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The Chuck Wielgus Blog: Conventional Thinking

9/10/2013

Wielgus (small)The U.S. Aquatic Sports Convention is being held this week in Garden Grove, CA. More than 1,000 people representing synchronized swimming, diving, masters and swimming will be attending, with the majority of these people coming from the 59 Local Swim Committee’s that make-up the national swimming infrastructure.

The week is a non-stop schedule of meetings, workshops, presentations and hallway hobnobbing, culminating with the meeting of the USA Swimming House of Delegates next Saturday.  The House of Delegates meeting is where elections are held, new legislation is considered, rule book changes can be made, and the annual operating budget is approved.  

Any first-timer to the convention will be struck by the number of young athletes in attendance.  To be sure, there are hundreds of old-timers who have been attending the convention for years, and these are people who really understand how USA Swimming works at the national governance level.  But it is the first-timers who always bring a sense of enthusiasm to the convention.  Many of these first-timers are the athlete representatives who have been selected by their LSCs to attend.  Athlete representation accounts for 20% of the delegate membership and this always ensures that there is an athlete-centered focus to discussion and decisions.

My most important job during convention is to deliver the annual “State of the Sport” report to the House of Delegates.  I’m especially looking forward to giving this year’s report because there are so many good things to celebrate.  USA Swimming’s membership is at an all-time high; our corporate and television partners are very pleased; and the results from this summer’s World Championships in Barcelona provide every indication that the future of American swimming on the international stage is brighter than ever.  

Summarizing the past year’s success is an essential part of my annual report, but so too is outlining plans, opportunities and challenges for the future.  This year, I’m able to share future-oriented progress on a number of fronts; including the work of our Foundation, diversity & inclusion efforts, and Safe Sport program developments.  I’m especially excited to be able to talk about an effort being coordinated with other aquatic industry organizations and sponsors to increase participation in areas of the country where we see significant room for growth.

(Complete transcripts of both the President’s Address and the State of the Sport will be published next weekend on the USA Swimming website.)  

More than anything else, I enjoy all the opportunities that convention week provides to meet and talk with delegates and convention attendees.  When not at a meeting I can usually be found in the lobby so I can meet and talk with people. These personal interactions are always a joy, even the ones in which someone wants to discuss a difficult issue.  

A new addition to the convention schedule this year is a Town Hall session, in which President Bruce Stratton and I will have the opportunity to take questions and engage attendees in whatever topics are on their mind.  I think this will be a good forum for discussing issues that are top-of-mind for people, and having this informal session prior to the more formal House of Delegates meeting should be a positive addition to the convention week schedule.

This will be my 17th convention, and it’ll be great to see old friends and meet new people.  I’m still amazed that so many people bring such energy and passion to their volunteer service with USA Swimming.  Seeing how the convention works is a true example to how a democratic process unfolds.  It is nowhere near the cold bureaucratic process that some people who have never attended might think; rather it is a vibrant engagement in which people from all across the country – young and old, experienced and newbies – come together and work for the betterment of the sport we all love.

Call me crazy … but I love convention week!