Considerations for starting an open water/masters swim club

In my area there aren't really any swim clubs available to me without driving a good distance, and there are no open water swim groups apart from some triathlon groups who do a few organized swims. I've been considering maybe starting something up myself, but I'm not sure yet if I have it in me (at least not while my kids are very young) to go down that road. I thought I'd start this discussion about what goes into organizing and running a swim club.

Some questions to get things going...but I'd love to hear input from anyone who's involved in their local group. -How many times per week should a group meet? -In cold winter areas, do you keep pool workouts up throughout the summer? Or do you just do open water in the summer? -Fees? Insurance issues? -What kind of extra things do you do to make it fun/special? -How do you find the right people who would want to join your group? (ie. people who are already pretty good swimmers)

Comments

  • JSwimJSwim Frostburg, MarylandMember

    The USMS team I swim with is rather unusual.

    Financially, it serves as a fund raiser for the local university’s D3 swim team. The coaches work for free, the college swimmers volunteer at the Masters meets (2/year so far), and payment is through the university’s community outreach program that holds evening aerobics, toddlers’ tumbling, and other similar classes. Because of this arrangement university insurance covers practices, so swimmers aren’t required to be USMS members unless they swim in a meet.

    Originally 3 early morning and 2 evening practices were offered. But it was cut to just 3 mornings because the evenings tended to be 1 or maybe 2 people. The attendance varies from 2 – 10 in the morning. The coaches are dedicated, and that keeps it going. And as a fundraiser, it sure beats car washes and selling doughnuts.

    dpm50Deema

    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    Dang. I did some research on starting one in the DC area a few years ago, but don't know if I have any of my notes with me here.

    A few things I remember: -- If the club is aligned to USMS and there is a USMS coach, then you're covered by the USMS insurance. I think the coach could even do "in-water" coaching. (My memory is crap though, so YMMV.) -- Most of the pools I spoke to in my area were more than willing to talk to me if the club were a USMS club rather than just a bunch of folks who created a club. I think it had to do with USMS bringing insurance to the table through the club. Again, my memory... -- I spoke with some park rangers at a local park where my usual USMS club would hold once or twice annually open water practices. They had NO problem with individual swimmers jumping in and swimming on their. But if it was a group, then permission would have to be requested. I can't remember if that required money or required a park ranger to remain near the water's entrance while we were swimming.

    Some ideas for you: -- To get the "right" people to join your group, you could have a pre-test requirement to join the group? And/or you could clearly state that the purpose of your group is for marathon swimmers (or open water or whatever) and that typical practices will include 10 x 200 or 5 x 500 or something like that if that is your goal. -- Renting the pool would probably be the biggest expense. I'd consider having dues on a season basis, since most pools would require a commitment probably beyond one month. That way if someone joins then stops coming, you've still got their money for the entire spring (or fall, or summer) "term" to pay the pool rental. -- Related to the above, I'd start with volunteer coaches. See if your LMSC supports their clubs' coaches. I got Level 1 and 2 masters certified coaching for free because the LMSC paid half and the club I was coaching with paid the other half.

    Good luck and let us know how this progresses.

    Deemarlm

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • Getting a club together is such a great idea. I know for me it has made ALL the difference in the world to have a dedicated team to train with. Iron Mike is right on with his memory about the insurance and USMS. For our team we are registered as a park district team and we use their facilities, but we all have to be USMS members for insurance. This also allows us to do some cool open water training in a lazy river after hours at a water park- also a park district facility, but the USMS insurance also protects them.

    I know that on the USMS website there is a link to get information on starting a group in your area and getting started. Maybe that will help out.

    Trying to find swimmers of similar ability may be the challenge for you. I know that the mission of USMS is very inclusive and welcoming to all levels so they also want their clubs and coaches to have a similar outlook. Putting an example work out and mission for the group (as Mike stated) would be a great way to let people know what level you are practicing at.

    Our club offers up to 7 practices a week, and most people attend either morning or evening. But several area groups have more or less practices depending on the club.

    Best of luck to you!

    IronMikeDeemarlm
  • DeemaDeema Member

    Thanks for the input everyone! I'm in Canada so USMS wouldn't work here but I think I recall seeing something on the either the Masters Swimming Canada or the Swim Canada website about insurance for clubs so I'll have to track that down. It sounds like the USMS website might have some good info for me too. I'm going to poke around the websites of other existing groups to see what kind of language they use in their mission statements.

    IronMike
  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
    edited July 2016

    If you don't have a nearby club, it is either because nobody wants to swim where you are, or nobody has yet discovered how great local swimming can be. Before you waste time on mission statements and formalities, you should probably assemble some swimmers, and that isn't something you'll do by copying text from a group's website.

    It takes some hard work and dedication to catalyze a community on your own, but it is possible.

    To start, pick a place (be it a pool or beach), and go there with regularity - every Saturday at 9:30am, or every night at 5pm, or whatever you can stick to. Do what you think works best for your future community, even if it means waking up earlier than you'd like. At this point, you are the glue. Your presence and dedication hold it all together.

    Next, encourage people to join you there. Make the focus the time and place, don't give into the temptation to suit a newcomer's schedule or to try something different, because you'll break the habit. The community is still fragile at this point, so treat it with care.

    Then, keep it going. At some point you'll realize the group has a life of it's own, and forms without your goading. At this point, you've got your core, and the group will perpetuate, especially during the warm months. Tend it and shape it during this period, see how durable things are.

    Then give it a few years, and voila! Community! Now you can start thinking about fees and insurance if you're still into that sort of thing.

    evmojendutrosemarymintJenASydneDtimsrootslknightDeemassthomasTheoswimrn62

    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    I think the key, as malinaka pointed out, is consistently showing up. The other key is to get like minded swimmers that are at a similar level. Just as in a pool, if there is a big difference in speed and endurance, it won't be fun for anybody. As the group grows, the differences can expand because there will be matched people at all levels.

    Deema
  • DeemaDeema Member

    Very good point @malinaka, it's probably best to get something informal yet consistent going first!

  • suziedodssuziedods Mem​ber
    edited July 2016

    If you don't have a nearby club, it is either because nobody wants to swim where you are, or nobody has yet discovered how great local swimming can be. Before you waste time on mission statements and formalities, you should probably assemble some swimmers, and that isn't something you'll do by copying text from a group's website.

    It takes some hard work and dedication to catalyze a community on your own, but it is possible.

    To start, pick a place (be it a pool or beach), and go there with regularity - every Saturday at 9:30am, or every night at 5pm, or whatever you can stick to. Do what you think works best for your future community, even if it means waking up earlier than you'd like. At this point, you are the glue. Your presence and dedication hold it all together.

    Next, encourage people to join you there. Make the focus the time and place, don't give into the temptation to suit a newcomer's schedule or to try something different, because you'll break the habit. The community is still fragile at this point, so treat it with care.

    Then, keep it going. At some point you'll realize the group has a life of it's own, and forms without your goading. At this point, you've got your core, and the group will perpetuate, especially during the warm months. Tend it and shape it during this period, see how durable things are.

    Then give it a few years, and voila! Community! Now you can start thinking about fees and insurance if you're still into that sort of thing.

    This, this holds true for anything... ( well except the temperature part), time, energy, focus and care et voila, community.
    Thanks Andrew.

    Deema

    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach www.suziedodsswimcoaching.com

Sign In or Register to comment.