The Chuck Wielgus Blog: The Team Behind the Team
Like so many others, I’m watching the World Championships in Barcelona with great interest to see how Team USA performs against the best in the world. The World Championships are especially interesting in the year following the Olympic Games because this is when we start to see some new faces. There are 17 rookies on the 51-member team we sent to Barcelona, and no matter the results this is the kind of racing experience that will help each ready themselves for the future.
The ultimate goal for Team USA is to win medals at the Olympic Games. Our National Team staff never loses sight of this goal, nor do our country’s top athletes and coaches. While incredibly important, these World Championships are primarily a stepping stone to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
There is an awful lot that goes into selecting a team to send into any international competition. It is so important that the selection procedures take into account every conceivable set of circumstances that can affect which athletes are selected. The selection process that USA Swimming uses is developed long in advance of the trials competition and for competitions such as the Olympic Games and Pan American Games, the procedures require approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). This year the World Championships Team was selected from the results at the recent Phillips 66 National Championships in Indianapolis and the Open Water National Championships.
Olympic Trials selection procedures are just one way in which USA Swimming looks to the USOC to be a major partner for its National Team program. We seek USOC funding support for a wide range of National Team programs and services, and this funding support for both athletes and coaches, open water team competitions and Junior Team trips. USA Swimming does get some corporate support for its National Team program – for instance, Arena is a National Team sponsor.
The USOC/USA Swimming partnership is constructed around the High Performance Plan (HPP). Our National Team staff develops the HPP, which we then outline to the USOC by means of a formal presentation at USOC headquarters. Various members of the USOC staff attend this presentation, which is then followed by a significant amount of collaboration throughout the year by our respective staff teams.
It should be no surprise then that the USOC’s Sport Performance Division staff watches these World Championships with as much interest as we do, and they are also watching everything with an eye toward performance results at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Most people will never hear the names Alan Ashley, Kelly Skinner, Justin Rogers and Fin Kirwan but these and other USOC staffers are very much a part of our National Team program.
Of course, there are many others who comprise “The team behind the team” and these others include parents and family members, home club teammates and coaches, universities for those athletes competing at the NCAA level, and corporate sponsors and agents for our many professional athletes. USA Swimming works hard to appropriately accommodate the many people behind the team, and for a team of 50+ athletes this can mean dealing with several hundred people who are individually connected and vested with the athletes.
It can be a lot to manage and our staff works tirelessly to do so. National Team Director, Frank Busch and Managing Director, Lindsay Mintenko provide outstanding leadership and they are supported by a great staff team of professionals; as well as the coaches, managers and others who are volunteers now on duty with Team USA in Barcelona.
The bottom line is always what is best for the team and what is best for the athletes. When any American swimmer steps onto the starting block in international competition, we want them believing that they have been provided with every reasonable opportunity to succeed. This is the job of the many people who make up “The team behind the team.”
Chuck Wielgus can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org