RRCA State Rep?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why Be A Member Of A RRCA Club?

Local bulletin boards are lots of fun to read. Sometimes the letters are a teachable moment:
Having re-joined the local RRCA club after several years away from running due to health issues, I was looking forward to the newsletter. All the information for up-coming events and also information concerning other races (brochures) in the area was one of the big reasons for me re-joining the club. And now I have been a member for a couple of months and nothing. What is going on? What are the dues for? I have tried to get information from the website and it does not seem to be updated all that often. And when I sent emails to the race director listed for a race on a couple of occasions I never received any response. So I am wondering why I should be a member of the member club? - Chris

Chris - welcome back into the "running family." When you filled out your membership information, I'm certain you provided e-mail contact information. The club you mention has sent out the newsletter electronically for a few years, with the exception of a few members who do not use e-mail or have limited internet access.

In the past few months I've seen a few changes in key personnel, fresh perspectives, and a release of opportunity to willing active members. It's a time of challenge, but I have no doubt the new key personnel will excel. The newsletter staff has changed also, which might explain your non-receipt. An e-mail to the newsletter staff, with a courtesy copy to the club president should fix that issue.

Your dues help the local club to pay their membership in the Road Runners Club of America, as well as affordable event liability insurance RRCA provides to member clubs. The dues also support the operational (race cost!) expenses of local club, maintain or procure equipment, and pay for advertising/web presence.

The dues let RRCA give the local club:

- Access to RRCA FOOTNOTES magazine (pdf form)
- Quarterly INSIDE TRACK best practices newsletter (sent to club leadership)
- Nonprofit (tax!) status through RRCA's exemption
- Free event posting on the RRCA Race Calendar
- Gatorade Sponsorship for RRCA Championship Races (10K and beyond, 400+ participants)
- Link to RRCA syndicated news
- Authorized use of RRCA logo on the club or event website
- Invitation to the RRCA Annual Convention (Lakeland, FL this year!)
- Voting privileges at the RRCA Annual Meeting (club leadership)
- Email updates of RRCA activities
- Host State, Regional, or National Championship races
- Access publications & resources for running, races, & clubs (RRCA's site)
- Discounted membership to nonprofit governance resource
- Women's Distance Festival events & sponsorships
- Affordable Coaching Certification Program (usually 1x/year in FL)
- Local, State and National Advocacy for road running
- Product discounts from corporate supporters (FuelBelt, Crocs, K-Swiss, etc.)

Chris, I post every bit of event information on my blog, www.north-florida-rrca.blogspot.com. If it's from a local RRCA club it gets on right away. If it's from a club or race provider here in the state it gets on as soon as I can put it up. RRCA's event calendar for FL is on the blog, too.

As part of the change in key personnel within your local club, I know the board are taking a more direct role in directing races. So, it's probably better to send your questions to the club president.

So, why should you be a member of your local club? Well, you can support the runnning community without being a member. You can get back into running without being a member. BUT, you don't have a leg to stand on; a right to voice your opinion about how events are produced, where your race entry fees (after expenses are paid) should go.

(Personally, I would like to see support for RRCA's national level programs: Kids Run The Nation, Road Scholars, Women's Distance Festival, State Representative Program, and so on.)

For example, should money YOU pay for races pay for the out-of-town bus trips/beer/munchies for 20 people? Should there be more short events? More long events? Should there be more beer? Less? Do you want to see more youth running programs? More women's running programs? Maybe groups to help new runners become life-long runners?

That's why people join clubs; to enhance their running life. I hope your local club’s programs will enhance yours. If it doesn't, then you need to speak to leadership with your specific concerns; or step up and help run a program to enhance the running life of this community.

Warmest regards - don't hesitate to contact me for more on RRCA's programming.

Friday, September 11, 2009

From Your Rep: Is Your Club Gray?

About two weeks ago I received an e-mail from a younger runner, a member of one of the clubs in the district. He wanted to produce a race, using the proceeds from the event to finance a team trip to a cross-country meet. We discussed event insurance, linking up with the leadership of his club, and so forth. But the last sentence of his e-mail has been sitting uneasily in the back of my mind.

He was concerned about his club becoming less dynamic; which I took to mean as "getting old and set in their ways."

Just a word of warning: What follows in the next couple of paragraphs are my gut instincts, perhaps written with broad brush-strokes.

When I look at the RRCA organization at the macro level, I can see where the concerns might come from. With a few exceptions, most of the district representatives, regional directors, directors-at-large, and officers, are in the 30-to-50-year-old age group. That's probably a function of professional or chronological maturity; this demographic finally has stability in their life. They've finished having children, going to school, figuring out what job they want to work at for the next ten years...once you can stop worrying about those needs it's easier to think about the needs of others. They start to join fraternal organizations, perform volunteeer work, develop life-long hobbies. At the local level, the demographic spreads out a little more, perhaps three-to-five years either way, but not much more.

RRCA programs focus well on that particular demographic, because these are the folks who finally decide to get off the couch and get into an exercise routine of running (or walking, if they've incurred an injury which keeps them from running). We aim at the school-age child because of the obesity risks which are reinforced by budget cuts to physical education programs and after-school sports...an unintended victim of No Child Left Behind. We even support the immediate post-collegiate runner through the Road Scholars program.

But, how many 20-to-30 year-olds have fond memories of running while in middle school, high school, or college? The ones who ran competitively in high school or college but were not good enough to take up running at the next level might still be age-group studs in the local running community. The rest probably endured the "running as punishment" or "quarters until you puke" regimens of school sports coaches (a disservice; in my humble opinion, running is a privilege and even a joy). So, right off the bat we narrow the potential RRCA member population to the very young & the middle-aged.

Club leaders, program heads, and event directors more closely identify themselves with their particular area of expertise. If you disagree with me on this particular point, just try to take up a shortcoming you see at a particular event, a club's newsletter or their way of doing things with the person who's in charge. While there are many who claim a willingness to hear constructive criticism, the ones who won't feel personally offended by it are few.

I measure courses in my home area, and believe me, I feel very offended when someone tells me I don't know how to measure, or goes back behind my work to ensure I did things correctly.

So, what can we do to 'apply a little Grecian Formula;' decrease the average age of our club membership, increase the relevance of local running clubs to that missing demographic?

First - begin to use social media, such as web-based newsletters, web logs, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, as a parallel to the more traditional e-mail, snail mail, newspaper, and newsletter modes of communication. If you don't know how to use social media, find someone who is savvy and empower them to put the word out about what your club does.

Second - think of all the locations in your area where the desired demographic socializes. Get with the management of those venues and see about starting a weeknight or weekend run/social. It doesn't have to be a place where the 'grayer' club members would feel comfortable - remember, it's not about them. The distance or pace doesn't have to be blistering, either. In fact, a social-paced run is more likely to attract those folks who hated running because of their school/sports experience. Follow-up with pizza, sandwiches, beverages of all kinds (there are some folks who don't particularly care for alcohol...and some of your target demographic might not be drinkers); make it simple, make it fun.

Third - consider adding fun runs to your event listing, of varied distances, in varied locations. Keep it inexpensive - or free - for the runner; most of all, make it non-competitive...and keep it social. If you have pace leaders for your training groups, this would be the opportunity to have them take folks of varying ability levels out and let them enjoy running at their own pace. It might be a great opportunity to offload some of that excess swag from previous races; why not? Some people love free stuff...
Fourth - go where they are. That means the local college, the local workplace, the military base, the hospital. If you have an 'in' in there, take advantage. Doesn't have to be intramural or competitive. The objective is to provide a venue where the joy of running can flourish.
But - remember, the goal is to grow a community of runners, of life-long athletes. Let your imagination run. Ask the opinion of your younger members. Empower them to do something. Provide the resources they need. Step back and watch what happens. Your club might have growing pains, you might find your programs need to adapt to meet this new demographic. But it's a nice problem to have.