A private swimming pool on a hot summers day.

Club championships programs are not easy to put together – after all, you are usually racing the same people you see day after day after day after day after day……. (you get the idea).

Many clubs lament that their Club Championships are not well supported and are generally disappointing in terms of attendance and commitment from swimmers and families. Well guess what??? It’s your – (as in the organisers of the event) – fault!

If people don’t want to buy the “product” you are selling, sell something else! If people do not attend your Club Champs – don’t blame the people – don’t blame other sports – don’t blame the economic crisis – change what you are selling!

If you want a really great Club Championship program, the trick is to combine the four Ps:

  • Performance – Club championships are- after all-about racing.
  • Parents – Get them involved and get them wet! This is the one chance all year to have some family fun.
  • Practice – Club Championships are not the end of the story….for many swimmers Club Championships are the beginning of the competitive season and it’s a great opportunity for practicing skills, strokes, technique, dives, starts, turns, finishes, warm ups, cool downs, stretches, race day diet, mental skills and other racing skills.
  • Party – have a really fun day with the families, friends and other fantastic people who make swimming the wonderful sport it is!

And, here are four really dumb things to avoid unless you want to have a really rotten Club Championship program – the four Cs:

  • Coaches – as in leaving them out of the planning of Club Championships. Big mistake. Coaches must be an integral part of the Championship program committee so that the program reflects what they are trying to achieve with their overall planning and periodisation strategy;
  • Change – as in “don’t change”. Some Club Championship committees just keep rolling over the same program year after year then wonder why people stop coming! Make it different, interesting, innovative and enjoyable by throwing in some new ideas every year;
  • Catering – as in offer junk food. Big challenge for all Clubs is to raise money for things like equipment, coaching fees, competitive travel etc. But try not to do it by taking the easy options like providing junk food at Club Championships which might be great for profits but sends the wrong messages to swimmers and parents;
  • Competition – as in don’t make it one! The greatest challenge in creating a great Club Championship program is balancing fun with fast racing. It is important that Club Championships are really enjoyable but make sure they also provide the right environment for real competition and challenge swimmers to produce their best. Don’t award frivolous prizes just for attending the Club Championships – it devalues the hard work and effort of swimmers who really want to achieve something.

Here are the first 15 of 50 ideas to help you create a Positively, Powerfully, Perfect program:

  1. Radical relays – boys vs. girls, older swimmers vs. younger swimmers, dads vs. mums, coaches vs. swimmers………..millions of relay ideas.
  2. Make sure your CLUB championship program mirrors the program of the next level meet, e.g. If the next level meet is your State Championships, try to make your Club Championship program the same  – i.e. same events, in the same order – so that your Club Championships are preparing your team to be successful at the next level.
  3. Have parents’ races!
  4. Have parents and kids relays!
  5. 50s of each event.
  6. 100s of each event.
  7. 200s of each event.
  8. Fin races. i.e. race fly, back and free with fins on.
  9. What about throwing in some Kicking races?
  10. Invite qualified, experienced State or National level race starters, judges and officials to make sure the quality and standard of your meet is the best it can be. And ask them for a written report so you can fine tune skills and techniques before your swimmers race at high level meets.
  11. Change your Club Championships program and format EVERY year. Nothing turns off swimmers and families more than having to sit through the same races, in the same order for the same prizes year after year.
  12. Make everyone welcome. Parents and families who are new to the Club and who are attending their first ever Club Championships should be made to feel like old friends and part of the swimming club “family”.
  13. More is less………don’t be tempted to make the day longer just because you can! Families are busier now than ever and if you want them to keep coming back, make Club Championships enjoyable and short! Leave them wanting more.
  14. Make awards relevant for age groups. Another big mistake Clubs make is to award the same medals, ribbons and certificates to 6 years olds as they do to 16 year olds. This is a guaranteed way to push your teenage swimmers towards other sports! How about DVDs as prizes? Or gift vouchers for cool clothing stores? Or Nintendo Games? Or gift vouchers for the I-Store (if you don’t know what this is, you are in real trouble). Or gym memberships? Or training equipment?
  15. Combined events scores, e.g. add together each swimmer’s times for their 50s in each stroke and compare it to their 200 IM time. Whoever gets the 200 IM time closest to the 4 x 50s wins a prize, e.g. 50 fly time plus 50 back time plus 50 breast time plus 50 free time added together compared to 200 IM time.

See Part Two and Part three of this Post.

Wayne Goldsmith and Helen Morris