 90’s throughout the meet, which for Bakersfield is fairly comfortable. The air is dry and there is a lot of coaches that feel that a hot climate like that is conducive to some good performances, cause of the issues of your body staying warmed up and what not. Basically what we did was set up a misting system along both sides of the pool and the stands, something real easy to do, just take a couple of hundred feet of PVC pipe and screw in the little .25 cent spray nozzles and hook a hose into one end. I think it took the gentleman that did that about an hour and a half to put up a misting system on both sides of the pool. So when we go to Clovis this summer make sure that when you see Tom Milich, and ask him if he is going to have a misting system on both sides of the pool. Aeration, we already covered that, that was one of the methods we used to keep the water cool. We used our oil connections to bring in for free, a lot of equipment to help us out to keep the water at the right temperature. We also had 15 Gatorade jugs around the pool that were continually being refilled. We had three people in the golf cart and they went non-stop went around to re-fill. Meet directors know that your biggest crunch on Gatorade is gonna come right at the end of warmups, cause that is when everybody gets out of the pool to fill up their bottles before the meet gets going.
We covered a lot of information. My e-mail is SHOPK74193@aol.com. Feel free to contact me, if you have any questions. Please use meet resources, if you are a meet director, use everybody that you can, there is a lot of very good people.
One of the key things that we did, was go around coaches that had been around and knew how a meet should be run, ask people like Mike Hastings and other big named people that have very strong feelings about how things should be run, and ask them if you were running a meet what would you want to see, and then we would try to incorporate as many of those things as practical. But, as a whole, you just want to make sure that you are running an athlete centered meet and that you let the experience be a challenge rather than an obstacle and if you treat it like that then you can rise to the challenge and put on a very, very first class meet.