Name: Rob Butcher
City and State: Sarasota, Florida
Age Group: 37 years old; 35-39 age group
Team Affiliation: Sarasota YMCA Sharks Masters
I know you’re a pretty fast guy, what kind of swimming background do you have?
I found swimming when I was in high school. It was an escape for me. My step dad was an alcoholic. He was very negative and physically intimidating. I just couldn’t stand being around him so I needed an outlet. Swimming happened to be what I found. I walked on my high school team just hoping to find some fun, and something that maybe was more peaceful than home life. I swam my junior year and instantly connected with my teammates. Many of them swam year round so I stayed with it just so I wouldn’t have to be home.
I knew upon graduation that I was going to move and wanted to go to college. My high school coach swam at Georgia Southern University (GSU) so he made a phone call. Quite honestly, I wasn’t fast enough to swim for GSU but they gave me a chance. I swam all four years for GSU, graduating in 1994 with a BBA in Marketing. I stayed one more year for grad school getting my MS in 1995. I then got an internship with Auburn University working in their athletic department. It was at Auburn that I met David Marsh and Rowdy Gaines, and that opened my eyes to the swimming world. It was also at Auburn that I joined Auburn Masters. After my year long internship at Auburn, I moved to Washington DC to work in the University of Maryland Athletic Department.
While in Maryland, I swam a couple of Masters meet and went times faster than I had when in college. In the summer of 1997, I swam my first USMS Nationals in Orlando. They were the fastest times of my life and got me thinking about the Olympic Trials. I moved back to Florida, to Daytona Beach, and started training under Steve Lochte. Steve was brand new to Daytona and was out to change the mediocre culture of the Daytona team. We were a perfect compliment in that way.
The journey was a wild run and fraught with disappointment but never giving up. My times actually got slower through the rest of 1997, through 1998 and into 1999… until we had a breakout meet in spring of 1999 to quality for the Olympic Trials in the 100 breastroke. The Trials experience was very memorable. There were 84 guys in the 100 breastroke and I was seeded 81st. I ended up I think 50th and went a lifetime best. I turned 28 during the Trials week and knew it was time for me to move on with my professional life.
In January of 2001, I started with NASCAR and worked in the racing industry till coming to USMS. I traveled a lot while with NASCAR and would use Places to Swim of usms.org to find the nearest pool in just about every city.
photo source USMS.org
When did you take over as executive director?
Chuck Wielgus (Executive Director of USA Swimming) and Rowdy were the ones that recommended the USMS ED position for me. I was hired in June of 2008 and at the time was considering opportunities with the NBA, NFL and MLB. In sports, if you have a record of being able to generate revenue there will always be interest. I was involved in some pretty big deals while in racing so that attracted interest. But my hope all along was to follow my passion and be part of USMS.
Now that USMS has moved its headquarters to Sarasota, where do you swim and how often?
I’m a member of the Sarasota YMCA Sharks Masters (SYSM) program. SYSM has terrific team spirit and is supported by the age group program. SYSM has programs to fit all levels and abilities, from the beginner to the triathlete to the competitive Masters swimmers. Rick Walker is the head coach. He’s got the gift of leadership and knows how to motivate.
What are your favorite events to swim? When’s your next race?
There is a running joke in USMS that we only hire breastrokers. Well, most of the staff does enjoy breastroke but we also have Tracy, Mark and Mel who tease us about the safety stroke. My favorite races though are the relays. I think I traveled probably 25 weekends in 2009 visiting USMS programs. Most of the time, I’ll arrange my travel around a meet so I can meet as many coaches and Masters swimmers as possible.
Rob in Indy for USMS LCM Nationals
What do you feel was the biggest achievement for USMS in 2009?
2009 was a milestone year for USMS. We introduced a new logo and brand; we selected Sarasota as our home and opened our first ever headquarters; we went over 50,000 members; and we added critical staff so we can grow and better serve our members. But I would say our biggest achievement was electing Jeff Moxie as board President. Jeff has set lofty yet attainable goals for USMS; we will continue to embrace the volunteer spirit of USMS, we will grow to 100,000 members, and we will define our USMS endowment program and grow it to $10MM.
What’s your vision for 2010? What programs and problems is the USMS staff going to spend the majority of its time on?
Our objective is to implement our Action Plan to meet the objectives Jeff has set out. In 2010, we will continue to invest time and energy into our communication, infrastructure, club outreach and marketing so we can better serve.
Can we look forward to any new member benefits launching in 2010?
We improved the insurance members receive by adding in disability and expanding what is covered. We will be seeking more insurance benefits too for members. SWIMMER magazine is being revamped with more letters from members and content to fit the general interests. Our Streamlines for members, Streamlines for Coaches and Streamlines for Volunteers are wildly popular reads. SwimFest, our annual Masters Coaches clinic experience, will be in San Diego and is generating tons of interest.
USMS is acting as host for the 2010 USMS LCM Nationals in Puerto Rico and I’ve heard talk of USMS hosting other events. Anything currently planned or are you guys looking to get Puerto Rico handled before you move on to other big events?
USMS has incubated the H2Open series. The idea is to support existing open water events with national marketing, national promotion, and national media. 2010 is a learning year for us with H2Open. Looking forward, we are working with the City of Omaha and USA Swimming about hosting our 2012 LCN immediately following the Trials. There are still obstacles but if we can pull this together, I think it would be a signature opportunity for USMS.