empty pool
I had heard rumblings about something going on with Walnut Creek’s Masters program through Facebook, but wasn’t totally sure what was going down since I’m not on the team. Today I saw a thread on the USMS Forum that laid it all out for me. Basically the city of Walnut Creek is eliminating the coaching positions for the Masters program and working on making it really hard for WCM to do business as usual.¬†For those of you not familiar with Walnut Creek Masters, they are a huge Masters team and very, very active within USMS. Their head coach has a national level USMS Coaching award named after him even! So this isn’t a 4 person workout group getting shut out of a health club pool, this is a very well established club with years of success behind them.

Since I’m not involved directly with this situation I’m not going to make guesses at what may or may not happen or who is to blame… I’m just going to ask a question: What would your team do in this situation?

When you’re a team that doesn’t own it’s own facility and has money supporting it from outside of just team dues (like a city) there are a myriad of ways for things to go really wrong really quickly. If the rug were pulled out from underneath your program what would you do? Where would you go? Do you have a plan? Could you survive? What if the city goes broke and closes your pool, or worse yet turns your pool into a parking garage? Do you have a relationship with a back up pool? If you workout at a college do you know the people that run the high school and municipal pools? These are really serious questions any Masters Club needs to ask itself. If you don’t have a pool, you don’t have a program!

The other thing you should sit down and try to figure out is what kind of value do you bring to the facility and the community. In a situation like we have in Walnut Creek they’re a line item in a budget. Remember VP Joe Biden Biden saying that there will be “no swimming pools in this money” when the stimulus plan hit the streets? Pools are expensive to run and a political soft target.¬†Given that you have people all the way up to the Vice President downplaying the value of swimming pools, could you on short notice sell a city council on why they should let your Masters program carry on while they’re trying to cut as much as they can out of their budget to keep from going broke?

So despite what it may look like, I’m not out to spread aquatic fear, uncertainty and doom… I just want you to be ready. The last thing you want to hear from a team that had to fold due to outside problems is “we could have made it if we just had more time.” The next time you have a board meeting, or however you govern your team, bring up the concept of contingency plans. Hopefully you never need them, but if a 500+ member team like Walnut Creek can get surprised like this imagine what could happen to yours!

5 Responses to “Does Your Team Have a Backup Plan?”

  1. Ahelee says:

    Great Message Rob – thanks!

  2. Rob D says:

    Hopefully it plants some ideas in people’s heads. When you look at Masters swimming, facilities and money problems are the 2 biggest dangers to our growth. If we can’t keep existing teams on track how are we going to help the new ones get off the ground?

  3. Sophia says:

    Thanks for putting the word out there, Rob.

  4. Merritt says:

    It just happened to us in Long Beach and we got screwed, our pool kicked out our club team, so our program got dropped. The pool is now starting their own masters club, in essence we are a new team at the same pool. However, our afternoon workout times and some coaches have changed. There was no option to keep the same club, but find a new pool at the same time. There just aren’t other pools available, particularly for adults during after school hours. Things are currently completely disorganized for my masters group. There were months for the take over group to prepare and they did nothing to even notify us existing masters swimmers of a change in workout time. Now we don’t have answers on purchasing parking passes for the pool. We are also waiting for lane lines to use in our delegated section of the pool, the hot former diving well typically used by water aerobics classes. As swimmers we have no say in the matter, other than to keep forking over dues to whatever person that lets us get in some water. Although, I don’t know where I am supposed to pay dues anymore… so what am I complaining about if I’m not paying for anything? I’m at least glad there is still going to be some semblance of a masters team swimming in Long Beach on weekday afternoons, if there wasn’t I think many in the group would give it up altogether.

  5. Rob D says:

    I remember your situation vividly… what a raw deal. I followed along online and read lots of comments on the articles written about it. I feel really bad for how hard the Masters got worked over at your pool. The vibe I got was that it was all about water polo anyways and the swimmers were just guilty by association. I hope you guys can work out something with the college soon that’s mutually beneficial. Keep me updated, as much as the whole thing sucks for you there might be something good the rest of us can learn from your situation to stop another team from getting beat up the same way.