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USMS 2020 Annual Convention - Virtual!

Pacific Delegates

The year 2020 will go down in posterity as a challenging one. United States Masters Swimming is mandated to have an Annual Meeting, but COVID-19 has the world by the tail. Travel is limited and group meetings are forbidden, forcing us to make appropriate adjustments. 

Because of these unprecedented restrictions, USMS held its 50th Anniversary Convention virtually. Dawson Hughes (USMS CEO) and our National Office worked tirelessly with the Executive Committee, Bill Tingley, Rob Copeland, Ali Hall, Richard Garza and Charles Cockrell for months, figuring out how to translate all the wonderful aspects of Convention that we love into the virtual format. 

Jessica Reilly (USMS Senior Director, Business Operations) did an outstanding job of sending out notices and schedule reminders to all 250+ delegates. She also managed the screen that we all saw, made it easy to follow the proceedings, handled the “cue” of delegates who wanted to speak, and monitored the vote counts. Jessica stayed busy.

Noting that it was many participants’ first time using the technology, Jessica, along with the Board of Directors, gave tutorials and practice sessions prior to the Convention itself. All effort was made to ease the process. 

The different Committee meetings were held ahead of the Convention weekend. Plenty of notification was provided to any of the delegates who wished to “attend” the meetings that were spread out over three weeks. This format made it easy for the delegates to study the issues in detail.

The House of Delegates (HOD) met Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept 25-27. These meetings are mandatory for all delegates and are the centerpiece of our Annual Convention. Our own Peter Guadagni (USMS President) presided.

MEMOHe began by entertaining everyone with an update on his USMS tattoo. For those who did not attend last year’s Convention, Peter accepted his position as newly elected President by asking the audience, “Shoulder, thigh or calf?” He had previously promised, if he won, to get a tattoo to commemorate the event. Showing a picture of getting the tattoo, and another photo of the USMS logo on his calf, Peter told everyone that he was a man of his word. This is the first year of a four-year term for Peter. He is doing an excellent job under these trying circumstances.

We voted John King in as our Director at Large representing the Oceana Zone. Yeah, John! In addition to John and Peter, it must be noted that all of the volunteers, the delegates and staff of Pacific Masters were diligent in their attendance and dedication to their different tasks, along with friendly banter to help pass the long hours of discussion. 

For the substantive meat of the program, the HOD discussed and voted on some interesting ballot issues. Committee Chairs presented their reports and proposals. Some passed unanimously and quite quickly. Then there were the contentious propositions, initiating back-and-forth, lively discussions for and against, which make these meetings meaningful, getting to the root of the issues.

Among these:

A proposal was made to change the way relay age groups are determined. This is not the first time this has been discussed. A vote decided that no change is to be made. 

A Unified Fee has been in discussion for two years. While most LMSCs had come to support it, some misgivings remained. An impassioned dialogue gave everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion before the delegates voted. The proposal passed. It now costs $60 to join USMS. 

Poll ResultsAnother discussion was reducing the number of days one must wait to transfer to a new club after representing a different club in competition, from 60 to 35. This was proposed on the behalf of swimmers from smaller teams who did not have enough teammates to build relays. The change would enable them to temporarily affiliate with larger teams to participate on relays for specific meets. The 35-day wait was also championed by snowbirds who move between the northeast and Florida as seasons change. Arguments against the change cited concerns of possible club-hopping to build Super-Relays. The proposal failed with 111 in favor and 113 against. It was such a close vote that the percentage showed 50-50, which necessitated a “head count.” The 60-day wait period is still in effect.

The delegates voted on and passed a new rule that past presidents are no longer automatically on the Board of Directors. Many spoke passionately about continuing to utilize voices of experience. However, past presidents Dr. Jim and Patty Miller both spoke in favor of the proposal, noting that their input and expertise will still be readily available, while streamlining the Board for efficiency.

The last HOD meeting held on Sunday, was a marathon; it ran over eight hours. As happens in the in-person Conventions, a lot of time was spent adhering to Parliamentary Procedure protocol, maintaining order while fielding comments and questions from the delegates. Someone mentioned that it started out as a 200 IM, then moved onto being a 1650, and ended up as a 10K! What really saved the day was that our Pacific Masters group set up a Slack account and we texted each other all throughout the proceedings. It was so much fun to be “talking” to each other silently, reminiscent of passing notes surreptitiously in grade school.

It was a great experience to have participated in the 2020 USMS Virtual Convention. The new virtual format perhaps needs a bit of polish. But this is an unusual year and all things considered, our USMS team of staff and volunteers and our wonderfully cohesive group of Pacific Masters delegates did an amazing job of pulling this together and making the Convention a success.

House of Delegates 3 AdjournmentAll members of USMS are eligible to apply to be a voting delegate. These gatherings are always informative and often lively. There are many Committees to sit in on, covering all aspects of running this organization, including Rules, Legislation, Officials, Diversity and Inclusion, History and Archives to name a few: something for every interest. 

Besides being part of the decision-making process, one of the benefits of attending Convention is connecting with fellow swimmers from across our nation, discussing issues, solving problems and talking about what we love: swimming in all its forms and glory. Plan to join us next year!

The full minutes of the Convention, including Committee and the HOD meetings can be found at 2020 USMS Virtual Annual Meeting.

Written by Linda Hepworth, competitive swimmer, Update editor, and author of The Water Becons.

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