The “President’s Message” is a continuing effort on my part to keep the members of USA Swimming informed about current happenings in our sport and our organization. Please feel free to share the message with others.
We are off to a great start for the New Year! The USA Swimming Board of Directors held its first meeting of the year on Jan. 27. Following are some items I thought would be of interest to you.
Our Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus, always provides a general update to our Board of Directors for each of our meetings. In his absence, Mike Unger, the acting Executive Director, prepared the update for our January meeting and, as always, I think you will find it informative. Please click here to see the entire report.
Executive Director Update
As I reported in my last President’s Message, Chuck Wielgus, our Executive Director, has been battling cancer and has been in New York City the past two months receiving treatment. It has been an arduous time for him, but I am happy to report he has returned to Colorado Springs, Colo., is doing very well and continues to have an optimistic attitude. Although he is not up to full speed yet, he is becoming re-engaged in the business of USA Swimming.
In conjunction with our Board of Directors meeting, USA Swimming held its inaugural Safe Sport Leadership Conference Jan. 27-29. The list of attendees was impressive with over 165 individuals from 35 Local Swimming Committees, 20 National Governing Bodies and the United States Olympic Committee. Six other youth serving groups attended, including the YMCA of the USA, NCAA and the Boy Scouts of America.
The program included six outside presenters who covered a variety of topics surrounding the issues of Safe Sport. Susan Woessner, our Director of Safe Sport, and Liz Hoendervoogt, our Safe Sport Coordinator, did a fantastic job of organizing and leading the conference, and need to be commended and thanked for their efforts. Based upon reports from participants, it was a resounding success and very much appreciated by all who attended. It was also apparent from the discussions that USA Swimming is considered a leader among youth-serving organizations when it comes to Safe Sport.
As we continue to emphasize education and awareness at our “grass roots” levels, the clubs and LSCs are the keys to our Safe Sport Program and our efforts in providing a safe environment for all our athletes. A free online training program for swimmers is scheduled to be released the week of Feb. 25, which is designed to help them identify the warning signs of possible abuse or inappropriate conduct. I ask all of you to do everything you can to strongly encourage our athletes to view this free short training program, as well as encouraging all our parents to view the short online training course designed specifically for them.
Susan Woessner, Liz Hoendervoogt and our Safe Sport Committee, headed by Cecil Gordon, have developed and just recently released our new Safe Sport Handbook. It is posted on our website and can be viewed here. Please take time to read and review what I believe will be an excellent resource for all our members.
I am very happy to report our membership statistics for this year continue to outpace even our most optimistic projections. Five months into the current registration year, our year-round athlete membership is at near record levels for this point in the year. In 2009, our last post-Olympic year, our membership increased 11.6 percent through January, and we ended that year with an overall increase of 11.3 percent. At this point in 2013, we are on track to match or possibly exceed the 2009 increase. This is yet another great example of how well USA Swimming is doing.
2016 Olympic Team Trials
USA Swimming is in the process of finding a site for the 2016 Olympic Team Trials. In late December, six cities submitted a formal response to our Request for Proposal: Greensboro, N.C.; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Omaha, Neb.; San Antonio; and St. Louis. A small bid-city review team is evaluating each city and will be making site visits in mid-February. The plan is to recommend one city to Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus, by mid-April, and he will bring this forward to the USA Swimming Board of Directors at its April 27 meeting. It is our sincere hope to have a site to announce at the conclusion of that board meeting. The proposed dates of the Trials are July 4-11, 2016.
Arena and Speedo Sponsorships
Some of you may have noticed a new sponsor structure in our long time and continuing relationship with Speedo, plus a new and exciting relationship with Arena. Under our new structure, different partners can have a non-exclusive relationship with USA Swimming but still be an exclusive sponsor of individual properties. For example:
• Speedo will now be the exclusive sponsor of our Speedo Junior National Championships and our Speedo Champions Series Sectional Meets.
• Arena will be the exclusive sponsor of our Arena Grand Prix Series and will be the official apparel sponsor of the U.S. National Team and Junior Team. Under our agreement with Arena, our National and Junior Team athletes can still wear any brand swimsuit, cap and goggles of their choosing. But on the podium, we will see them wearing Arena.
You may be wondering why the change? We believe this will help our “grow the sport” initiatives as part of our quadrennial business plan and will get some additional companies involved in activating and promoting the sport. You are seeing the results of this change with the Arena Grand Prix Series and how it is benefiting athletes.
Arena Grand Prix Series
With the addition of Arena as a sponsor, the Arena Grand Prix Series has increased its prize money from $20,000 to a total purse of $150,000 across six different events. We have already held two events, one in Minneapolis and one in Austin, Texas. The next four events are in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 14-15; Mesa, Ariz., on April 11-13; Charlotte, N.C., on May 9-12; and Santa Clara, Calif., on May 30-June 2. Ryan Lochte leads the men, and Missy Franklin leads the women after the first two events. You will also see increased TV promotion as the result of a deal that goes through 2016 with Universal Sports.
Growing the Sport of Swimming
As part of our quadrennial business plan, we had a strategic objective to “mobilize the aquatics industry to support participation growth.” Consistent with that objective, our Chief Marketing Officer, Matt Farrell, and his staff developed a pilot campaign entitled “SwimToday.” The preliminary step of the campaign was to assemble Jan. 17-18 in Colorado Springs a group of sixteen companies and organizations to brainstorm ways we could collectively, as an industry, grow participation.
We were extremely pleased to have in attendance the chief executive officers of Speedo, Arena, TYR, FINIS, TeamUnify, Swimoutlet.com and Swimming World, along with representatives from nine other aquatic related organizations. Because of the inherent competitiveness of the various organizations attending, I think most of us approached the meeting on with some trepidation about how open the discussions would be. Much to our surprise, everyone was openly and fully engaged and all committed to the agreed upon mission: “Create an industry-wide marketing campaign to increase swimming participation.” Many great ideas came out the meeting. It will be an exciting topic to keep an eye on over the coming year as we continue to build plans and ideas to grow the participation at all levels of swimming. I was pleased to attend and to be part of a group committed to the concept and working together to accomplish it.
As you can see, there are many exciting things going on at USA Swimming. One of my great pleasures in serving as President of USA Swimming is to work with its staff. They are unquestionably committed to our organization and sport, and there is no doubt in my mind they are the best of any NGB in the USOC family.
It is important to me, as your president, to provide open and transparent communication to all our members. I am always available, and you should never hesitate to call or e-mail me. If you have any topics or questions you would like covered in a future edition, please contact me at email@example.com.
USA Swimming President