How U.S. Masters Swimming Helps Clubs Grow Revenue by Rob Butcher (2009)


Published


One of my responsibilities as Executive Director of USMS is to offer you more tools and resources so you can do whatever it is you want to do to develop your programs. There are obstacles all the way across. There are lane-space issues. There can be challenges with age-group teams. There can be challenges with aquatic directors. There can be challenges with the YMCAs who maybe don’t want you there. There can be challenges with pools closing down. You name it – there are challenges everywhere.

One of the things that Chuck Wielgus talked about in his keynote address — his State-of-the-Union speech — was the kind of slow drip for college programs that are being cut. It really is an epidemic for us – not just for men’s programs, but also for women’s programs. Bob Groseth is kind enough to be in the room with us today. Bob is the new Executive Director for the College Swimming Coaches Associaton of America so this is certainly a cause very near and dear to his heart.

What I want to show you today is a professionally edited video and you are going to see Masters swimmers all throughout. You’ll see Charlie Lydecker, a Masters swimmer; Rowdy Gaines, a Masters swimmer. You’ll see me, a Masters swimmer. And you are going to see Ryan Lochte, who was brought into this as well. This video shows the power of Masters swimmers and Masters swim programs to lift up the entire sport, from age-group swimming at the club level, through college swimming and beyond. The point is that you should never underestimate the power and connections that Masters swimmers bring to the sport.

My own story is just one example of this. In 1997 I moved back to Daytona and I had this dream of trying to make Olympic Trials, so I started training with this new coach named Steve Lochte. In the Daytona Beach area there are 3 pools. There are two 50-meter pools – one on the North side of town and one on the far side of town — and then there was an unused pool at what used to be called Daytona Community College.

So one day I am training in the Community College pool, just trying to do a set on my own because I was working and trying to make ends meet. In the lane next to me is this guy I do not recognize. His strokes are not pretty, but he is fighting and clawing and he is trying to make our sets and I was pretty impressed. Afterwards we ended up in the locker room and he was a Masters swimmer. He says to me – hey – what are you doing? You look like you are not – you know – one of the age-group kids. I said well I am a Masters swimmer and I have this really crazy dream to try and make Olympic Trials and he goes I love it. That is pretty cool. He says, I think that is pretty neat that you are trying to do that. Then he asks, what are you doing to make a living? I said I am struggling right now…just making ends meets. He asks, what is your degree in and I said my Masters is in Sports Marketing. He goes – that’s cool. Do you know anybody in NASCAR? I go no.

For those of you who don’t know, NASCAR is headquartered in Daytona Beach. This guy, whose name is Charlie Lydecker, but whom I’d never met before except at the pool, asks would you like me to introduce you? I said, sure – that would be great. Little did I know that he is Executive Vice President for one of the largest commercial insurance companies in the world and one of the companies that he insures is NASCAR and one of his closest friends is the CEO of the family that owns NASCAR. So a week later I get a phone call from that office. That starts a relationship that I maintain and stay in touch with. I get to Olympic Trials in 2000 and within 3 months I am hired full time, with benefits, for an entry-level position with NASCAR.

My point to the story is this: A Masters swimmer – a total stranger except for our connection in the water — took an interest in me, a young kid whom he didn’t really know, but he said I really like what this kid is doing. I like that he has got a dream and I am going to support him a little bit. So as you look around in your program and you are educating age-group kids, one of the things that I would always encourage you to tell them – if someone asks you what you want to do in life – tell the kid how to answer. You have no idea who you are talking to. You have no idea who you are talking to and who they know. Masters Swimmers have these tremendous connections and they can make some amazing things happen.

The story behind the video that I’m going to show is that Daytona State College elevated from a 2-year college to a 4-year college. The new president, Dr. Kent Sharples, noticed that the school had this mostly unused swim facility. He also noticed that he had a great age-group coach in Steve Lochte, who had developed this unbelievable age-group team. He said, Steve has a Masters program. Let me sit down and talk with Steve and see if maybe we can jump-start a university athletic program. So the university president turns to Steve Lochte and says well, we have to raise some money if we’re going to do this. Steve said, we have got a great Masters group here. They are a terrific resource. They volunteer. They help me out financially. Let me sit down and brainstorm with a couple of them and see what we can come up with.

The result is what you see on the video. The end product is that the Masters swimmers raised $151,000. In one night. So they got a matching grant from the State of Florida for $151,302. It all went to the University in order to fund scholarships in the athletic department. One thing that I will tell you is a by-product of all of this: I can guarantee the Masters swimmers will always have access to pool space at Daytona State College.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX! Mel Goldstein tells me all the time, think outside the box…think outside the box. Get to know your swimmers in your lane. Get to know their names. Get to know what their hot buttons are as you are doing your interview with them. If you do, you are going to uncover opportunities.

Chuck Wielgus told us on Wednesday night that you need to find resources and business partners if you want to grow your program. Same thing if you coach Masters. If you are a Masters coach and you want to go full-time or you want to go part time, share your dream with your Masters swimmers. Tell them, I really have a passion for this. I want to do this, but I need your help. I want to coach, but I need a bridge in order to do this.

If you have a problem with pool space, a problem making money, a problem with fundraisers, resources – these people will try and help you. I can give you endless examples in my travels over the last year where one Masters swimmer after another has stepped up in order to either save a program, help a program, or help a coach get to the next level where he or she wants to be. Masters swimmers are a terrific resource for you. If you are an age-group coach and you are sitting in here and you don’t have a Masters program or you do not embrace your Masters program or you are a University coach and you do not embrace your Masters programs or you are not turning to your Masters program in order to endow your University Athletic Department and your scholarships – quite punitively – shame on you. Okay?

The Masters demographics: average age of 46; 84% have a yearly household income of $100,000. It is an affluent group and they care about swimming and are willing to give to this cause. But you have to connect with them as a Masters coach, University coach, or age-group coach. They will step up and help you and this video shows how dramatic that help can be.

So on to the video. What do you think about a contest between Ryan Lochte and Charlie Lydecker – a swim meet between the two of them? Here it is – the head-to-head challenge between 24-year-old Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte and 45-year-old Executive Vice-President and triathlete Charlie Lydecker.

Let’s take a look at some of the festivities before the race – an event brought to you by Stonewood Tavern & Grill. Guess who owns Stonewood Tavrn & Grill? A Masters swimmer. They donated $20,000 worth of food in order to make this evening happen. And here’s Charlie Lydecker of Brown and Brown Insurance. His company stepped up with a major contribution also.
It all culminates right here at the Lemerand Center on the campus of Daytona State College. These two amazing swimmers will race in the 200-meter Individual Medley, which features all four strokes – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and they finish it off with a freestyle race to the finish. Let’s see how these two men match up.

Ryan Lochte is a professional swimmer and at the age of 24 already holds World Records – not to mention Gold and Silver Medals from multiple Olympic Games. He hails from Port Orange, Florida, where he trained with his father, Steve Lochte, as his coach for many years. To give you a sense of his dedication, in one week alone, Ryan will be in the pool for 22 hours, swimming an astounding 60,000 yards.

Charlie Lydecker, a hometown boy from Ormond Beach, Florida, might not seem like he could give Lochte a run for his money, but at 45 Charlie is in fantastic physical condition. This Executive Vice-President at Brown and Brown swims over 10 hours a week – averaging about 31,500 yards, making him a true competitor and a challenge to beat in the pool. To prepare for this race Charlie has been training with Ryan’s father, Steve Lochte. Both Lochte and Lydecker are anxious to get this race underway so let’s head to the pool for “Splashdown.”

Ryan Lochte – Charlie Lydecker – start the countdown. Ryan Lochte – hometown boy. Charlie Lydecker – marching out. Once again, we talked about Charlie’s great credentials – Vice President right here – Brown and Brown and wonderful supporter of our event tonight. National Life Guard Champion. Alcatraz Champion. Ryan Lochte, World Record Holder in the 200-meter backstroke, Olympic Gold Medalist. I will say it again – Olympic Gold Medalist in the 200 backstroke. He has the American Record in this event – US Open Record. He is the fastest swimmer on earth in the 200-yard IM. Nobody has ever been faster than Ryan Lochte. Will he be able to maintain that dominance here tonight? I noticed Ryan down there. He is shaking his head no. He has got a job to do tonight. It is all about going to work. It is about dedication and it is about not losing.

Now swimmers will get their caps on – very important to get those on nice and tight. Both of them pull the cap up over the goggles. Both swimming with jammers tonight; you will not see a full-body suit on either one of them. Here is the whistle. Quiet for the start please. We need quiet for the start for both swimmers. We need it quiet for the start.

This is the 200 IM. Two lengths of each stroke – butterfly, back, breast and free. Madam starter – what do you think? Quiet for the start – quiet for the start. We got a break – got a break. Wait a second…stop the race…wait a second. Charlie has got something here – what is going on? Charlie Lydecker has – oh – he has got some more money. Wait a second. Hold on. Hold on. He is coming back up. What did he say? Charlie is offering $11,000. To get what? What do you want for $11,000? Hey, Lochte. Are you going to take that from him? What is the $11,000 for? Do you think that you are going to get something for it? Go – go – wait a second. You are the boss. Hey, do we give them more time? Hey, step it up – be a man. Here we go. You hear them. All right. It is time to get serious. Here we go. Madam Starter: TAKE YOUR MARK – Quiet for the start.

Now you see a great stroke by Charlie. Madam starter, that is a great start. There it is – almost 50 yards behind. Oh that is a great leadoff by Charlie. Watch that stroke underneath. Now here is his weak stroke. He has already caught up by 25. Look at that under water. What a beautiful race by Ryan Lochte. Come on, Lochte – 25 yards ahead. He went from almost 50 yards behind at the 25 — in a span of 50 yards – 22.2. Oh oh. I think Lydecker is in major trouble – major, major trouble. Come on – 46 – 47 – all right now. Come on Lochte. This could be ugly here – this could be ugly, but look at Lochte. Did he give too much that first hundred? He looks like he is hurting. Get him. Now Charlie has got the weak stroke. Watch Ryan when he comes off the wall – here comes Ryan Lochte – he may get him at the end. It is close ladies and gentlemen – this is close. Ryan Lochte turning at the wall. Charlie might get him now. They are both going…. There is Lochte. Lochte is going to do it. Ryan Lochte – in with a…how about that? Ryan Lochte and Charlie Lydecker.

I am trying to get over to get a quick interview with these guys before they get out of the water. There is nothing worse than someone sticking a microphone in your face right after you swim a race, but I want to try to get a comment. Steve, you get Ryan. I am going to get Charlie first.

Charlie, tell me…what happened that first 50? I know you wanted it. When we talked earlier you really wanted to try and put it out there in the 50 fly. How did you feel after that first 50?

Charlie: I kept thinking I should have gotten more time for my $11,000.

I do not think that $11,000 would have helped anyway – even if you did get a couple of extra seconds, but you looked really strong in the breaststroke – one of the strokes that you looked – felt like you were a little bit weak at, but you looked strong in that. It looked like the freestyle might have hurt a little bit more than you thought it would.

Charle: You know – by the time that I got to the freestyle I just – I was ready to pass out.

Well, Charlie, you know, you mentioned that $11,000. We can always you know – take a 5-minute break and maybe get up on the blocks and do it again. You guys want to try to do that again? Hey, Ryan, it looked like you were laboring a little bit there when you got into the second 25 of the breaststroke. And the freestyle – how did that feel?

Ryan: Not so good, coach – not so good. The last 25 when I flipped – I looked over and I saw you and I wanted to smile at you and say bye, bye – you know Rowdy – you know – he mentioned that and look at him – he is not even breathing hard. That is what makes me so mad. You know, his shoulders are not red. Charlie, you are not even red though – what’s up. I mean, you must be in great shape. I

Charlie: I actually was surprised – feeling tight. I think it is just the anxiety and losing to the fastest man in the world – who I think is super cool for being out here and supporting a good cause.

You know – Charlie just went under 2:10 in the 200 IM, which is one of the fastest times in his age group in this country. Good job – and we have a lot of friends from the community here, which is way cool so I think it is just great that everybody from the community was out here supporting Daytona Beach State College. Ryan, I want to ask you one question. I know a lot of people are interested in this summer and how training is going. How do you feel coming off Beijing and going into the summer of the World Championships?

Ryan: Well, after Beijing I definitely took a break. It was probably the longest break in my whole swimming career, but I needed it to let my body rest – and my mind. I started getting fat so I had to get back in the pool so about 4 months go by and I get back in the pool and right now I am training for Worlds in Rome at the end of this summer so it should be a good Worlds.

So my message here is that we can learn from this example and this case. The fundraiser went to benefit Daytona Beach State College, and the Masters team and Masters swimmers and Masters business owners really stepped up and helped the cause. We were excited to be able to help a new university start a 4-year program and fund it with scholarships. There are opportunities like that if you have a university program in your community. It doesn’t have to be this elaborate where you bring an Olympian in. You have got YMCAs and you have got other community centers in places where we have heard throughout the last couple of days that there have been challenges getting lane space or there have been challenges bridging relationships with your age-group coaches or there have been other challenges along the way.

The economy is tough, but we have also seen a nearly 12% growth rate in Masters membership in 2009. It is our single biggest growth year ever, and we had it in the middle of a bad economy. That is a testimony that more people are placing value on their health, their wellness, and their fitness. And they are placing their trust in you as coaches.

You Masters coaches are the ambassadors that are out there day in and day out. You are the ones who wake up at 5:30 in the morning. You are the ones who are there at noon and at 7 o’clock in the evening in order to guide your swimmers. You give unselfishly of your time and there are Masters swimmers that are deeply indebted to you. If you moved 5 miles from one pool to the next, they would follow you. They will also step up and volunteer, even financially. Some of them have political alliances – key connections that are necessary.

So you, as coaches, have a responsibility to write terrific workouts and offer encouragement and motivation. But it behooves you and benefits you and it benefits your local Masters team to get to know your swimmers in and out of the water because you never know who is swimming in your lane and you never know as you are talking with them and sharing with them your goals – your visions – your dreams – where you want to go – what you want to do.

Maybe it’s an empty pool that you found and that you think could make a great opportunity for you if only you could get access. You are not going to do it as a person of one. We have heard all along here – team – team – team. You are going to do it with your swimmers that will come with you and they will follow you and they will bring the resources that they have got available to you. But it is the old tried-and-true principle: It starts with you and it starts with each and every one of us with our attitude that we bring to the deck each and every single day.

The Masters swimmer is not the one whose husband or wife is driving them to the pool and dropping them off and saying you have got to go today. The Masters swimmer is the person who happily sets the alarm for 4:30 in the morning and goes to bed early and says, “I am going to show up.” So, they are deeply invested into your program and into you.

Masters swimmers have incredible talents and resources and you know – all this artwork here and the newspaper that promoted this event in Florida and all these posters were done through the University and through the Masters program.

Please do not walk out of here and say – oh my gosh – that is such a darn big goal – I cannot do that. There is no way I can raise $150,000. That is not the goal. The goal is for you to define the goal and what do you need and what do you want? And Masters Swimming – USMS at the national level — has just tipped the iceberg in terms of the resources that we are making available to our coaches. We highly value you. We respect you. We want to be here to help you.

People like Mel Goldstein, Kerry O’Brien, Frank Marcinkowski, Jim Halstead, Chris Colburn, Lori Payne — we are available to you. We have been giving away a lot of stuff throughout this weekend: polos, money, brochures. You know – some of this stuff you have told us you need. You want the stickers so we are happy to develop them for you. You want banners in order to dress up your facility? Terrific. We will help you there. You want to know how to run an event so that maybe you could make some money? Great. We will tap you into our club- and coach-services group and help you incubate an event that makes sense for you with the resources you have got with the volunteers you have got with the pool space you have got with the other relationships you have got. You want access to a university? We will do our best. We will bring in Bob Groseth to help us out on that too and his organization. He is committed to our success because he knows that we are vitally important to collegiate swimming.

That is the pipeline. We talk about cradle to grave. Do not forget about collegiate swimming, which is in there as well too and if we continue to lose collegiate swimming and we accept the loss of collegiate swimming then you know – really kind of shame on us, too, because that is an important part of the process for us and an important part of the system. A lot of us went through collegiate swimming and we know the values that it teaches us and we have had wonderful coaches like Bob Groseth over the years.

I hope you got something out of this video – in addition to the fun that was there and the – you know – bantering back and forth. But maybe – just maybe – along with everything else there is some little nugget in there that you took with you and said – I know – it makes a little bit more sense now or I need a little bit more help in this area. If you do, call us.

Are there any questions?
Q: Rob, I wanted to add to something that was said in the video, the comment, “The people in your program really appreciate what you do and what you provide for them.” I speak from experience, not only for myself but also for my entire coaching staff, because when our members sign up for our team – when they fill out the form – the last line at the bottom is, “voluntary contributions to coaches salaries.” All they want is an opportunity to show how much they care and I guarantee you every year that is a $10-12,000 contribution. Some people – like Rob says – have the resources to make a fairly generous contribution. Others, instead of paying $240 will pay $250 — something like that. But if you give them the opportunity to show what you and your program mean to them, they will respond.

Q: Regarding relationship between USAS and USMS.
A: We have probably never had a better relationship with USA Swimming and it is only going to get better as the years go on. I have personally known Chuck Wielgus for 5 or 6 years. To give you an example, he was the one that called me and told me about the opening at United States Masters Swimming and he is the one that wrote the letter of recommendation on my behalf to the Search Committee so I feel like that is a stamp of credibility for what he saw as the opportunity and potential with USMS. I feel fairly confident with their club development outreach that they would look forward to partnering with Masters coaches – especially if there are age-group opportunities as well.

Now, USA Swimming had their mission as well you know and the Make a Splash program is an important initiative and that brings more people in the water, which continues to create this growth and opportunity. I mean –when is the last time in a non-Olympic year that we had swimming on live NBC? I can’t think of any. It is not a trick question – I just can’t think of any and you know – that is a testimony to what those guys are doing. So as Chuck Wielgus said on Wednesday – I think we are in an awesome spot right now, with the opportunity of the grass-roots level continuing to be there for us.

Q: You are talking about us having a 12% growth rate this year. Do you know what US Swimming has had?
A: Ironically, they are the exact same. It is the biggest growth year they have ever had too.

Q: What are the numbers for Masters?
A: We went over 50,000 members about 12 days ago for the first time in our organization’s history. We are going to end the year at probably around 53,200 members, based on where we are right now. We told Mel we were over 50,000 and he goes great – 60,000 is next. He didn’t even say congratulations.

For twenty years Mel has been beating his drum and beating his drum and beating his drum and people are excited and rightfully we should be and that is a credit to each and every one of you because you guys promote the values of it. You promote the values of membership. I continue to maybe beat this drum a little bit more, too, but membership is 85% of our revenue at USMS. So we hope you will continue to believe in the value of membership and the new benefits that we are bringing to membership because as membership continues to grow, that is what allows us to invest in resources and give back to you. It flows down.

We have a small staff. We have 6 full-time people and a couple of contractors at the National Level. With that we are continuing to put resources back in and back in and back in. If anybody is going to the convention next week and you want to sit in on the Finance Committee and you want to take a look at the budgets, you are more than welcome to. There is a lot of funds we put in there for club development and club growth services and resources that we want to give back.

Mel has an event – it was a brain-child of his he started this year called “Swim Fest.” It was down in Houston and it was the first-ever Masters Coaches Conference. An interactive coaches clinic. Friday night was a round table, much like this, where we had 7 terrific coaches. Kerry came and was gracious enough to participate in that with us. They shared their knowledge and intellect for about 2 hours. We posted notes and made that available online. On Saturday we did a pool clinic all day long – through a variety of stations. You should have seen it. Mel and I looking at those coaches like – I had never even heard of this coach. I do not even know where they were from and that was so awesome. There were about 35 coaches that came from across the country. In some cases we funded scholarships for them. In some cases they came on their own dime. They participated in an all-day Saturday session. We came back on Sunday and pulled all the lane ropes out. We recognize the value of open-water and triathletes. We pulled all the lane ropes out of the 50-meter tank and we sat 6 buoys around and we brought in Sara McLarty who coaches Masters swimming down at the National Triathlon Training Center in Claremont, Florida. She’s a triathlete who’s never been beaten out of the water. We brought her in to do the open-water clinic. She was awesome and terrific. The coaches walked away – the swimmers walked away and right away Mel says, “We are doing this again.” And I said “You are darn right – we are doing this again.” So June 4 – 6 we are – this is not a money maker for us. This is an investment back. This is continued outreach and education.

Chris Colburn’s group has been leading the idea and the concept for doing meaningful work on putting together a coaches certification program. We have heard you guys – trust me – we hear you guys on this and we are developing a credential model for our Masters coaches. Those of you that are giving to this lifestyle and this sport day in and day out – you deserve to be recognized.

We sat for a day with John Leonard and asked him if he would support this program and buy into it and John goes, “absolutely” so we have John’s commitment to do it through ASCA, which is, as we see today – representative of so many coaches. We will have a coaches certification program that continues to educate all the other coaches that were not able to make one of the sessions this weekend about Masters Swimming and say – oh – I don’t have to be scared of Masters Swimming. I do not have to be scared that those guys are going to hog my parking lot or take up my pool or kick me out.

Instead, it is about extending partnerships so you are seeing us as a resource. We thank you for your trust in us – through your promotion of membership and that is what allows us to continue to put back in – to elevate our brand so that it becomes more accepted.

When a first-time swimmer walks on deck and says, Oh I know what that USMS logo stands for. I know what it looks like. I know what it is about. It is trusted. So you, as a coach, instead of giving them the full pitch, all you have to do is tell that swimmer you need to go and sign up for Masters swimming and they go – oh, I get it. We want to become a trusted brand with all the credibility behind it.

Thank you all for being here. We greatly appreciate it. I know that many of you gave up time with your families in order to be here. We appreciate it and for those of you that are going to USAS – we appreciate that too. Thank you

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