| Thursday, November 16, 2017
Lindsay (Benko) Mintenko admits while she was competing and later coaching, she never gave much thought to serving in an administrative role with USA Swimming.
But now that she’s been an integral part of the organization for more than a decade – all as a member of the National Team staff – she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“It wasn’t until I got into this role that I realized I wanted to be involved with sports management,” she said. “I’m most excited to continue working with the National Team staff to find new ways to support our athletes and coaches and help them be successful.”
Last month, Mintenko was promoted (despite retaining her National Team Managing Director title) to lead the National Team, becoming the first female to do so in the almost 30-year history of the National Team.
As a two-time Olympic gold medalist and team captain as a competitor, she said she knows she brings something to the position that no previous directors did or could: the athlete perspective.
Because past Team Directors have either been administrators or coaches, none before her has been able to truly understand first-hand what the athletes need and want.
“As a past USA Swimming athlete, I know I can offer and deliver an athlete-driven plan for the future of our sport,” she said. “As the sport has changed to be more athlete-focused, it’s important we continue to evolve in that direction, too.
“I’m not approaching this as being the first woman to lead the National Team. While I’m proud of that, I don’t want it to be a distinguishing factor in any way. I am focused on performing the job in a successful fashion, and I’m looking forward to continuing what Frank (Busch) started and not getting in the way of our continued success.”
Mintenko takes over the National Team as USA Swimming undergoes a restructuring of all technical swimming facets, including the National Team Division. These are now under one umbrella overseen by Chief Operating Officer Mike Unger, a 24-year veteran of USA Swimming.
Among her new responsibilities and opportunities are overseeing all aspects of USA Swimming’s National Team program with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the organization maintains its unprecedented run of international success. Key areas of focus include athlete and coach development and National Team division support.
With Mintenko on the National Team staff for the past 11 years, American swimmers have combined for 95 medals across the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games and another 177 top 3 finishes in the pool in the past five long-course FINA World Championships.
When she was competing, she was among the top mid-distance freestyle swimmers in the world. A team captain on the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic teams, she won three Olympic relay medals – 2 gold and 1 silver. She also was a member of two U.S. FINA World Championship teams – 1998 and 2003 – and won two gold and two silver relay medals in those meets.
“With Lindsay’s 10-plus years of experience at USA Swimming, her role as a two-time Olympic Team captain and time on deck as a coach, she is a tremendous fit for this position,” said USA Swimming President and CEO Tim Hinchey.
“Lindsay is well respected by our athletes and coaches, and USA Swimming is looking forward to continued competitive success by the National Team under her direction.”
Mintenko graduated from the University of Southern California in 1999 with a B.A. in communications and minor in business and earned her master’s degree in sports administration from California University of Pennsylvania in 2015.
After she retired from swimming in 2004, she worked an internship with a public relations firm in Los Angeles but returned to the sport shortly after when Mark Schubert, head coach at her alma mater, offered her a full-time assistant coaching position. She joined Schubert on the National Team staff when he stepped into the Director role in 2006.
In addition to her work with the athletes, Mintenko said she’s also looking forward to building strong relationships with the United States Olympic Committee, International Olympic Committee (IOC), coaches and everyone else associated with the sport.
“When our athletes stand behind the blocks and prepare to swim, I want them to know that they had everything they needed along the way to help them get there so when they are there, they are ready to compete and excel,” she said.
“I am honored to follow and build on a tremendous legacy set by Frank and his predecessors. We have a great team in place in the National Team Division, and following a strong showing at last summer’s FINA World Championships, we’re already hard at work planning the road to the 2020 Olympic Games.”
The following are a few thoughts from some past teammates, coaches and current swimmers about what they know Mintenko brings to her new role:
Kristy Kowal, 2000 Olympic Teammate
“I cannot even express how excited I am to see Lindsay take over as the National Team Director! Lindsay’s dedication to USA swimming is unparalleled, first during her own career and then during her time working with USA swimming. She has such a passion for the sport and this monumental achievement of being named as the first woman National Team Director could not have gone to anyone else more deserving. To have someone in this position that has been through the ranks beginning as a swimmer is such a unique opportunity for USA swimming and the swimmers on the National Team. To be the best you need the best leading you, and Lindsay is THE best. I can’t wait to see the direction she leads USA Swimming.”
“Lindsay has been involved with the National Team since I can remember. My first trip was in 2006 for the Pan Pacific Championships. She was always ready to jump in – she was the problem solver for everyone. Lindsay was an inspiring athlete, honest leader, good communicator and true ambassador in all of her roles over the years with USA Swimming. USA Swimming is a big organization with a variety of personalities and constituents. Having been an athlete and coach, Lindsay will be able to take us to the next level. Personally, I am excited not because Lindsay is a woman, which is also pretty rad, but Lindsay has had a lot of vision in the past for helping athletes make the leap to life, and this vision is only possible by prioritizing the well-rounded athlete. She is always open to ideas, and she has a vast network of people to support her in this new endeavor.”
“I am looking forward to seeing how Lindsay leads the team, and I think she will do an excellent job. We need more women in positions of authority and leadership in USA Swimming, and Lindsay is a great choice.”
“I’m super excited that USA Swimming has chosen Lindsay to take over the leadership role of National Team Director. I can think of no person who deserves it more than she does. Her work ethic, empathy and passion for the sport are second to none, and I’m excited to see where she leads USA Swimming from here.”
“I’m excited for Lindsay to lead us in her role as National Team Director. As a professional, an Olympic swimmer, a loyal USA Swimming employee and someone who has been in the trenches with the previous two National Team Directors, Lindsay is prepared for the job. Lindsay in partnership with Mike Unger will solidify the infrastructure of our national team office and will support the swimmers and coaches as they continue to work for a successful future for the USA National and USA Olympic Team.”
Emily Brunemann Klueh
“I am thrilled for Lindsay, not just that we have a strong female in this role but that we have an incredibly competent and passionate leader for the National Team. I was able to work with her as an athlete for a long time and now in a different role with the committees I am on with USA Swimming. Her passion for the sport and more importantly her passion for the swimmers is immense, and the athletes know it. I am confident that the National Team will continue to be the best National Team in the world under her leadership.”
Chris Thompson, 2000 Olympic Teammate
“I've known Lindsay a long time and she has always been a great team leader and ambassador for the sport of swimming. I look forward to seeing what both Lindsay and Mike Unger will do in their new roles within USA Swimming. I know they will continue to make great contributions to the sport we all love.”
“I think it is so incredible to see Lindsay chosen as the new National Team Director. To take over such a high position in the sport and a very important role is going to open up more doors for women and that equality in the sport truly exists. We are team USA and no matter what gender is leading the crew we will always kick butt and Lindsay is the perfect woman to prove that.”
Misty Hyman, 2000 Olympic Teammate
“I think Lindsay is a great choice. She's proven herself in the organization for many years now. She is a decorated National Team member herself so she knows the athlete's perspective. She has earned this opportunity. Regardless of her gender, I think she will do an excellent job heading up the National Team. That being said, I believe it is a good thing for our sport to have more women in leadership roles.”
Cristina Teuscher, 2000 Olympic Teammate
“Lindsay is phenomenal. She’s got the right balance for that job; she’s down-to-earth, a hard worker and, she’s been there, so you know her focus will be on the swimmers.”
Bob Bowman“I first met Lindsay when she was competing on the 2000 Olympic Team,” said Arizona State Head Coach Bob Bowman. “Since that time, I’ve had the privilege of seeing her grow from tenacious competitor to a thoughtful and passionate leader of our National Team. She is collaborative, hardworking and incredibly knowledgeable about the relationships with the IOC, USOC and FINA. She is in tune with the athletes’ and coaches’ current needs while seeing the big picture for the future of our sport. Lindsay will do an excellent job leading our team.”