Building a Masters club takes more than just recruiting swimmers and finding pool time. Those are big challenges for new groups, but to see your group flourish and thrive, invest some time and energy in building a true community.
People come to Masters to find a group to swim with, but they’re also looking for like-minded people with whom they can connect. Finding the correct practice lane is an important first step, but what happens after they leave the pool? As a coach do you facilitate friendships and even business?
Here are some ideas to help build your community.
Know your swimmer’s profession
Do you have doctors, electricians, auto mechanics, or students in your group? Knowing the type of work your swimmers do provides an immediate conversation starter. In addition, knowing their profession offers networking opportunities. Over the years, I’ve linked up real estate agent swimmers with swimmers who are looking to buy or sell a house. Recently a new graduate found her first job via a lanemate. While there’s no guarantee of a business transaction or career advancement, encouraging people to connect helps team members value the club for more than just swimming.
Know your swimmer’s family situation
Life and family challenges don’t end when swimmers arrive at the pool. Is a swimmer caring for aging parents or a challenging teenager? Showing a little interest in your swimmer’s personal life (without being too nosy) is an important part of community building. You may have a swimmer who’s missing from the pool because he or she has been cleaning out mom and dad’s home in another state. Encouragement and sympathy for that swimmer’s situation shows you care. Suggest these swimmers consider participating with a Masters program while they travel; a swim might help relieve stress and maintain swimming progress. Remember: Some of your swimmers might not wish to share their information because they come to the pool for a break from their personal and professional lives.
Host social events for your team and their families
Offering three to four events per year fosters a strong community. Choose events like a summer barbeque, a holiday dinner and gift exchange, coffee after practice, hikes, and brewery tours. The options are limitless. Be sure to include spouses and kids at these events whenever possible.
Recognize major life events
When swimmers experience major life events such as getting married, having a baby, serious illness, or the death of a loved one, recognition of these events by the club shows you understand life isn’t always about swimming. Consider sending a card, flowers, or a gift from the team to appropriately recognize the occasion.
Collect swimmer contact information
At our club, our intake form asks the following optional information: spouse/significant other’s name, occupation, employer, and an emergency contact’s name and phone number. Most people willingly provide the information. We keep this information in our private Google roster, and it’s been a great tool to help swimmers connect after practice for business or pleasure.
Building a Masters community will help your team develop and thrive beyond membership numbers and on-deck conversations. The pool is often a place where members feel safe, supported, and happy. Community-building efforts extend those feelings beyond practice times, enhancing the impact that Masters Swimming can have.