The Olympic Club out swam 269 teams to win the Local Club USMS Spring National Championship in San Antonio, Texas. With 57 swimmers, the O Club amassed 2310 points. Their total also outdistanced Colorado Masters Swimming by 454 points, the Regional Club winner who had 75 swimmers. Regional Clubs draw their swimmers from wide geographic areas. Local Clubs generally swim in one location.
We asked Laureen Welting, the Olympic Club Aquatic Manager and Master's coach, about the team's success and about the Olympic Club Master's program.
Q: You've had great success and terrific turnout for the big meets (the O Club also won last year's nationals at Santa Clara). What's the secret to your success?
LW: We try to create a positive environment, with under H2O music, and above H2O speakers during the practices. We also started something new this year, where we have "practice records", and it has become a real motivator for the younger crowd. They look at the "practice records" and they all want to get their names on the board. It is a lot of fun to coach them when they are as enthusiastic about swimming fast! We don't do ANY garbage yardage, and I try to keep the workouts interesting and never the same. We don't put any pressure on the members so it is a lot different than their college experience.
Q: People are really curious about your program and especially your ability to recruit great talent. How do you do it?
LW: The Olympic Club has a number of very attractive draws. Great facilities with 2 exceptional pools, a downtown location that is convenient to city residents and workers, plenty of pool availability, a committed coaching staff, the Club's legacy of athletic excellence and great camaraderie among the team members.
The Club attracts swimmers through word of mouth. We also do a really fun event every spring. Since 1998 we invite the Senior Cal & Stanford swimmers to join us for a night at the Club. We get a lot of UCLA, USC, Yale and Harvard swimmers as well as a few from outside the area. We have an all you can eat buffet in the formal dining room and introduce them to the possibilities of Masters Swimming. The fun part is when they tell about their most memorable swimming experience. Their stories are all over the place and it is a real chance for them to learn about the program and the Club. Many of the graduates stay local, work in the City and join the Club. A number of them are people who vowed they would never swim again.
Q: How large is your team?
LW: Currently we have 225 members. People think we just have a bunch of remote members. Actually almost all of our members train at the Club. Total membership in the Olympic Club, including the golf club, is 8000.
Q: There is a perception that people are on "swimming scholarships." How does membership work?
LW: All of our swimmers pay the monthly membership fee. There is also an additional monthly food and beverage charge that you must use or lose. We don't own our parking lot so people who drive must pay for that. The Olympic Club may seem expensive but our members obviously see the value. The only break is for athletic members who get a discount on the initiation fee if they will compete and make a long term commitment.
Q: Seems like you and Paul (Carter - Aquatic Director) have a pretty full plate. Where does the Tahoe Relay fit into your duties?
LW: Wow, where to start....It is a yearlong process, and starts the month after the race in July. It is a lot of work, and even after 15 years, I always breathe a sigh of relief when it is over! It is a great event. We always have 16 Olympic Club teams of six that compete there, so it is a big focus for us.
Q: Any big plans for the future?
LW: Continue to improve upon my coaching skills, and continue the tradition of "competitive swimming" after College for many years to come, so that we will have more swimmers in the older age groups moving forward.