Episode 55 – Brendan Hansen

Your Sports Resource

In this week’s episode, I had a great conversation with Brendan Hansen the Director of Team Services. We discussed his team and their role with the clubs, LSC’s, the quad plan, and the opportunities that are available to coaches to learn from each other. (Opportunities that really should be taken. Get on those calls, coaches!) I hope you enjoy.

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00:00:03 – Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource podcast, where each week you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.


00:00:25 – Renata

Hello and welcome to the Your Sports Resource podcast. My name is Renata Porter, and I am really excited that we have a great guest with us, Brendan Hansen from USA Swimming. Now Brendan is a former competitive swimmer who specialized in breaststroke. He is a six-time Olympic medalist and is also a former world record holder in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events.


He won a total of 25 medals in major international competition, 18 gold, 4 silver, and 3 bronze spanning the Olympics, the world, and the Pan Pacific Championships. He is a member and team captain of the, or he was a member of the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic team.


After retiring from swimming, Brendan started a USA Swimming Club program in Austin, Texas. That’s the Austin Swim Club. And within four years as head coach, Hanson built a program of over 300 plus club swimmers and was recognized as a USA Swimming Club Excellence Gold Medal team. In 2016, Austin’s swim team qualified 10 swimmers to the US Olympic swimming trials and was a top three team at both winter and junior national championships.


Now Hansen is currently the director of team services at USA Swimming and utilizing the lessons he learned as a member of USA Swimming for 25 years and building one of the most successful club programs in just 4 years. Wow, that’s a mouthful. So, thank you for coming, Brandon. We appreciate you being on the show.

00:02:10 – Brendan

Thanks, Renata, it’s good to be here.

00:02:12 – Renata

Oh, great. So, I think people have a really good idea of who Brendan the swimmer is or was. What I’d like to do is just ask you to tell us a little bit about your role at USA swimming and I guess really how it’s developed since you’ve been there.

00:02:28 – Brendan

Yeah. That’s great. I’m glad. I’m glad we can get there. My least favorite part of these things is going over the bio. So, I’m glad we got out of the way. So, here’s the, here’s the thing.


You know, when I left the sport of swimming, I think people don’t realize that if you’re a professional athlete and you go the realm and you just kind of spoked to all the accolades of things that I did, you would think, oh man, that’s a golden road pathway to where, you know, creating this program and doing all those things. And that really wasn’t the case. Immediately you’re pushed back by like, oh, great swimmers can’t make great coaches, great coaches don’t make great businessmen, everybody’s a woman.


And so I got really frustrated with that experience of coming out of the pool as a swimmer and then taking on this role of building clubs and building a program community in my community to kind of give back to the sport of swimming the way I did. So my passion shifted really quickly as I came out of the pool into, I wanna create an opportunity for kids and athletes and parents and everyone in my community to understand the sport of swimming the way I did.


That being said, and Renata, you and I have talked about this multiple times in multiple hotel lobbies that I failed miserably the first two years, struggled a lot with the business side of it, with the communication side of it, with the challenges of, you know, I relied heavily on my accolades and saying, well, I’m, you know, I’m Brendan Hansen. Like you’re going to, you know, like you’re going to follow that. And you and I know very well that that’s not going to fly when you’re trying to build a small business.


And so, I think, um, there’s a lot of things that I learned along the way that not only are applicable to being a director of team services, but I think it’s more so the mindset that you need to have when you’re going into that realm. And I don’t have all the answers, but what I like being in this role at USA Swimming is I’ll ask the questions. I’m not afraid to have those types of conversations to figure out where the sticking points are and for the people to achieve their goals with their business or with their program.


I feel like that’s what got me out of that initial two-year rut of building Austin Swim Club and then building it to what it was. Um, that process is where a lot of our clubs are right now. And so, in this role, um, I really want to get people out of the ruts that they’re in or the things that are recurringly challenging them to be successful and start to like build that mindset of like, Hey, can I ask questions? Can I be that? And that’s where I think.


You know, the resources and tools that we, we both are bringing to the, to the table, to this community is really going to help them. Um, so as director of team services, I live heavily on the dry side, even though the majority of the bio that you just read was the wet side, we are, you know, we are very much in there and honestly, like it does build well to my strengths. Um, I’m a, I’m a really big people person. I love, I love connecting people. I love communicating with people.


And I love building communities. And I think that’s where a lot of folks, when they start this journey of building these businesses, they really want to go. That’s, that’s what their passion is. Oh, the intricacies of owning a small business. They’re like, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it.

00:05:47 – Renata

Well, it is, I mean, everybody wants to do it. And then they get into it and they go, Oh my God, there’s all these, I didn’t realize there was all these other things that needed to take place in order to run a successful business, you know?


I like that you touched on the fact that you had to go through a few stumbles and, um, you know, just like me having to build that trust with clubs and, you know, really kind of prove that, no, I, I’m honestly here to talk about your best interests, you know, and building those relationships. So, moving into this year, how do you, like, what do you feel like your touch points that you’re going to have with the members this season, the members of USA Swimming?

00:06:28 – Brendan

You know, I think some of it is, and I brought up the word mindset and then you kind of brought up the concept of just being a little bit vulnerable to the aspect that this could be a snowball rolling down the hill and it may seem like an avalanche, but if you build a plan and a strategy, you can easily get yourself out of it. And I think that’s where we both come in with solutions to help teams and clubs with that. The key stakeholder in a lot of that is our coaches.


Our coaches, um, a lot of times have the mindset of, well, it worked last year, so it should work this year. Whereas we can both, you know, outside the benefit for you and I is that I’m not in the grind every day. I’m not, I’m not there 24/7. I don’t have the parent emails in my inboxes. So, I can take a step back and look at it from 5,000-foot view and say, hey, here are the areas where you need to, to focus on and be strategic and help you moving forward. So.


Our number one stakeholder and touch point that we want to hit on in this next year as we end the 24 quad and go into Paris is going to be our coaches between our coach education program, which I’m going to really heavily push on to our younger coaches or older coaches are like, hey, been there, done that. I don’t want to mess with that. I’m not going to try to teach an old dog new tricks. I am going to encourage them to do that. But our younger one-to-five-year coaches, I’m going to really push them to say, you need to continue to learn.


You really need to. You need to touch on these, these programs that are going to help you get to that next level. Because a lot of our young coaches are doing two things. One, they’re going off of the way that they were coached or the club that they were a part of is the club that they want to build, which isn’t always necessarily the right for the marketplace or it’s right for the community that they’re touching on or the area that they’re going into to be successful.


One of the biggest or the greatest advantages that we have in this country is the diversity for our clubs to be the way that they want to be. That also means that that coach, the person, the key stakeholder that we want to work with, they have to be somewhat of a chameleon and they have to be aware of what they’re walking into and understand how their mission and vision is going to directly affect the community that they’re walking into. That is my number one focus for the team moving forward is how to how can we support our coaches and it’s not like, oh,


I do it for the passion. I want this to be professional. I want them to feel like a professional in the world where there’s a lot of clout to being a USA swimming coach and, and being very proud of the business that you create rather than a burden. And I wouldn’t say that’s all across the place, but a lot of our clubs that are extremely successful and Renata, I’d love for you to touch on this, but like a lot of our clubs that are successful, they’re not doing anything outside of the norm or anything out extravagant to be successful. It’s really the nuts and bolts, you know, of what is business 101, right?

00:09:20 – Renata

Yeah, they’re committed to the process of being a successful organization. And I think whether it’s perfect or not, they’re figuring out a way to build the relationship with the board, holding both sides accountable. So, they make sure that all the work is covered and done instead of that kind of that in-fighting of, well, it’s the coach’s fault.


Well, it’s the board’s fault. No, it’s the leadership’s fault. What are all the things that we need to do? And I think those are the biggest areas where you could probably make an impact with, you know, with these younger coaches, because listen, you would think that swimming or coaching, swimming or club coaching is pretty standard across the board and at a high level it is.


But when you get into the nuts and bolts of the business, like you say, it depends on the team culture, the area you’re in, your parents, like it depends on a lot. So, while there might be a high level overall, this is how it is across the board. You’re gonna have like those nuances for each individual organization. And I think if club coaches can keep that in mind and understand that, yeah, you may not have a great board right now.


But you do need to divide and conquer on that dry and wet side. You can’t do everything, and the board can’t do everything. So, both sides need to be a bit realistic about their approach with each other, which means you have to have a plan. You have to have a strong working relationship. And unfortunately, that takes a bit of commitment to get out of a hole in those areas. Like both sides have to really be committed and that’s not a, I would imagine, I mean, you tell me if I’m wrong, that’s not something that these coaches coming up really truly understand the relationship dynamic.


And the dynamic just working with the board is really difficult. Now I know there’s coach owned teams that they have their own set of things because they are completely running the business by themselves and that’s pretty overwhelming. I just like the fact that you said that it’s not all the same across the board and it’s really not about the size. It’s about the structure of the business and how you operate and how you move forward, So.

00:11:31 – Brendan

And it gives you the autonomy as a coach to build what you want to build. Right. And at the end of the day, I want, I want our coach members to be really proud of what they’ve built and I want them to know that they have the support and listen, coaches rely heavily on analogies. They do it all the time when they’re coaching athletes. And this is really a situation where, and what I’ve loved you say is like.


I think the first step in all of this to move in that direction is take ownership of the situation, right? And I think he, as coaches on the pool deck, say that all the time, a kid doesn’t swim the way you want them to or not. And the first thing you say is like, take ownership of that time. Now let’s look at the village. Let’s take a step back. Let’s analyze the race. Let’s analyze the situation as an athlete and understand, was it strategic things that you did in practice? Was it not showing up? Were there all these variables that were controllables for you?


You and I can take that exact same analogy of a coach telling an athlete that and turn that directly into what you and I do in the field with our clubs, which is like, you are consistently swimming poorly, yet you’re not changing all of these controllable variables. Right? And to your point, like you have to take a step back and understand and go through the process of, because again, that athlete might be like, oh, the next race is gonna be the best race. And I’m telling you, I just, I didn’t warm up enough.


No, there are so many foundational blocks that point into you not being able to do that. Right. Yeah. I think it’s the ownership. It’s the willingness to take the chance. It’s the same to go there and listen, I think a lot of coaches out there are, they want to be head coaches, but they don’t realize the shift of, um, you can be a head coach, but if you fall in love with just the aspect of working on the pool deck and working with athletes, you’re not head coach material. No. If you look at our educational program,


As it shifts from the initial development of athletes, ADM, our American Development Model, going into senior level swimming, and then it goes into head coach, you see the shift in content and curriculum go from wet, wet, wet, wet, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, right? And I think we don’t see that natural shift organically in the market, right?


With our coaches, as they go, they go, but I just, but Renata, I just love coaching athletes and I love doing that. I understand that, but you are running a business. And so, you need to understand what relationship you need to have with the board, what you need to have with your LSC, the resources that are out there for you to be successful.

00:13:56 – Renata

Even the relationship with your coaches, I think that’s a very different shift. And a lot of I’ve been caught when I first started, a lot of coaches are like, that’s so corporate. We, you know, we don’t need to know that. And I’m like, wait a minute. You have people reporting into you. You telling me that you’re only going to pay attention to the dude who’s standing on deck with you? What about all your other coaches? Right? So, it’s not corporate.


It’s just proper leadership and I don’t fault them. I mean, that’s kind of how you came up through the coaching atmosphere, you know, but you know, that’s just one of those things, you know, even with your coaching staff and your leadership, the quickest way to elevate your club across the board is to invest in your coaches.


I know you want to wholeheartedly jump in and invest in your swimmers, but boy, if you want to lift your, your club across the board, that’s putting time in as much time into that developmental coach as your assistant head coach or your assistant senior coach, you know, that kind of thing.

00:14:52 – Brendan

And you see it right. Renata, with our clubs, that are our best clubs that we have out there that are operating business, operating at a high level, they’re producing those coaches that can then go be a head coach somewhere else. So, you know, couldn’t agree more.

00:14:59 – Renata

Yeah, absolutely. It’s out there. So, you’ve had a bit of success with facilitating calls specific to the 10 and under coaches. Are you, why don’t you tell us a bit about that? And then are you planning on expanding it to, you know, age group and I guess maybe even your seniors?

00:15:24 – Brendan

Yeah. So, listen, I’m not going to sit here and say I’m reinventing the wheel. We’re not, I think there’s a lot of, I think the biggest, the biggest thing we need to understand on this call is that there’s a lot of resources out there for coaches and clubs to be successful. And, and one thing that I continue to learn in this role.


And one thing that has is probably the most challenging aspect of my job at USA swimming is the fact that my opinion does not matter, you know, the further I get away from being on the pool deck, the further I get away from my last Olympic games, yes, I get asked questions about breaststroke and, you know, how do I work with this athlete? The one-off stuff works, but at the same time, like.


I’m very aware of the fact, Renata, that the less I’m in the grind, the less my opinion matters on that. So you and I are very much like the facilitators of a lot of us. It’s a lot of us asking those questions to get you to think deeper into what you really want to accomplish, right? And that’s an art form. And so what I really wanted to do was pilot a program to really create a space for coaches to do that.


This started in 2021 on the outskirts of COVID. We started a 10 and Under program. The reason we started with Ten and Under is just one, I hired Dana Skelton who is like the Yoda of this space. She’s phenomenal in it. She’s super passionate about it. So, I knew I had the man, the power to do this, right? Internally had the power to do it. But then also we were realizing that our membership was shifting to our Ten and Under, our Twelve and Under membership was going and declining.


So, we were not servicing our 12 and under membership or they didn’t feel valued at the level that they wanted to stay in the sport. Okay. So, when you’re losing that base, we started there. That was very strategic on our part. The initial aspect was let’s pull the coaches that teach 10 and under swimmers and understand where their snagging, sticking points are, resources that they would need. Let’s let the coaches drive the conversation. Let’s do our due diligence to build those resources, start those conversations.


The calls took off within first two, three months, they went from a hundred coaches to 500 coaches. Now we have a, you know, it’s like you’re reaching that level. And I think what we have done is, um, create that space again, where coaches when I, and I’ve said this since day one, when coaches are talking to other coaches about being better coaches, the athlete always wins. And you said it best, which was coaches need to back each other up. They need to teach each other. They need to work with each other because if they just focus on the athletes,


They’re not, they’re not going to improve as a coach and they’re not going to be staff to get them where they want to be. So, we’re just creating a space with these monthly calls to get there. There with the success of that one, why would we not go to an 11 to 14 community, which we’re going to launch in the fall of 24, or I’m sorry, this, this fall. And as well as senior level swimming.


Um, senior level swimming is not a junior national or sectional level swimmers higher. It’s really your high school swimmers, your kids that are 13, 14, 15 years old that are just starting out in the sport. Hey, I played basketball and baseball and soccer. Don’t want to do it anymore, but I want to join swimming. And for a lot of our clubs, it’s an untapped revenue resource for them to be successful. So, we’re really excited about launching the 11 to 14. We’re also excited about launching the senior. Um, and honestly, like I’d love to go into the details and the nitty gritty of it all, but I don’t know it.


And the reason I don’t know it is because I don’t drive it. Our team doesn’t drive it internally at USA Swimming. We want our clubs to do, our coaches to do that. And when we started this conversation of how are we gonna invest more into our coaches, one of the areas to start this and you’re doing a nice job of it in this space as well is creating these opportunities, these touch points for these key stakeholders to really be like, oh wow, I didn’t even think of that. I didn’t even, I didn’t ever ask my staff that question. When we create that type of thought process. Again, we’re forced to be reckoned with as a community.

00:19:20 – Renata

I love the sharing because I, you know, I tell people all the time that coaches like really play the cards close to their chest. Like they’re afraid to expose that there might be a little chink in the armor or that, you know, they feel like they got something amazing that they need to hold onto it. And I think I love the fact that you’re opening that door for them to have that conversation in a way, it’s kind of like a mentorship program or even a, what do they call it, a mastermind where somebody’s like, I got this problem.


They’re brave enough to speak up about that problem. And then there’ll be so many people who will go, oh my God, I’m experiencing the same thing. And then you’ll have people that’ll step up and go, this is what I tried. It failed miserably, but I corrected and I did this. And you may not follow the same path, but you, you’ll pick up something that may work for the specifics of your organization.


And I love that knowledge transfer and that knowledge share and that investment in each other of being better for the swimming industry as a whole. I think that’s an amazing opportunity for coaches. So, I hope a lot of them are at least popping in when they can. Like if you can’t make every month or week or whatever it is, then that’s okay. But like take advantage of the opportunity of that call being open to you and, and share and see what you can find out. I love it.

00:20:39 – Brendan

And you said it, we know, I’ll tell the tell the group we you and I met for a while and ask him we sat in the lobby. And it’s funny, because we’re just like, everybody was walking by us as you know, we’re going on. And we’re not talking about what are they? We’re like nodding our heads. And we’re just like reiterating the same thing. And one of the things that you brought up on that conversation, and I’d love for you to touch on it is just like, and I think at that point, I’m like, Yep, Yep, we’re in the same boat.


Going up the same river, trying to do the same thing. And you were like, listen, it comes down to relationships and communication. If it, those two things, and like, that’s what we’re trying to create here with these communities, with these, these opportunities is those relationships. And then that communication, because are some of our best coaches are introverts. You know, they, they’re, you think about it, they put themselves on an island when they sit out there on the pool deck and coach athletes.


And so, there’s, they don’t, they’re maybe they’re their own demeanor as a person, their behavior aspects of them doesn’t really want to put them very few coaches want to stand up in front of ASCA crowd and give a full-on keynote talk about development of athletes. They, they don’t want that. This is a much more intimate relationship, like a situation to where your point, you could just be a fly on the wall and taking notes and I’m never in mute and pay attention to be like, I stole three nuggets from that meeting. And I think they’re being extremely valuable because the way I realized it’s successful is by the number of people that want to keep coming back to it and making it a priority in their day to be there.

00:22:11 – Renata

I think what would be, I don’t know how you put a metric behind this, but I think what also would be successful is if the people that are on the call are hearing from the older coaches or the successful coaches from an operational perspective and can pull them in as a mentor, pick up the phone or write an email and say, I would love to, you know, can we have regular conversations one on one? So, you know, I would love to have you as a mentor. And I just think that would be amazing.


One of the things I ask the head coaches all the time is who’s your mentor? Who are you learning from? Right? So, I mean, it’s one thing for me to talk about relationships and how to build and all that, but I think they need to hear those kinds of conversations from their own as well. Not only about what’s been successful, but what they tried and failed and why it failed. Like you could reduce so much pain and years of failing forward learning, you know, there’s value to that.


You can reduce the learning timeframe when you share what didn’t work as much as you share what did work. So, I would love to see those even like blossom into more mentorship-type of relationships because you’ve opened the door, USA Swimming has opened the door for them to have those closer conversations with each other. So, I think that would be great.

00:23:34 – Brendan

Let’s talk a little bit about this mentorship thing because I think there’s opportunity here and you and I, we’ve talked about this on a pool deck, I can’t remember where it was, but just like. I think our younger coaches need to take more initiative in the mentorship space, right? Like, I think there’s a lot of hesitation to go talk to these elite coaches or talk to these, you know, successful coaches. And they’re like, well, I called them once, but then I’m waiting to hear back from them.


Or like, I’m trying to figure out, and you’re like, that’s not how mentorship works. Like, you should be knocking on the door. They’re there for you, and you’ve built that pathway, but you’ve got to keep coming to them with problems and challenges and things that you have. And like I said earlier, there’s an overwhelming amount of resources out there for coaches.


And I think if you really sat down with our, our best business coaching people that have built programs, they’re an open book. They’ll be happy to share with you the, you know, the challenges and the, and hey, be careful what you sign up for. You know, you may hear what you ask, but at the same time, like there’s power in knowledge. Right. And I feel like, I think there’s an aspect of, um, of really teaching our coaches how to be a good mentee, right?


And how you need to get more out of your mentor. I mean, I think one of the biggest benefits that I had as a coach and building my program was as an athlete, I’d already built all those relationships with all those elite coaches. So, I was like, in a sense of like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, I was like one degree of separation from the problem that I was dealing with and I could go right to that person and say, okay, how did I screw this up?


How can I be better? Why can’t I get a kid that’s over 400? Or why are my parents flipping out at me? I feel like I’m doing a good job. No, you’re not. But I was also humble enough to ask the questions and get there. And I think that’s some of that was where the hesitation is to reach out to you or I, right? Is to say like, well, I don’t really deal with it and it becomes a fire. Like, don’t.


We got to stop this reactionary concept and go more proactive. Right. And to your point, it’s like, stop, recognize what’s happening, analyze it, bring in somebody else from the outside, and let’s really move you in the direction that you want to go because you don’t have to continue to grind. And you don’t have to spend 40 hours a week on the pool deck and 30 hours a week in the office and think that you can have a healthy relationship with your family outside of that. Because I can give you-


00:25:57 – Renata

Coaches are always, they’re so overwhelmed and they’re like, we don’t have enough time to do that. And it’s like, you don’t have enough time because you’re chasing your problems. Instead of taking a step and being proactive, you would be amazed that. Yeah. I mean, and none of the programs kind of like it when I say this, but when you are converting from being reactionary to proactive, yeah, your workload’s going to jump up because you’re trying to fix as you’re creating plans.


But once you get into that plan mode and executing on those plans, all the time that you spent trying to put out fires and chase down problems goes away. You actually put more time into your workday and your workspace, trying to convert from stomping out fires to putting steps forward. So, I do wanna go back to your one statement about the mentors.


It’s one thing that Jack Roach talks about all the time is like once they get over the fear of asking for help, and you know, Jack is probably one of the coaches that always says yes, but you know, when they ask for help and they reach out to him for conversation, he, you know, one of the things is he’s not gonna chase that coach down for further conversations. Like it’s up to you as the mentee to consistently have check-ins and make it your purpose to follow through with that mentor.


It’s not the mentor trying to chase you down and have a conversation with you, however often you feel like that needs to be. So, I think one, you know, try to break out of your bonds and ask for that help. And if there’s a coach that says they really don’t have time, that’s not a personal thing. That’s literally, they don’t have time. Go find another one, you know, go find another coach that you can talk to.


And then when you have a coach that says, yeah, I’m open to conversations, then, you need to make it part of your planning and proactive process to set up a regular schedule, or at least set a reminder in your phone or on your calendar that says, hey, have I checked in with so-and-so this month, whether I have a question or not, it’d be good to like just kind of keep that relationship active. And I think if people who want to be mentored can get over those two little steps, it will just help them by leaps and bounds as a leader themselves. And it doesn’t have to be a head coach. You can be any coach, right?

00:28:25 – Brendan

I mean, I get a lot of, a lot of my mentors are folks that aren’t even in the swimming industry, you know, that are that are level up on the business side of things. And then, yeah, because I think we can get too much into the, well, it’s only in swimming is where this happens. That is not the case. Like what you’re spitting out to when you’re talking to clubs about the business, you know, aspects of things and the dry side of it.


That is what you will learn in the first year of getting your MBA. Like those are the things that you’re going to. So, it’s everybody always thinks like, well, oh, it’s just, the only problems we have are in swimming. That’s sorry, man. There are a lot of 501 C3s out there. There’s a lot of like, I can give you Fortune 500 companies that struggle with their boards, right? Like, so I do, I do want to like take a step back to and say, I mentioned, like, I don’t.


I don’t want people to think that like, I have all the answers because I’ll tell you like, COVID really challenged us internally at USA Swimming. You know, and we ended up getting very reactionary throughout that. It was very challenging. We had, we realized we did not have great relationships with our LSCs and we had to create better communication lines and we had to create better relationships. So, you know, I think it’s really important to share the fact that like,


You know, I think every organization is always going to be challenged by these variables. And it’s like culture, if you don’t garden it, take care of it, it can get out of hand really quickly. Right. And you have, and I, and as we talk about the 24 year and ending this quad, I get really excited about the fact for the first time since 20 and 21, I feel like we really have a plan.


We really have great touchpoints. We know strategically where we want to go. It’s funny, it’s like I took a Renata and Brendan class and I’m like, okay, now I’m ready to go, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. And execute and I’m excited to share that with the community. I’m excited to get that out to the coaches, give them the opportunity. Let’s test running on some things and then let’s really build this into like building healthier and stronger clubs as we go into an Olympic quad where the Olympic games are in our house, right? So, we’ve got time to do that.


And I just, I don’t want to say that our healthier clubs have to create athletes that go to the Olympic games. But when you have an Olympic games in your home country, that is the biggest, greatest marketing ploy you could ever ask for in your entire life if you’re building a business.


And I think to your point, let’s continue to prime the pump, and let’s get these clubs in a position to capitalize on an LA games in 28. And that’s not something that we can address in 26 or 27. Let’s start this now. Let’s get a couple of years of really good books, really good relationships, really good communication, good mentors, and absolutely crush in 28.

00:31:16 – Renata

Yeah, absolutely. So, I want to go back to the LSCs, but first, since you brought it up, let’s talk about the quad. So, what does that look like? I mean, is there any like touch points or, um, and when, will there be information that’ll be on the site that, you know, that, that your clubs can read about as far as the next quad?

 00:31:32 – Brendan

Yeah, so for the next quad, I think that the things that were, were and there are some of the friction that we have with our clubs right now and it’s like we USA swimming is this and USA swimming is that and there’s some things that like I can’t control and this is things that I’ve educated you on and told you like these are like the Red Cross can’t control it and I’m working to build a better relationship there so that we can get certifications easier for coaches that they’re not having to deal with that.


The Center for Safe Sport is an entity from Congress that I have to have to build a relationship with and advocate for our coaches on behalf of the USOPC that gives us money every year is also the same boat. You can, they’re not going to write you a check and not ask for something in return, right? So. I’m constantly lobbying for the coaches and the communities to create that space for them to go do what they need to do, but then also understand that at some point, I have to meet them halfway on a lot of these areas.


So, some of that is that challenge there for us to be successful. But the next quad, I think some of the things that we’re gonna try to do a really better job of is creating a better communication line. We understand that only like 15% of our emails are clicked through and even though giving out that information, it may not be hitting, right?


So it’s like some other creative ways that we can be communicating with our coaches. Is that through our LSCs? Is that through our coaches reps? Is that through these communities that we create, 10 and under, 11, 14, senior, that kind of stuff?


How can we get more information and readily available to our coaches? The last thing, I can’t stress this enough. I did not wake up this morning, nor did you, to try to make our coaches have a worse day. I don’t know how else I could say that. I get calls and they’re like, why are you doing this? I’m like, listen, man, I didn’t wake up today going like, how can I stick it to them?

00:33:22 – Renata

How can I ruin your day?

00:33:22 – Brendan

Yeah, it’s like that’s not the case and so I. And so, everything that we’re doing and so again, I think it boils down to a little bit of communication. One of those is with our competition schedule, right? It’s really under the influence of what our international schedule comes out looking like, and then we have to then it’s like a domino effect, right?


So, when World Aquatics comes out with their international schedule for the quad, then we backfill all of our national offerings from there, starting from trials all the way down from that perspective. Well, the World Aquatics does not care when they tell USA Swimming what that is, right? So, it’s like at the mercy of like, well, I’m waiting on so and so to give me this so I can give it to you. And it’s like, I’m stuck in this middle ground of like, I can push only so hard here.


And I can, I hear you, I know you want the schedule. And the reason they want the schedule is that, so that they can do all of the things that you’re teaching them when I teach them is like, I want to need to budget, I need to communicate with my parents, I need to get, make sure that my community knows what’s going on. So, I’ve made a really big initiative internally for us to make sure that we’re as cleaned up and as buttoned up as we can be with getting that information out to them because that is a key pillar to their success.


The sooner that they have that information, the sooner that they can really pivot if they have to pivot, double down if they have to double down, right? Our businesses know how to move forward if that’s the case. So that’s one of the things with the quad is like, can we get things out sooner to our members to facilitate some of those opportunities for them and really capitalize on that? Another thing is, like I said before, one of the things I really wanna focus on is we gain a hundred clubs a year and we lose a hundred clubs a year.


And that bothers me because again, that’s something that you and I can control. Right. Like we’re out in the business trying to help with those clubs and helping get through where we want to do. So, our new club application that we’re working on through right now is really to, is to have strategic touchpoints. Well outside of the initial, Hey, congratulations, you’re a USA Swimming Club. Here are all the resources that you have. Be sure to hop in, you know, and then, and then I don’t hear from you until you, Renata, you call me. You’re like.


Like I don’t know what to do. And I’m like, yeah, you should have called me two months ago. And so being more deliberate and intentional, again, proactive in this quad of saying, Hey, you’re a new club. I’m going to call you in a month. I’m going to call you in a year. I’m going to call you 18 months out. I’m going to, I’m, and I want to check in with you from a team services perspective. I have the manpower now to do it. I have the space to do it.


And to your point, just as much as we’re pushing our clubs to shift into that proactive role. This next quad, I understand that there are things that we can’t control. COVID, national disasters, things like that. We’re always going to be reactive in that space.

00:36:16 – Renata

But the more you plan for your business, the better able you are to handle those massive things.

00:36:22 – Brendan

I have never heard you say that, Renata. That is so crazy. How did I just tee up your tagline?

00:36:28 – Renata

Yeah. Sorry.


00:36:31 – Brendan

No, that was perfect. That was perfect. Yeah.

00:36:33 – Renata

So are you saying the team is like, they’re, your team is going to make, um, like you’ve kind of given the edict of how often they’re going to be talking to these newer or smaller clubs on a regular basis. Like, is that a new process for them that you’re putting in place? I don’t want to hold you to that if that’s not, that’s not a formality right now, but I’m just, I’m just trying to understand.


So, maybe these smaller clubs that are listening or new clubs that are listening can understand that they’ll be talking to your team more often.

00:37:04 – Brendan

They need to talk to our team more often, right? And not outside of when they have a problem. If they, if they sit down with their staff and have a goal sheet of what they want to accomplish, that’s a perfect opportunity. Again, I’m not always the answer, but I’m a facilitator, right? If you come to me and say, here are the things that I want to do, and here’s what I want to try to do. I may push you onto three other clubs that are doing it right now. And I can meet you in that space.


And mold that relationship between you and a club within 500 miles of you that’s been doing this right now. Because again, I mean,

00:37:34 – Renata

I love that connector attitude. That’s awesome.

00:37:36 – Brendan

Yeah. Sometimes I feel like we’re switchboards, right? We’re like, okay, here we go. I’ll put you over here. I’ll move you over here. So, there’s that piece of it. But listen, Swims 3.0, as much as challenging from the registration side as it was last year, we’re getting really clean data from that now. And so, I really want to teach.


Uh, one of the things that we’re going to do in this next squad is really teach our coaches and our businesses, how to use the reporting tools, how to understand the dashboards of performance, right? I want to run you through that as well so that you have the ability to say, guys, listen, this is like no-brainer. I can walk you through how to use this dashboard and we can really facilitate the, the, uh, the metrics that you have and it’ll tell you the story so that we’re not going down to like mom-and-pop shop type narrative. Right. And.


So one of the reasons the board pushed us so hard on the digital transformation was that, was to create that reporting, was to create healthier clubs. And so that doesn’t come without a little bit of pain. Everything that’s worth it doesn’t, right? Does, but so that’s one of the things that we’re gonna really try to engage with our membership on is that, is the reporting aspect of it, is teaching them those things.


And bringing it into those avenues, those channels that we’re going to create with people so that they know what they’re getting, right? I, right. If coaches are coming to me and you saying, I don’t have time for this and I don’t have time for that. The last thing that you and I want to do is waste time. Right. Like, I do want to stress on the call that like, if I’m bringing you something, it is not something that I wrote on the back of a napkin in a restaurant talking to you or a lobby, right? Like it’s well thought out. It’s been well vetted.


I’ve piloted it with some clubs that are willing to do that. And now if I’m bringing it to you, like if it’s stamped with the brand of USA swimming, it’s got validity behind it. And I think we don’t give ourselves as a community enough credit in that space. I don’t think we do enough of that. And this next quad, I really think we need to rely heavily on some of those aspects and we’ll have better relationships and better communication.

00:39:40 – Renata

Absolutely. All right. I want to shift to LSCs. So, you know, I think we talked at ASCA at the clinic that, you know, we as an organization are trying to start working with the LSCs. We are working with one right now, Middle Atlantic. And we see the value in working with them and helping to bring more resources or opportunities to the clubs from an operational space.


Now, I know you guys are you’re on the same path you’ve been developing or strengthening your path with your LSCs. So, what do you, I know you have a meeting this week with your LSCs. So, maybe not what the meeting’s about, but what is, what is USA Swimming’s or your outlook for your relationship with the LSCs over the next year or coming years?

00:40:31 – Brendan

I think you got to address the elephant in the room right off the bat, right? And, um, and that is like, it’s like the LSC is a necessary evil, not from the aspect of the entity aspect of it. But when you’re the community looking like if you’re, if I’m a club program and I’m talking about my LSC, rarely are the comments positive. Most of the times they’re negative. Oh, they make me do this. They make me do that. I don’t ever see the, I don’t see the reward or the return on investment of my time in that space. And we have to shift that because the LSCs have play a very pivotal role in the success of creating opportunity experiences for our members.


And when they’re operating at an extremely high level, those experiences are phenomenal. Like they are killer. And it really, like when you hear Tim Hinchey, our CEO say like best in class, a lot of those opportunities at the local level that are best in class are coming from a very high-level LSC that’s operating at a high level, and is investing in that time and taking the time to do that. So, one of the things that we really kind of took a step back and say, okay, and again, ownership.


Like where are we missing the boat? How can we be better? Right? I preach what I do, what I preach, right? It was like, let’s find a way to make the general chair position like a legit, like I want that on my resume. I want that role. I want to feel like that leader, but I don’t ever felt like we held their hand or helped them in that onboarding process and getting them into a space where they knew what policies and procedures were, what the LSC bylaws were, what their expectations were.


What our expectations at USA Swimming for them to do that? Again, all of that is the LSCs relationship to USA Swimming, as well as how are we gonna communicate? Like, what is our, like, you know, it’s kind of an initial speed dating mentality. So, this week at annual business meeting, we started, we’re gonna launch our general chairs onboarding educational offering that we’re gonna do. We have 49 of our 59 LSCs coming in, which for the first year, I think is great.


Um, and, and our goal is really to set them up for success, right? Um, give them one, lay the groundwork. We’re bringing in a lot of speakers that are like high-level stakeholders in the LSCs that have been very successful. Again, not USA Swimming staff telling people what to do, but USA Swimming staff facilitating with our best out there to be better. Um, and so it’s a lot, it’s kind of think of it as a launch party. Uh, we’re gonna, we’re gonna periodically do, um, touchpoints throughout the year, probably six to eight of those a year.


Again, with very much the same mentality that you have, which is like those active deliverables on the back end. Okay, talk about X, but I want Y at the next meeting and I wanna work with that in that space to get you there. So, I think the goal is like, I want people to be proud that they were the general chair of their LSC. And right now I get, at least from the, when I was coaching at Austin Swimming Club, let’s go back to that. If I was still coaching there the year after I left,


I’m pretty sure I would have, they would, everyone would have been looking at me saying, you’re the one that’s got a great relationship with the USA Swimming. You’ve got all these things like, raise your hand, we want you to be general chair. And I would have been like, well, I don’t know what I’m signing up for. I don’t know what I’m doing. Like what resources are there? And my first approach to that would have been call other general chairs and find out how to be successful. We don’t necessarily see that all the time, but what I also don’t want is like, well, I guess I drew the short straw, so I’ll be the general chair of the LSC. That’s not the route we want to go.

00:44:13 – Renata

But that’s also the same route that a lot of these club presidents do. You know, they’re like, I don’t know what I need to do, but I’m, you know, that’s a different topic. 

00:44:21 – Brendan

But that’s where you align so well.

00:44:24 – Renata

I love the fact that you were trying to pull them together and, you know, in their process and what they’re to deliver as an LSC and then, you know, whatever else that LSC wants to deliver to their clubs. Because I, you know, honestly, yes, there’s some LSCs that are doing a great job. But one of the things that I started doing when I’m first meeting some of these clubs and working with them, um, is how is your relationship with the LSC? And what does the LSC do? And I was really surprised. And this is something that I challenged Jamie with when we start first started working together at Middle Atlantic.


I was like, do you think your clubs know exactly what you do outside of sanctioning meets? And he was wholeheartedly, yes, absolutely, they know what we do. And then he challenged his belief at the previous ASCA World Conference, I think is where he did it. He didn’t go to this year, he went to the one before. And he met with some of his own people and asked them, what is it that Middle Atlantic does? And they do a lot of things.


So sometimes it could just be a communications situation kind of like you, like they need to understand what we deliver and how we deliver that we’ve vetted this and that there’s, there’s stuff behind it. You know, it’s not just, you know, Brendan or Jamie just chucking stuff out the window. Um, but I’m glad that he did that exercise because I think that some of the LSCs really feel like they do a lot and deliver a lot. But if your clubs don’t know that.


You know, so I love the fact that you’re kind of pulling them together and putting them on the same page to, you know, what should you be doing? And not every LSC is going to do the same thing, right? But I think as long as you can really kind of at least have some basic, basics that they are going to deliver and agree that they are going to deliver across the board, I think that’s an absolute step in the right direction. So.


00:46:31 – Brendan

Look, to pull this whole thing in full circle, the best thing that Jamie did in that space was realize that he, what he thought was what was going on was not the case. And he has shifted into getting reinvesting into resources and moving that ship in the right direction. And listen, that’s exactly what we do here at USA Swimming. I work my tail end off.


Right. And I assume that car clubs know that I wake up every morning trying to make them better on our coaches, better and try to find ways. And I pushed this internal team to be successful. Like if you want to go back to the athlete of me on the pool deck, that is exactly the way I approach this job every day. But I also have to stop and sit there and ask the question of, how effective are we being like have reflection on where’s our camp system, the return on investment that our members want?


Are we, are we pushing our athletes and developing them? Are we giving our coaches what we need? And a lot of times like it’s like you’ve said to me before is like, hey, you can ask all the questions, but be careful what answers you get back. Yeah. You know, because you’re going to have to pivot on those. Um, and you’re going to have to react to those. And so.


I feel like we’re in a good space right now to where one, I know the membership and the clubs enough and the coaches enough to ask the right questions. Now I want to build trust with that community, with my internal staff, by executing on the things that they come back to me with. Right. But I also needed, there also has to be an aspect of education and grace. And we’ll do this with our general chairs this week of them understanding how an NGB operates. What does that mean? What does that relationships? Cause I don’t.


I don’t necessarily that they know that they know what our relationship with the USOPC is or the Center for Safe Sport. And if they come to us and say, these are requirements that we want for you, my ends are kind of tied at that point, right? And I have to execute on that. So, I think what the nice thing is, is that the scenarios that we’re talking about at the granular level of coach to staff is very similar to coach to LSC, which is very similar to LSC to USA swimming.


Which I think when you and I talk, I walk away more energetic and more excited about what we can do because at the end of the day, we all have the same challenges. And so, it’s not like, okay, how are we gonna deal with this pillar? How are you and Renata, you and I gonna handle this side? And then it’s like, you can really put all of this in the same, let’s just use or find a pool, right? We can use the same and let’s figure out how to be successful. And that’s why I always wanna support folks out there that are doing the same things that I’m doing.


And you and I have been aligned and I do want to put on the call that, you know, I want better relationships with those people as well. You and I talked about meeting once a month and kind of like you hearing, what am I hearing? You know, because I think again, when I say two coaches talking, the athlete wins. I think when you and I talk, the club wins. So, I’m really passionate about that. And I, and I just applaud you for what you’ve been doing in this space. And, and I just appreciate your support and bringing me on here to be successful in what I’m trying to do at USA Swimming.

00:49:31 – Renata

Thanks for that. Well, I think we all, even LSCs and all the boards, they ultimately, everybody has the desire to deliver to their membership and do the best that they can for the swimming industry, wherever they touch the swimming industry. And I think that’s the same for us as an organization. I want to help these clubs be the best that they can be. Sometimes that means we got to shake them up a little bit and kind of call out BS when there’s BS.

00:50:06 – Brendan

It’s not like you at all, Renata.


00:50:07 – Renata

No, no, no. You know, send, let’s have a love hate relationship with me. Cause a lot of times they’re like, yeah, yeah, yeah. But then when I turn the turn from looking at the staff to looking at them of going, okay, now where’s your responsibility? Where’s your structure? Where’s your process? Why are you involved? Just because of your kid? No, no, no. You’re the board president. You’re the leader of an organization. Like let’s think about this as a business.


So, but I think that overall, I don’t think any of us can lose, whether you’re the executive at an LSC, if you’re me, if you’re Matt, an advisor on my team, if it’s you or anybody on your team, we’re not going to lose as long as we go through that process of pushing and asking questions and expecting or asking for, you know, at least a minimum standard of leveling up the organizations for a well-run business, because then we serve our members, we serve our community, we develop elevated and amazing Olympic athletes.


But we also elevate what we do and deliver to those young athletes as well. And we help them become wonderful young adults. Same thing with our young coaches. You know, we keep these coaches in the industry. You know, there’s that mass exodus that’s been happening for a while. And I think when we are able to kind of build up those, not just the resources from the technical perspective of what the coaches need, but when we invest,


as a whole into our coaches and helping them learn how to build relationships, how to be great leaders, how to navigate a difficult board, or how to ask a board for help or expect them to deliver on certain things. Like all those kinds of things are nerve wracking, but they need to be done. So, the more support we can give in those areas, just the better the organizations will be. And that’ll just spread out across the board. You know, I don’t know, maybe I’m a pie in the sky type person, but that’s my thought process.


00:52:16 – Brendan

I feel like you have to, you have to live up there in this sport if you want to be relevant or be consistently good.

00:52:23 – Renata

Yeah. All right. Do you have any last thoughts or comments for us?

00:52:26 – Brendan

No, other than the fact that I am eight minutes late for a meeting. I love connecting with you and thank you for having me on.

00:52:37 – Renata

I really appreciate it. All right. Thank you, Brendan. And thank you everybody for joining us today. Please make sure that you share a podcast so we can grow our audience. Thanks all.