Sonya’s Advice for new teams

STARTING A SUCCESSFUL UNIVERSITY SYNCHRO TEAM

By Sonya Clark

  1. Advertise EARLY
  • If your potential swimmers don’t know about you right at the start of the year, they will find something else to do with their time. It is very important that people know you exist, so start your advertising campaign before students arrive at school.
  • Posters and ads in student papers are very effective advertising tools. Put posters everywhere you can think of; on boards all over the school, in residences, at the pool, etc.
  • Your advertising should include: contact info (an e-mail address is usually sufficient), date of your first meeting (see point #2), and a reference to what type of swimmers you are looking for (do you intend to run a novice program?) “ on Western’s posters, we write novice and experienced swimmers welcome.
  1. Get together EARLY
  • Organize a first meeting early it is best to do it during the first week of classes. The purpose is twofold: you want an idea of how many people are interested and your potential swimmers will want some information about the program.
  • Collect information at the first meeting that includes the name, contact info, previous experience, and commitment level (i.e. do they want to swim a team routine or just a duet or solo).
  • Give out a handout at the first meeting that includes everything you can think of to tell people; the more information they have, the more confidence they will have in the program.
  • Information you can share includes the name and website of the league, dates and places of the competitions, when and where practices will be, and how much money swimmers will be expected to put out.
  • Give your swimmers a good overview of the program. You want to emphasize what a wonderful experience it is. Make sure they know that joining the team will contribute to their social life, keep them physically active and give them the sense of school spirit that only comes from competing in interuniversity competition. Also make sure that they know what level of commitment is expected you want to discourage people who aren’t willing to come out day in and day out even when they are tired or stressed about school.
  1. Follow up QUICKLY
  • Always, always, keep your swimmers informed. If people feel confused about what is going on, either at the start of the year or throughout the season, they will get frustrated with the program. Communicating with your swimmers effectively is the most important thing you can do to promote a successful club.
  • As soon as you can following your first meeting, put an e-mail list together with all of the swimmers who showed interest and get in touch with them. You will want to let them know what decisions have been taken since the first meeting when the first practice will be, how the team(s) will be organized, if there will be tryouts, etc.
  • There will always be some people who show up for the first meeting and indicate they are interested but who drop out during the first couple of weeks. The more you talk to them, the better idea you will have about who will stick around. I like to contact the people I think are most likely to quit by phone so I can talk to them personally and get a better sense of whether they will stick around.

 

  1. Budget CAREFULLY
  • This is especially important for teams with fixed costs, such as pool time. It is very difficult to budget these things in advance since you have no idea how many people will be sharing those costs until the first meeting. Once you have an idea of the interest level, assume some people are going to drop out and budget accordingly. My estimate is that about ¾ of the experienced swimmers at the first meeting will stay and about ¼ of the novices.
  • Collect at least a portion of the money you will need right at the start of the year. Aside from having money to spend on the things you need, this will also help give you an idea of who is going to stick with the team (anyone who is not sure about swimming will think carefully about it before putting up the money).
  1. Have FUN!!!
  • It has been my experience that the most difficult part of running up a team is getting it started. After that, you have swimmers that you can delegate responsibilies to, and as long as you keep everyone informed, there are not too many problems. Organizing a team may be a little bit of work but it is worth it! There is nothing more fun than swimming, working, and playing with a great synchro team.