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.
The year 2013 promises to be another great year for USA Swimming. Through April, our year-round athlete membership numbers are up 13.8 percent over last year, and 2013 promises to be our single largest annual increase in recent history. Much of this can be attributed to the success of our Olympic Team in London and to the character displayed by our athletes in and out of the pool.
The USA Swimming Board of Directors had its most recent meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., on April 27, and the following are items I thought may be of interest to you.
Executive Director Update
As reported in the past, Chuck Wielgus has been battling cancer for the past several months. He is now back in the headquarters office on a full-time basis, and it was great to have him back in attendance at the Board meeting. His fight with cancer is not over, but he is now back to being fully engaged and expects to continue at least through the end of his current contract in 2016.
Chuck also provides a general update to our Board of Directors that you will find informative and interesting. Please click here to see the entire report, as well as a recent Q&A with Chuck since returning to the office.
U.S. Olympic Team Trials
For more than a year, USA Swimming has been working diligently on choosing a site for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for 2016. The process started with a selection committee, consisting of staff members Mike Unger, Matt Farrell, Dean Ekeren, Amanda Bryant, and Sandra Griffith, and Jim Wood, our immediate past-president. There were 16 initial cities that expressed interest in hosting the trials. This group was reduced to six cities and eventually narrowed down to three finalists: Omaha, Neb., St. Louis and San Antonio. All cities had outstanding bids, and because of the quality of those bids, making a decision was one of the most difficult choices we had to make.
Ultimately, the committee recommended the city of Omaha, Neb., to Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, who accepted their choice and made the same recommendation to our Board of Directors. The Board unanimously accepted the recommendation and the formal announcement broadcasted via webcast the same day. For the complete story and to view an archive of the live announcement, click here.
The USA Swimming Safe Sport Program raises awareness about athlete protection, promotes open dialogue and provides training and resources for all our members. It continues to be, and will always be, one of our highest priorities. Our program at USA Swimming is recognized as one of the best among youth-serving organizations. Education is the cornerstone of our program, and in addition to the online training program for our non-athlete members and for parents, a new online program designed specifically for our athlete members was launched on April 9.
Both the parent and athlete programs are voluntary and are critical pieces of our overall program. Although the programs have received high marks, there have been disappointingly few parents who have taken the course. As of April 12, only 2,002 people had taken it, and with our athlete membership at almost 330,000, this is a very small number. I ask all of you to work proactively in your clubs and LSCs to encourage all parents to take the online course and to have their children take the athlete course as well. Click here to access the Safe Sport page of our website.
The current structure for membership dues is that there is a $1/year increase; this program terminates in 2014. The Board of Directors agreed to recommend to the House of Delegates that effective in the 2015 membership year, dues increase by $2/year for the ensuing 10 years in order to continue to invest in growing the sport at the grassroots level, enhance services to clubs and increase promotional exposure for the sport. Some of the Board meeting discussions focused on key metrics for the organization, such as membership growth, success of the Olympic Trials, increased TV ratings, greater camp and club program participation, international competition success and more. We want to continue to invest in our future.
Athlete Participation at Convention and Committee Meetings
One of the things that make our organization strong and successful is the participation of athletes on our committees and at our annual meeting, which is held in conjunction with the United States Aquatics Sports Convention. While a large number of our athlete representatives are college age or older, there are also many athlete representatives who are under the age of 18. In the past, many of these athletes have traveled to conventions or committee meetings unsupervised. While we have had no real problems thus far, there is increasing concern over the safety and welfare of our under-aged athletes while attending out-of-town meetings.
In an effort to address this, our Athletes’ Executive Committee developed policies and procedures, which will govern the travel and conduct of all athletes attending committee meetings or our annual convention. These will be sent to all LSCs and will be available on our website in the very near future. The most important aspect of these policies and procedures is ensuring there is a designated adult chaperone for every traveling athlete. Both the athlete and the responsible chaperone will be required to acknowledge, via written representations, their respective responsibilities prior to any travel.
More detailed information will be forthcoming in the near future, but you should be aware of these new requirements, especially as you make your athlete travel plans for conventions.
Online Membership Registration
Last year, a task force was appointed to look at the feasibility of developing an online registration system. There were a number of important issues to address, including, but not limited to:
1. Being able to accommodate various membership registration processes currently in place;
2. System-wide standardization of the process;
3. Existing third party vendors providing some aspects of registration;
4. Allowing new athletes to join USA Swimming online, but still allowing clubs to maintain control of membership in their individual clubs; and
5. Whether or not to require the online system to be mandatory.
The task force submitted its recommendations to the Board of Directors. These recommendations were unanimously endorsed, and our staff will begin work on developing the system. The recommendations were as follows:
1. Provide for a standardized system-wide registration process;
2. Include features that will allow new athlete members to join USA Swimming online and help them locate a club, but allow clubs to make their own decisions about club membership; and
3. Allow for initial optional use of the system, but ultimately its use would be mandatory.
The task force did a considerable amount of hard work, and I want to express my appreciation for its efforts. The next step will be a discovery project to find all potential solutions to implement this program. This will involve working with key constituents within the Registration Committee, LSCs, clubs and staff who will eventually work with this program.
The future of USA Swimming is exciting and has never been brighter. We are very fortunate to have an excellent staff, as well as devoted and dedicated volunteers.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
USA Swimming President