Try Masters Swimming allows coaches to offer insight into what makes their clubs great by allowing potential members to try at least two free workouts.

But working with these new swimmers while meeting the needs of your current swimmers can be challenging, so we asked two coaches, Shari Cruse of Marin’s Aquatic Masters and Mark Noetzel of the Academy’s Swimming Masters Team, tips on how to make a successful Try Masters Swimming event welcoming to all swimmers.

Get to know each participant

All swimmers come at different levels of experience and ability. Spend time learning about them and their swimming goals, then help them develop a plan or routine to achieve them, whatever they may be.

“Before the swimmer comes to practice, I try to find out a bit about their story, learn what interests them, and allay their fears or concerns,” Cruse says. “When they first swim I make sure I know their name and remember some personal details about them so that when we meet in person they know I took the time to get to know them and that I am dedicated to their success.”

All ages and abilities welcome

Having swimmers with a wide range of abilities and ages in your club is fun. New swimmers are excited to learn, which is often transferred to a long-time swimmer who may have forgotten how much fun it is to learn new things. New swimmers might also be more open to fun swims, drills, and events.

“Our older members like to see new faces in the water, mostly for the socialization aspect,” says Noetzel. “New members broaden conversations based on their role in our greater community.”

Promote a healthy and happy lifestyle

People are probably trying your club because they want to establish a consistent training schedule with a group that will hold them accountable. Encourage swimmers who try out your club to sign up for the healthy lifestyle it will offer.

“’Happy swimmers equals a happy community’ is a phrase I’ve been using lately,” says Noetzel. “All over the world today, we need all the happiness we can get.”

Be responsive

Prospective members make themselves known by asking for more information, so respond to their requests quickly so they don’t lose interest or feel ignored. A good rule of thumb is to respond within 48 hours, but responding even earlier can be helpful.

“I try to respond to every Try Masters Swimming request within an hour,” says Cruse. “The first email is welcoming and encouraging to a potential swimmer. I then follow up if I don’t get a response.

Match them

When potential members arrive for their first practice, greet them and pair them with an experienced club member of equal ability who has an engaging personality.

“I try to put them in a lane with another swimmer who’s fun and welcoming, has similar interests, and isn’t intimidating,” Cruse says. “This is where it helps to find out about them before they arrive. I give them special attention during the first practices and make sure I have extra equipment, a team cap, etc., so that they are as comfortable as possible.

Reconnect

After the first training of future swimmers, reconnect with them. Ask them if they have any questions and try to keep them coming back.

This is key to keeping them engaged and wanting to come back for the next practice. Let them know that each workout gets a little easier as they reacclimate to the water (based on time since last swim). Make them feel included and heard.

Make it fun and inviting

Think outside the box and organize fun and inclusive events whenever possible and your budget allows. Engagement and inclusion in and out of the water helps retention.

“We organized an event incorporating the Fall Fitness Challenge [a 1-mile swim that serves as a fitness goal]says Cruse. “We had prices (not based on capacity) and breakfast afterwards. I’m going to do another event in December and then try to add a fun Sunday morning practice or a practice clinic followed by a team breakfast every month after that, that’s what we’ve done before the pandemic.

Cruse adds that being together again after the pandemic makes the club environment a more joyful experience.

“Because we’ve struggled so hard during the pandemic, all of our swimmers are happy to see new swimmers joining the team,” Cruse said.