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President’s Address to House of Delegates

9/20/2012

Photo of Bruce Stratton. (Medium)Below is a transcript of USA Swimming president Bruce Stratton's Address to the House of Delegates on Sept. 14, 2012, in Greensboro, N.C.:

 

It is hard to believe another year has gone by! It is my pleasure to stand before you at the end of my second year as your president – and what a year it has been. First, congratulations to our Olympic Team - thirty-one medals with sixteen gold! What an awesome performance by our team and one of which we should all be very proud. Even more important to me than the medals, however, is the character and integrity demonstrated by our athletes. I have always said that one of the great aspects of our sport is the commitment and dedication required to compete as a swimmer breeds the finest young men and women we could ask for. Our 2012 Olympic Team is a shining example of that.

 

We cannot talk about the success of our Olympic Team without including the great coaches we have. Gregg Troy as the head men’s coach, and Terri McKeever, as the head women’s coach, along with Bob Bowman, David Marsh, Eddie Reese, Steve Bultman, Dave Salo, Todd Schmitz, Tim Murphy, and Jon Urbancheck represent the best of the best in our coaching community and we all owe them a huge thank you for their efforts and dedication. However, these are just a few of the great coaches in USA Swimming. The thirty-one medals we won came from athletes representing sixteen different clubs. I think this fact speaks volumes about the quality and importance of our club system and our club coaches.

 

Although the success of our Olympic Team certainly captured a huge amount of our attention this past year, there were many other very good things going on in USA Swimming and I believe we have had a great year both in and out of the pool.

 

This past year, I was fortunate to be included with the senior staff in developing our business plan for the next quad. I have to tell you I could not have been more impressed with the professionalism and dedication of our staff. The process started with a clear understanding that a zero-based approach would be used, meaning every program and every staff position would be evaluated, keeping in mind our three core objectives of build the base, promote the sport, and achieve sustained competitive success. There were no “preserve my own turf” issues and every aspect of the process was centered around what is best for the success of the entire organization. Existing programs and new programs were fully vetted for impact, importance, and budget considerations. The process took place over a three to four month period, with the staff keeping our Board of Directors fully informed and engaged the entire time. Chuck will provide more details on the Plan tomorrow, but I want you to know, speaking from a volunteer leadership position, I was very impressed with the process and especially the result.

 

After the Olympics, many of the NGBs will take a little while to relax and then start planning for Rio in 2016. USA Swimming, on the other hand, has already done its planning and upon returning from London, we hit the road running! This is one of the reasons for our continued success.

 

Our Safe Sport program efforts continue to improve and evolve. I think we all recognize education is the key and the development of our parent’s education piece this past year was a critical and important part of this. We are still working on a separate program for athlete education, which should be available early next year. The effective protection of our athletes will always be an evolving process and as we gain experience, we will always be looking for ways to improve our efforts.

 

We continue to monitor and analyze our reporting, investigation, and Board of Review process. While we all want to streamline the process, incidences of alleged misconduct between adults and young athletes are always complex and extremely difficult situations to address. We all need to remember we absolutely want to be understanding and comforting supporters of victims of inappropriate relationships. However, we also need to recognize we live in a country rooted in the principles of the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy, and due process for those being accused.

 

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our volunteers who serve on our National Board of Review. This is a very time-consuming process, but one that is vital to our organization. Jill Chasson, as the Chair of our National Board of Review, Buddy Pylitt as the vice-chair, and Anthony Ten Haagen as the Chair of the Background Screen Appeals Panel have contributed an extraordinary amount of their time and need to be recognized for their efforts. I would like to ask each of you to stand if you are in the audience – Jill…Buddy…Anthony… thank you for all you do.

 

I would also like to give a special thanks to John Morse, who serves as our Secretary and General Counsel. I am not sure John knew what he was getting into when I asked him to serve in this position. In addition to his duties as a Board member, John oversees the National Board of Review and also serves on the Safe Sport Committee, the Governance Committee, the Rules Committee, and currently reviews all amendments to LSC bylaws. His counsel and assistance to Chuck and me on legal matters is invaluable and appreciated more than he could ever know. John, please stand and be recognized – thank you!

 

Tomorrow you will hear reports from the USA Swimming Foundation and the United States Sports Insurance Company, better known as USSIC. Both of these separate organizations continue to make significant contributions to USA Swimming.

 

As I reported to you last year, the Foundation Board was reorganized at the end of 2010. Bill Maxson, who serves as the President, has provided extraordinary leadership and the Foundation has made great strides during the past two years. All of our active past presidents continue to serve on the Foundation Board and this next year they will be joined by two additional special people. I don’t want to steal Bill Maxson’s thunder and I will let him make that announcement tomorrow. We are very excited about the new additions to our Foundation Board and know they will be great additions and will provide valuable leadership in “saving lives and building champions.” I would encourage all of you to consider including the Foundation in your charitable giving plans.

 

USSIC, under the leadership of Carol Zaleski, who serves as president, continues to provide us with effective and low-cost liability insurance coverage. Over the past 24 years, USSIC has saved USA Swimming approximately $19,000,000 in insurance premiums. Carol is joined by fellow board members Ron Van Pool, Paul Sigfussen, Lew Delo, Steve De Pieri, and our newest member Devin Howard. Ross Wales, another former president of USA Swimming, serves as general counsel. These are all unpaid volunteers they and spend a huge amount of time taking care of our insurance needs.

 

Speaking of Carol Zaleski, it is hard to think of someone who has given more to our sport than Carol. She currently serves on our USA Swimming Board, the USA Swimming Foundation Board, the USSIC Board as President, and is an active member of our Rules & Regulations Committee. Carol served two four-year terms as our president and can always be counted on to bring valuable experience, logic, and straightforward thinking to any discussion. I think everyone in this room knows and respects Carol. She certainly has provided invaluable advice and assistance to me.

 

I want to especially recognize Carol for her twenty-four year service on the FINA Technical Swimming Committee: four years as secretary, four years as vice-chair, and sixteen years as the chair. Her leadership in improving officiating internationally and in making sure we put athletes first in international competitions is simply extraordinary. She tells us she is going to retire from the Committee at the end of her current term next year and if she follows through, will be sorely missed, not only by USA Swimming, but also by the entire international swimming community. Carol – thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.

 

I would also like to recognize some of our other volunteers at the international level. Dale Neuburger serves as a FINA Vice-president and member of the FINA Bureau, their equivalent of our Board of Directors. His assistance and leadership at the international level is always extremely helpful and appreciated. Frank Busch serves on the FINA Coaches Commission, Sid Cassidy on the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee, Aaron Peirsol on the FINA Athletes Commission, Mick Nelson on the FINA Facilities Development Commission, and Greg Eggert on the FINA Press Commission. All of these people do a tremendous job representing USA Swimming and in making the sport of swimming better on a worldwide basis. Also, congratulations to Jim Sheehan and Paul Memont who both served as deck officials at the recent Olympic Games.

 

On another international subject, I am pleased to report we are making progress with respect to the safety of our athletes at international open water competitions. There is still much to do, but at its recent Bureau meeting, FINA adopted 99% of the open water safety rules and policies we recommended to them. We are also close to receiving the results of a study conducted jointly by FINA, the IOC, and the International Triathlon Union on the effects of water temperatures on open water athletes. We are reasonably confident this report will provide a basis for setting maximum and minimum water temperatures for open water competition.

 

Julie Bare – would you please stand. Julie is the General Chair for Lake Erie Swimming. Lake Erie is the first and only LSC to achieve the LEAP Level 3 status and was the first LSC to achieve the LEAP Level 2 status. Congratulations to you Julie and the entire LSC leadership for this accomplishment!

 

George Breen – would you please stand. George attended his first convention at the age of 27, back in the AAU days, just about the time fire was invented. George has not missed one single convention since then, and can probably give you dates and locations of all of them. This will be his 50th consecutive convention. George was a member of the 1956 and 1960 Olympic teams, winning one silver and three bronze medals. In between those two Olympic Games, he won 22 U.S. National Championships and set six world records. He coached the men’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania from 1966 until 1982. He also served on the USA Swimming Board of Directors from 1977 until 1996 – that is 19 years! George, it is great to have you here and we look forward to seeing you at many more conventions.

 

This room is full of the greatest volunteers, coaches, and athletes in the world. Together, USA Swimming has an unbelievably bright future and I want to thank you all for your individual and collective contributions to our sport.
I cannot finish the evening without talking about our staff in Colorado Springs. One of my greatest pleasures has been to work with Chuck and all of his staff. I know from personal experience we have the most hard working and dedicated staff of any NGB in the Olympic Family, bar none! I have said it before and will happily say it again and again, our Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus, is simply the best and he has surrounded himself with the best! Would everyone on staff please stand up so we can recognize and thank you.

 

In closing, I would like to again thank all of you for your support of me and of USA Swimming. I continue to be humbled and appreciative of your confidence in me and of the opportunity to serve as your president. It is the most rewarding job I have ever had. We have just had one of our most successful Olympics and I firmly believe we have set the stage for tremendous success over the next four years and beyond. Thank you!