Developing a Masters Swim Program by Mel Goldstein (2005)



Thank you all for being here today. I am Bob Bruce. I am the Chair of the Coaches Committee for United States Masters Swimming and it is my great pleasure, again, to introduce a speaker this afternoon. This speaker who we are about to hear should literally not need any introduction at all. He is actually in the middle of his second career—is that right? A salesman for many years—a salesman always—Mel is the founder and now director of YMCA Indy Swim Fit, one of the finest swim clubs in our nation. He was a collegiate swimmer at Indiana University, so he had something good rub off on him. He was the 2001 US Masters Swimming Coach of the year and not coincidentally he was also formerly President of USMS for four years. So please welcome Mel Goldstein. He has something good to say.

Coach Goldstein:

Golly, I think I am almost as nervous as I was for my Bar Mitzvah. Thank you very much, Bob, and it is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to see so many people who want to take the time to listen to me. Most of the people who are around my program generally just get up and walk out, so if that is what you would like to do, you can do so.

I have a different approach towards Masters Swimming and I try to promote that philosophy within our program, so a lot of things that you are going to see, in some cases I might be preaching to the choir because you are already doing them. In some cases you may get a new idea, and if I get one person to get one idea from what I have to say and you take it back, then it is going to be beneficial. A lot of the examples you will see come from our program and we work hard at it. It is an everyday thing that we try to do, to constantly try to improve them. When I was president of United States Masters Swimming I always felt that use of the word “Masters” was elitist; it was also a word that tended to intimidate a lot of people. I always felt that there should be some sort of a tagline in our marketing and our advertising and so, as you see, when I am out talking to clubs and various other people, I always say, it is an adult aquatic fitness program and as I travel around and as I talk, you will see what I mean.

Program’s Vision:

I feel that the United States Masters Swimming program is an adult aquatic fitness program for those people that have chosen aquatics as a means of exercise for a healthier lifestyle. It is generally made up of three component groups: fitness swimmers, triathletes, and competitive Masters swimmers, so that is kind of where I start. I think the program goals of Masters coaches are to be all inclusive and to help people feel comfortable and allow them to reach whatever their goals may be. It may be losing weight; it may be trying to break a minute for the first time, but whatever their goals are, we all should try to make them feel very, very comfortable. We encompass young and old. I think that the programs are quite diversified. We promote a diversified and above all, self-sustained program.

Some of the examples here at the beginning you are going to see are from our program, the YMCA Indy Swim Fit Program. I am a director of a YMCA program. I know and I have heard all the stories and all the things about YMCAs. I can answer all those questions, or I will try to answer all of those questions, but in most cases, we are a self-sustained program that supports itself. Our program is made up of a lot of different aspects and when you work out a budget and you will see (I have a sample budget that comes up a little bit later) we try to support—I think most Masters programs—support the budget: the coach, the lifeguards, the pool rental and all of the other things that you try to do. Our program has 350+ members, two full-time coaches and 10 part-time coaches. We use seven facilities. We have YMCAs, a high school and a university, and our budget is in excess of $140,000. This is all based upon program fees and special events. The 2% where it says that it is not self-supported is the salary that the Y pays to me, and that is because I act as a program director and I pull duty at that YMCA, just like other directors, if you are familiar with the YMCA. So that tells you just a little bit about our program. This is a picture of our team in Ft. Lauderdale last year. We took over 125 down to Ft. Lauderdale. We chartered our own plane. We used some of our illustrious coaches—seven of the ten or twelve coaches are here.

Now, what are the benefits of an adult aquatic fitness program? Here is where you have to start to think about some things. Whether you are talking to a YMCA, to a parks and recreation person, to a university or a high school, they are all looking for programs that will give them some sort of revenue. The Masters program will provide this, so you have to talk about some of the things that you are going to provide: on-deck coaching; structured workouts, both aerobic and anaerobic; stroke technique and evaluation. You will teach the latest swimming skills, and of course our coaches always try to motivate and foster camaraderie and fun—always incorporate some sort of fun within your workouts and programs. We always try to include family and social activities. This is a 4th of July parade that we had with the kids, with a watermelon eating contest. We had a dunk tank where we were judging cannonballs off the diving board—anything like that is great—and our illustrious George back there with his cigar on the dunk tank: could he put it out?

What are the benefits to the community? This is something that is very important because not only do you want to provide for your members, you have to give something back to the community. These are some of the things we feel that we have to offer to the YMCA, to the parks and rec, to any university or high school: human resources, monetary contributions, a self-sustained program. They do not have to worry about coaches or other elements because they are all there. You can be a volunteer. Community service: city-wide exposure and sometimes national recognition. So, these are the benefits that can come from having a successful program, and this is what they are looking for. They are not looking for another swim team. You don’t see me talk about team. Yes, there is an aspect of our program that does compete and it does get a lot of notoriety, but I will tell you one thing: one of the most important things that I am most proud of is not whether or not we won the national championship in the YMCA or that we came in second at the USM short course championship, but rather the February fitness challenge where you see how many yards you can swim. We had something like 2 million or 3 million yards that we swam because everybody was included and everybody contributed. These are some of the things that we have done, and I am sure that in your community you can do the same thing. Here we have the YMCA Splash Program, a program where we provide volunteers for a learn-to-swim program for one week. A contribution to breakfast with Santa at the YMCA. The YMCA invests in you. It helps send kids to camp that ordinarily could not go there. The 9/11 Police and Fireman’s fund; everybody knows what that was all about. Adult stroke clinics: we do this for the community. Volunteers: we volunteer for the boy’s high school and girl’s state championships and we barter our time with the IU Natatorium. We support the USA Triathlon Mid-East regional team. We volunteer for the US Olympic Trials which were held in Indianapolis, and the NCAA Division I conference championship—USA conference. We have contributed over $14,000 to YMCA and community programs over the years. That figure is a little bit old, so it is much higher than that. Most recently, we are doing something with regard to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

These are my 10 points in starting a Masters program and I am going to elaborate on each one of these. You have got to create an interest. You have got to create practice times, garner support from your local swim shops, set team fees, place advertising, develop good relationships with your members, provide recognition, establish credibility, run team events, and of course, perform fund raising. I think those are the most important ten points that you have. Now, if you didn’t get one of the handouts that we had up here at the front, please write your name and address down and I will get you that information; I want to make sure that everybody has that.

Interest: if you have age group programs, you can contact parents to see if they are interested in swimming—anybody 18 years or older. You have got post-high school and post-college swimmers in your area. Those are good resources. Try local triathletes. Here is a unique situation that I have got right now. You do the math—I have! Our program fees are $44.00 a month. Down at the IU Natatorium, I five women, synchronized swimmers, who can’t find the time and can’t afford to pay the Natatorium for the pool time. They joined our program. At the end of practice I give them a half an hour and one lane to do their thing. I just move everybody over. For $220.00, I will give them any lane that they want, but that is thinking outside of the box. Here are synchronized swimmers that would not be in a program, would not be out trying to do anything. The same thing goes for water polo players.

Local YMCAs are places where you have inroads. They have pools, and if you approach it as an adult aquatic fitness program, they are looking for adults for all kinds of things. In their programs in other areas of the YMCA, they have “Wellness,” which has yoga, Palates, step-aerobics—all kinds of other activities for adults. They have nothing in aquatics. Maybe they have a scuba class. Maybe they have an aqua aerobics class, but nothing that will give them a structured anaerobic and aerobic type of workout in swimming, and this is what you can provide for them. It could be three days a week, it could be two days a week, but the local YMCAs are great. United States Masters Swimming provides (you have all come by the booth and seen the display) posters and other promotional materials. This was put up at a YMCA in New Jersey.

We also have a Public Service Announcement provided by United States Masters Swimming. It is on the CD that you all have received. It has a soundtrack which I’m regrettably unable to play here today. It talks about various ages. It talks about wanting to be able to swim and post-collegians wanting to swim. This commercial was used at Barcelona for the World Games Championship by the United States Aquatic Sports, and of course you can put your own tag line here. Doug Barnett of Sun Coast Swim Fest started a program, and in the handout you have there, you can see some of the things that he did to promote Masters swimming in his area. Once he started to talk about being an adult aquatic program, it was very well accepted.

In determining practice times, most Masters Swimmers want to work out in the morning or in the evening, generally 5:30-7:00 and 6-7:30. However, we found one group that wanted to come in at 8:30 (if you can get the pool time) made up predominantly of young mothers or retired gentlemen who want to participate, and that has to be at 8:30 because they are getting their husbands or kids off to work or school and this is the time they have available to workout. They cannot workout at 5:30. Then of course at 11:30 we found out that there were people that were downtown and wanted to workout at the Natatorium on their lunch hour, so these seem to be the popular times.

Try to get local swim shop support. Include them in all of your activities. Make them be inclusive; that is very important. Whatever you put out, always mention a swim shop or a shop that you know where everybody buys their aquatic gear. Maybe you can get them a 10% discount.

Team fees: we base our fees on pool rentals, lifeguard fees, coaches and wages. In this example I am using 100 swimmers, 50 and 25. I am assuming that the program fees are roughly $40.00 per month per swimmer so you can see what the monthly fees are.

Miscellaneous events: try to find some kind of event. I will show you some events that we try to do for fund raisings. Coach’s wages: there are different ways to determine this, but I recommend giving that coach a little bit of ownership. In this example, I am paying the coach $10 per swimmer, so if he has 100 swimmers he is getting $1,000.00 a month. If he has 50 he is getting $500, or if he has 25 he is getting $250. He then has a sense of ownership, and then that coach then should try to give ownership to the members by providing somebody to write the newsletters, make up logos and T-shirts, etc.

Pool rentals: I just use what we have at the Natatorium. 32 practices, 4 lanes, $8.00 per hour: fixed costs. Fixed costs will generally remain the same, except you may not need as many lanes because you are not going to have as many people at all of the practices and I am using this kind of a practice schedule. These costs remain the same.

Newsletter (once a month), program supplies, miscellaneous. When I put together my budget, I always include travel to ASCA or clinics because I think that that is very important; you want your coaches to be up to date with everything. ASCA registration is $149.00, so when you put together your budget you should always try to figure that out.

Advertising: word of mouth, flyers and community sections. Put up the local posters that I showed you. The Yellow pages are excellent. Just put in a listing under “Swimming” and you will get calls. Have a website. Set up a booth at marathons, triathlons and health fairs. Sell T-shirts and caps with your logo. Any of that will build recognition for your program. It is word of mouth. Here is a triathlete, and here is a triathlon team. Do you know what these singlets cost me? About $3.00. These people are running all over the city advertising Indy Swim-Fit. They want to be a part of the team; I will sponsor their team. Whatever it takes!

We give everybody an identification card. It says that they belong to the program. It has their name; it tells whether they are monthly or seasonal. It shows the different locations, and it has all the practice times on the back. It delivers a sense of identification, of belonging. Everybody wants to belong.

Credibility is very important. We discussed this in the panel the other day. It is very important to be on time. If you are there, they will be there. Look professional. We try to have all of our staff wear polo shirts or dress nicely—in this case it is shorts. Notice that Chris has his shoes tied there. Of course, always tailor your workouts for your Masters.

Establish a logo, an image, whatever image you want to be. We chose Indy Swim-Fit. We are not the Sharks; we are not the Barracudas; we are not the Manatees. We are Swim-Fit. We are saying what we are.

Develop good relationships. Give them ownership of the program by delegating. Delegate—you can’t do it all! Let them do the newsletter. Let them do the T-shirts or let them do something, but always be delegating to swimmers. Will they do it as well as you? Maybe not, but they are doing it. Team parties: always have somebody plan a party; you don’t have to do it.

This is going to be our new website. It is available to you if you are interested; you can talk to me afterwards. I saw that there is a club assistant out here charging $60/month plus so much per transaction. We have basically the same thing; we can sell you the template. We show the pool, the location, and a map showing how to get there. When you click there, you will see pictures of swimmers at that particular site so if you happen to know somebody there, you at least know who is swimming there at that particular site. You can log in here with your username, and only the administrators—the coaches—will be able to reach that particular person. You have the option of joining if you want to do that, or to just contact us if you want to ask us for a little bit of information. Down here we have our logo gear, and then of course we have a place for announcements. So if you are interested in not having to undertake your own website development, I can help you and provide it for you. In your packets you saw a newsletter. This newsletter comes out every two months and it is not done by Chris or me; it is done by one of our swimmers. This particular issue offers triathlon training tips.

Image and logo: this is our new line of clothing. Always have the YMCA logo—YMCA likes me to do that—plus Indy Swim-Fit. We try to create as much of that as we possibly can: T-shirts, polo shirts—women sometimes like the sleeveless—warm-ups. Provide recognition; this is very important. Whether you have an award ceremony or whatever—this is total involvement. Always try to get somebody involved in your program. In this case, the swimmer got the outstanding performance award for the past year. Not necessarily the fastest swimmer but a great performance; so always have recognition.

Local newspapers: this was in the Orlando Times. This team was in the YMCA Championship; they had this whole headline and that is great. Try to publish what you can. Unfortunately, in Indianapolis, as I said yesterday in the meeting, if it doesn’t bounce, if you can’t kick it or it doesn’t have a motor it doesn’t get in, but I keep working at it all the time.

Program activities: pick out meets in your area which your program will support. Always try to pick out something. There are all kinds of meets. United States Masters Swimming has National Championships, short course, long course and open water. The next thing that I am going to show you is probably the most important thing. These are United States Masters Swimming events that everyone should be participating in. Do you know that in the hour swim, 35% out of the 42,000 participants come from just three teams? That is terrible! Three teams provide 35% of the participants; everybody should participate in that event! If you don’t do that, do the 5K—triathletes love this; fitness swimmers love this. These and the 3,000, 6,000 are spread out all over the entire year. Mission Impossible—calendar year. Virtual swims—calendar year. 30 minute swims—calendar year. Every one of you should have your swimmers someday do one of these events and you will get more people to be inclusive. People ask, “Well, how do you get there? How do you get to fitness swimmers and triathletes? How do you get your competitive swimmers to do this?” I answer: all of these other swimmers surrounding you that are fitness swimmers and triathletes have been doing those ten 100’s on 1:30 and those twenty 50’s that they want to do because they want to get faster. They have one swim. It is the one hour swim and they will do it. You will give that to them. We have 5K, 10K, the February fitness challenge: those are the things that I think are very important so everybody should participate in those events.

Team stroke clinics: we are constantly doing them and they are free. We invite outside people to attend, anyone body who wants to.

Fund-raising: my favorite thing. Here is a quilt made by one of our swimmers, assembled from all kinds of t-shirts. We are going to raffle it off at Christmas: $1 for one chance, three for $5. I am getting somebody else involved in helping me with the fund-raising. We just have to do the tickets. In your packet, you see that we are doing a 5K walk/run. I patterned this after the hour swim. It is going on as we speak, from September 1 to September 30.

A train trestle that runs behind our YMCA has been converted to a greenway. I put up signs so during the month of September they can do this 5K walk/run. All they need to do is have somebody verify that they did it. The cost is $10. Half goes to the YMCA’s “Invest in Youth” which helps kids go to camp. The other half is going to go to our program, but this year, because we had already printed this up, any donation that we get over and above is going to the hurricane victims—we have a relief fund. Here you see the 5K walk/run—I have signs up at the 3 mile, 2 mile and 1 mile marks. It is the official start and it is also the finish so it’s very easy.

There are a lot of things you can do in order to raise funds. We try to have people volunteer for local events to have that kind of exposure. “Pitch in” picnics are great; barbecues are always fun activities.

Everyone knows that my mentor was Doc Counsilman. He said, “An innovative and successful program is not the result of ‘good breaks,’ as many would have us believe. It is the result of hard and consistent efforts to learn and then carry out what you have learned.” That is where I am always thinking outside of the box.

“Part of the job of the swimming coach is to set goals that are compatible with the abilities of the individual in order that they achieve a feeling of accomplishment.” I think that is one of the most important things that you can do.

Of course, in building a relationship with a person, “The most beautiful sound to a person is the sound of his own name. The most interesting subject of conversation is himself.”

Have you ever walked into a party and you have not known anybody? And you walk up to somebody and you say, “Hi, my name is Mel Goldstein. What do you do?” And he says, “I am in waste management.” “Oh, really? That’s great!” And you listen and go on to the next person. When you leave the party, they think, “Hey, I didn’t know Goldstein was such a great guy,” and all I did was listen, but it is building relationships and that is what I do with my swim team.

Chris brought it up the other day. I speak to every single person in every practice. It may be, “Oh Pat, you got a new suit” or “You know, that was a great split that you just did on that 200.” I speak to everybody by name. They know that I know that they are there. That may be the only time that they are there and they have to have a positive reaction. So, if you can do that, you are going to build a program and it is going to get bigger and better.

Questions? And of course, you want to see Mr. Keegan and that is it. Well good, I said it all: no questions!

Q. I have a question. If you already have a Masters program running as part of your general swim product and currently it may be taken advantage of to put money into the rest of the swim club, how would you suggest that we break that away or wouldn’t you break that away? I just think that we are not looking after our Masters Swim Club very well because it is kind of a money maker for the rest of our programs.

A. Well, in my opinion you have to build a relationship so that you become important to them. By being important to them—not only monetarily—they have to give you a little bit of respect. If I am going to do X for you, you have to do Y for me. I am more than happy even if it is a 60/40 relationship, and I think once you establish that you are going to be fine.
Q. Have you found or have you experienced that you have gone into places that have been receptive to you just offering adult aquatics and not tried to push youth aquatics on you as well?

A. Well, let me tell you something: they are looking for adults. That is what they want, and in any case I don’t go any farther than adults. I think it is really important because it is a revenue source that they do not have and when I talk to them in the amounts that we are talking about, their eyes open up. When I go into a YMCA, I know what their line items are, because they are the same in Oklahoma or in Orlando, where we have opened it up, as they are in Indianapolis.

Q. This is such a beautiful catalog: professional, gorgeous, high end. I don’t think this is in their swim budget. Is it?

A. Yes, it is. This is out of the swim budget. Everything comes out of that. Just lay them on the table and I will pick them up.

Q. One of my biggest competitors is the YMCA and because I believe that they take guys for their aquatics program out of other programs, I am competing at a disadvantage financially.

A. Well, while you build your program you might approach them and say, “Hey, what can I do for you?” Instead of being exclusive and trying to be different from them, maybe try to include them. Is there something that you can do for them? I know there is because their program is not that strong. There’s the key. “Can I help you with your adult swim? I’ve got the expertise.” So, you have to be able to sometimes look at their program, then look at your program and then think about what you can do in order to be inclusive. In other words, the Natatorium had an adult learn-to-swim. I am saying, “I think I can do it and help you out better and get more people involved and you will make more money because of it.” So I am working with them.

Q. On the subject of your working with a place like the Y or with a community pool, and the rates that they allow you to charge, I used to coach at the Y and I left because I wasn’t making any money there. Have you had to deal with charging what you would feel would be market rates for lessons when the Y traditionally horribly depresses the rates?

A. Well, I go into the YMCA and say “Look, this is what the program is going to cost. This is where we want to be. Let’s try to find that middle ground where we can do what we need to do. It may not be exactly where you want to be.” That is why in my example I urged giving the coach some ownership so you are not paying him too much at the beginning, but if the program goes well, it is because of him, right? So he gets the benefit and that is the key.

Q. I am a little confused. If I am going to be a self-sustaining program, how can the facility make more money out of me being there, in our program?

A. First you look at what they are charging you and you say to them, “We are a small program. We want to get started. We want three days a week. I am taking $10 out for myself (for example; you could use $15 or whatever it is in your community). I am going to pay you $10 per swimmer. As the program grows, your rent will go up. How about I volunteer and work behind the desk for you so you don’t have to pay an employee?” Or, “One of my people, a certified water instructor, is not doing anything at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. She will be your lifeguard. You don’t have to pay a lifeguard.” So all of a sudden you become a valuable tool to that particular individual.

Q. Is it better to endear yourself to the club or try to keep your eyes looking on board?

A. Well, look, the flags are tattered. Go ahead and order the flags. What color do you want? Blue and white? Blue. There you go. That’s right; make yourself important! It was $150 bucks, but it was nothing, like we buy fins and pull buoys.

Any other questions? Thank you very much.

Selected PowerPoint Screens from Coach Goldstein’s Presentation:

Program Mission
Program Goals
• USMS Masters Coaches deliberately try to be inclusive to all of it’s members by creating an environment where individuals feel a sense of belonging. We want people to feel comfortable in themselves to take risks and accept new challenges. We encourage members to set high goals and then monitor their progress.

Self-Sustained Program
The YMCA Indy SwimFit Program
• 350+ Members
• 2 Full Time Coaches
• 10 Part Time Coaches
• 7 Facilities (YMCA’s, A High School, and A University)
• Budget Is In Excess of $140,000
• 100% Registered USMS Swimmers

What Are Some Of The Benefits of An Adult Aquatic Fitness Program?

• On Deck Coaching
• Structured Workout Regimen
• Stroke Technique Evaluation
• Learn the Latest New Swimming Skills
• Motivation
• Camaraderie and Fun
• Family Social Activities

What Are The Community Benefits
• Human Resources
• Monetary Contributions
• Self-Sustained Program
• Volunteers
• Community Service
• City-wide Exposure
• National Recognition
Community Service
Monetary Contributions
• YMCA Splash Program (YMCA)
• Contribution to Breakfast with Santa (YMCA)
• YMCA Invest In Youth Program (YMCA)
• 9/11 Police and Fireman’s Fund – NY City (Community )
• Adult Stroke Clinics (Community)
• Volunteers for IHSAA Boy’s / Girl’s State Championship (Community)
• Sponsor / supporter of a US Tri-Fed Mid-East Regional Team (Community)
• Volunteers for US Olympic Trials Swimming (Community)
• Volunteers and hosted NCAA Division I Conf. USA Championships (NCAA)
• Contributed over $14,000 to YMCA & Community Programs
• Hurricane “Katrina” Relief Fund

Starting Masters Program Checklist
• Interest
• Practice Times
• Local Swim Shop Support
• Team Fees
• Advertise
• Develop Good Relationships With Members
• Provide Recognition
• Establish Credibility
• Team Events
• Fundraising

USMS Public Service Annoucement
“With the USMS Tradeshow Display in the lobby of the brand new Sussex County (NJ) YMCA this week, we have generated a list of “interested” Masters swimmers that totals nearly fifty people. With this “petition”, we are hopeful that the YMCA will inaugurate a formal coached Masters Swimming program in the near future. In my opinion, increasing the availability of coached workouts is the key to growing Masters Swimming not only in New Jersey, but also, across the United States”.
 Bob Hopkins
The Suncoast SwimFit program has be a great success at the YMCA of the Suncoast.  Competitive Swimmers, Tri-athletes and fitness swimmers now have a program that is directly geared towards accomplishing individual goals and building individual fitness and swimming skills.  In transitioning our Masters Swim Team program to the Suncoast SwimFit program, marketing has become a much simpler task.  In the past, a fitness swimmer were immediately “turned off” when we would mention our Masters Swim Team program for fear of the competitive atmosphere.  With the Suncoast SwimFit mission and goals, fitness swimmers are embracing the idea of a regimented aquatics workout program and are very interested in “trying it out”.  After a few practices they too are becoming competitive and pushing themselves and fellow participants to the next level! 
Doug Barnette, Executive Program Director
North Pinellas County YMCA

• Word of Mouth
• Flyers at pool,
• Community sections of local newspaper are free, contact the Health Editor
• Yellow pages
• Website
• Set up booth at marathons, triathlons, and health fairs
• Sell t-shirts, and caps with your logo

James “Doc” Councilman
(My Mentor)
• “An innovative and successful program is not the result of “good breaks”, as many would have us believe. It is the result of hard and consistent efforts to learn and then carry out what you have learned”.
• “Part of the job of the swimming coach is to set goals that are compatible with the abilities of the individual in order that they achieve a feeling of accomplishment”.
• “The most beautiful sound to a person is the sound of his own name. The most interesting subject of conversation is himself”.

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