You see this person at swimming meets all the time. The one who sticks out like a sore thumb. He or she is usually running around the pool deck with seemingly endless energy, though perhaps in a frazzled manner. Back and forth, from the registration table to the timerís booth, from the awards stand to the scorerís desk. Welcoming the competitors, coordinating with officials, jumping on the P.A. microphone. This person is the clock by whoís time the meet marches on.
With little doubt, you can tell by the first glance that you have just set your eyes upon the Meet Director.
Most Masters swimmers can tell you in an instant what their favorite Masters swim meet was, or where their favorite competition site is. Perhaps it is at a place where they set a personal record, or which has a fast pool. Maybe they liked meeting other competitors there, or even enjoyed the opportunity to visit the community or region. Most likely, everybodyís favorite meet was one that was well organized and conducted by that seemingly ubiquitous person called the Meet Director.
Being a Meet Director is a challenging and demanding task, no matter if you are organizing a small regional meet or conducting the National Championships. Someone needs to reserve pool time, bring in lifeguards, apply for sanction, arrange concessions, and seek out referees and timers. Also, the meet needs to be marketed; entries need to be distributed, ads placed, and other clubs called. All of this falls under the responsibilities of the Meet Director, and this is just the stuff that has to happen before the day of the meet. On race day, the Meet Director is at the pool early, setting up the necessary equipment and teaching the volunteers how to use it (often because he is the most qualified, usually because he is just there). Afterwards, there are results to compile and send off, as well as a large clean-up job. Again, it is a large task, and it usually befalls upon a coach, aquatic director, or another person that has other large responsibilities to fulfill.
As unrelenting and unheralded the task may be, the Meet Director is the key to a successful swim meet. A successful performance often means a positive experience for the competitors (and volunteers), and will lead to greater participation and enjoyment of future meets throughout the region.
While there are many things for a Meet Director to do, and many ways to ruin an otherwise successful event, there are a few things that I, as a swimmer, would ensure if I was a Meet Director:
Make it fun! Making a meet fun ought to be a Meet Directorís highest goals, and it does not necessarily have to be done in a manufactured way. Providing an atmosphere of camaraderie and good sportsmanship is all that is required. Of course, adding special things like bonus relays, special awards, raffles, demonstrations, and the like can make a meet uniquely enjoyable. The Meet Director is bounded only by the limits of his own imagination.
Be hospitable. Welcome swimmers to your pool. They are your guests. Encourage the members of your Masters club to welcome swimmers from out of town. Donít compete in your own meet if it would interfere with your responsibilities.
Take care of the volunteers. No matter what their roles, from referee to refreshment server, you are asking much of your volunteers. They are committing much of their day to helping your meet succeed. Give them the proper training, service, and respect that they deserve.
Conduct the meet as planned. Special situations may arise, but do not change the advertised schedule unless absolutely necessary. Your meet entrants expect the schedule to be firm, and they sign up for their events accordingly.
Do not put added demands upon the competitors. Your competitors have come to compete, not to help you run your meet. Have enough timers available. Do not force competitors to time in order to keep the meet running. Never delegate any of your duties to those whom you are serving.
Encourage safety. Watch for hazards and minimize the potential for injury.
Enforce the rules. Make sure that the competition is conducted fairly and in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations.
As swimmers and coaches, we are all looking to make our meets run smoothly and safely for the benefit of all participants. Better meets bring about greater excitement and participation. As PNA continues to prepare for hosting next yearís National Championships, we all ought to strive to encourage and conduct high-quality events.
Oh, the next time you see your Meet Director, do give him a well-deserved pat on the back.
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