We were having a staff meeting today discussing how we would present our program to a group of new swimmers and parents. One of our coaches, David Winters, used the word "co-curricular" in the most interesting and fascinating way.
We are working diligently to get our senior training group swimmers ready for the challenges facing them when they go into a collegiate swim program. It is not merely enough for them to have fast times; they need to be ready to handle the work load often required by top level programs regardless of in which Division the school resides.
In our area the Summer Swim League is so dominant that it often dwarfs the US Swimming programs. Since the League only swims 50's of the various strokes all the way through the 14 year olds, when we get a swimmer from one of those recreation programs they have no idea how to swim 100's and 200's let alone a 500. And amazingly the swimmers and their parents think that it is not that big a deal to step up to the longer distances and often have unrealistic expectations about the learning process.
So we were thinking about a good way to explain this to the new group we are cultivating. We likened it to the scholastic process. If your child is headed to say Harvard for an engineering degree but doesn't take the necessary math classes in high school, including Advanced Placement ones, he/she will be so far behind the curve as a freshman in college that success will be darned hard to come by.
We also reckon that many parents look at US Swimming as an "extra-curricular" activity when in fact it can be a major influence in a) where the student athlete goes to college and b) her/his ability to actually gain admission to the school of their choice.
David was correctly suggesting that we change their mindset to one where US Swimming is regarded as in fact co-curricular so that they view its potential more seriously. Getting admitted to college is so competitive these days that any edge can make the difference. Being a recruited member of that college's swim program - again regardless of the Division of the school - often makes or breaks acceptance. We have swimmers on our team who can attest to this fact.
So, as you go about the business of "selling" your program to future and current participants perhaps you can frame your points of reference in such a way that they better understand the "value added" of what you deliver. Good luck and let us know how it goes for you!