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USSA readies for Congress 2014

USSA headquarters at 1 Victory Lane awaits the start of Congress 2014.

USSA headquarters at 1 Victory Lane awaits the start of Congress 2014. USST

USSA Congress 2014 is right around the corner, set to take place in Park City, Utah, May 13-18. Last week, organization officials held a conference call to brief attendees on the upcoming events.

President and CEO Tiger Shaw opened the call by congratulating everyone on a successful Olympic season but suggested there is much work ahead for the organization.

“One of the things that I have been thinking about since arriving on the scene last fall, it’s really been our vision of being the ‘best in the world,’” said Shaw. “We are best in the world in many sports and many events, but there are also many in which we are not, so our goal and intention is to face those challenges head-on, understand what we need to change to accomplish those goals.”

What does the joint slogan and mission “Best in the World” mean? That’s the question Shaw poses to this year’s Congress. What does it mean to the organization, coaches, athletes and parents?

“This was made pretty clear in the McKinsey study: There isn’t necessarily a clear connection between the concept of being best in the world and, for instance, a club president or administrator trying to make the budget, trying to get more kids to sign up for their program, trying to coordinate and orchestrate annual banquets, how to interact best with their parents, how to manage coaches’ education — many, many things you don’t necessarily connect to try to put a kid on the podium at the world level.”

Vice President of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner went on to address the call and began by offering his congratulations on the Olympic results in Sochi, which he attributed to the entire USSA community.

“You were absolutely a part of that performance,” said Bodensteiner. “That said, we have to get better and we can get better. We still have a lot of work to do and we can’t be satisfied with how far we’ve come.”

Bodensteiner added the post-Olympic period is an important time for reflection, evaluation and change, and that agenda will be reflected at the upcoming congress. On the docket, not unlike post-Vancouver, is resource allocation to the various disciplines within USSA.

Other highlights Bodensteiner pointed out are as follows:

  • Expanded alpine national training group to 55 athletes into the program
  • Continued growth in alpine regional programs
  • Providing additional elite-level coaching in moguls at the NorAm and World Cup levels
  • Adding athletes to the development level in cross country
  • Launching of the slopestyle snowboarding rookie team

“When I look at the activity of the coming year, the focus is not necessarily on the top, top level of performance. As we look to build our programs and our teams toward PyeongChang, right now the focus is really more on making our elite teams deeper and denser with an eye on future top-level performance,” Bodensteiner added.

Bodensteiner also announced that USSA will submit a proposal to the FIS Congress to add two new sports to the Olympic program in 2018: big air snowboarding and team boarder cross, which would both be managed through existing team structures.

The floor was then passed off to Alex Natt, executive vice president and general counsel, for an update on the McKinsey study.

“Following the excellent work that the McKinsey group did for us last year, we’ve paneled a bunch of folks who are probably on this call to make recommendations with us to the alpine sports committee and ultimately to the USSA board about how to better integrate with the grassroots and our programs,” said Natt. “This relationship needs to be advanced from one based on handshakes to something more formal.”

Sheryl Barnes provided an update on membership and was pleased to announce there will be no fee changes for the 2014-15 season in terms of the existing membership categories.

The organization is also offering a couple new categories of membership: USSA club participant ($25) for interclub athletes at the local level not competing in USSA events, as well as parents and volunteers, and USSA club volunteer for adults in a position of authority over minors, which requires screening with the membership.

Finally, Jon Nolting, sport education director, reinforced previous comments regarding coach certification. “Certainly clubs see the benefits, and it’s important for our kids,” he said. “We can now say with the Fast Start course and improvement with our certification numbers, our member coaches out there at least have some baseline education for the work they’re doing. I think this is a really critical statement to our membership. It’s something we need to continue to promote and talk about and have that expectation.”

Geoff Mintz

Associate Editor

Geoff Mintz is a former alpine ski racer who cut his teeth at Ragged Mountain and Waterville Valley, N.H. After graduating from Holderness and UVM, he relocated to Colorado, where he worked as an instructor at Beaver Creek prior to pursuing a career in journalism. He currently lives in the woods above Vail with his wife, Colleen.

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