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.
We are off to a great start for the New Year! The USA Swimming Board of Directors held its first meeting of the year on Jan. 25. Following are some items I thought would be of interest to you.
Executive Director Update
Our Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus, always provides a general update to our Board of Directors for each of our meetings and, as always, I think you will find it informative. Please click here to see the entire report.
On Monday, January 27, USA Swimming announced the release of the independent review of our Safe Sport program by Victor Vieth, the executive director of the Gunderson National Child Protection Training. Mr. Vieth’s presentation captivated me and the members of our Board and left us inspired to do even more to help swimmers across the country. I also feel it is our time to be leaders in all youth-serving organizations.
In the week since this report was presented, it has given me time to reflect on its contents, listen to our members, and read news media reports as they all interpret a complex subject. Academic and victim advocacy peers who reviewed the report told Mr. Vieth that it will likely be used by a variety of organizations as a baseline to create a best-in-class safe sport program across all youth-serving organizations. I am pleased to see that other organizations felt this was such a significant enough effort that they developed their own position papers. For example, we have seen other organizations such as MaleSurvivor and the Women’s Sports Foundation develop position papers or statements on the findings and offer their words of support as well as areas to explore further.
We find the report to be fair and balanced, and we are motivated by its content. We have learned there are areas in which we have excelled, like our education and our investigative process, but there are still areas we can also improve based upon the report’s recommendations.
While the report phase is complete, the next phase of work starts immediately. As we announced last week, I appointed a task force to create this road map of implementation. The task force is charged with evaluating the report and presenting to the USA Swimming Board of Directors at its next meeting on May 3, 2014, a strategy for responding to the report’s recommendations. This will include identifying priorities, identifying resources (financial and otherwise) that will be required for implementation, and advising a timetable for implementation.
Putting together a task force is like drafting players for a team. The goal is to get people with the right skill sets to find the right balance of subject matter experts as well those who know the organizational side to get things accomplished. I have high confidence that we have found that blend.
Jay Thomas, our chair person, is a strong contributor to our Board of Directors, and he brings knowledge of the sport with responsible and thoughtful hands on the wheel. We have two outside representatives with specific subject-matter expertise. The first is Sandy Wurtele, Ph.D., who is a psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She is one of the leading scholars on the topic of abuse. The second is USOC Director of Ethics and Safe Sport, Malia Arrington, another nationally-recognized expert. We also have well-respected representatives from the coaching profession with Dave Anderson and Rachel Stratton-Mills (no relation). Dave is also a member of our Board, so he brings that added perspective. Our athlete representative is Megan Ryther, who is a lawyer by trade in addition to her vast swimming experience. John Morse, our Secretary/General Counsel and a member of our Board, will be able to provide legal advice as needed. Program expertise is represented by Safe Sport Committee member Cecil Gordon. The staff liaisons will be assistant executive director Mike Unger and USA Swimming Director of Safe Sport Susan Woessner. I feel we have great subject-matter expertise as well as organizational expertise to implement the recommendations for the organization. This task force will also be able to utilize other individuals and resources outside the task force for advice and counsel.
This is a group that anyone inside or outside the organization can look to with confidence that they will have the skills, passion and determination to bring this report to life at USA Swimming.
Our goal is to eliminate abuse within USA Swimming and we recognize that even one case of abuse is too many. We also recognize this is a team effort, from athletes, coaches, parents, volunteers, staff and the leadership of USA Swimming.
Executive Director Performance Review
While the Vieth Report was a high-profile action of our organization, I want to bring one other behind-the-scenes topic to your attention that has great importance to our organization. That is the annual performance review of our Executive Director Chuck Wielgus. As he sometimes (half) jokingly says, he has 400,000 bosses as the executive director of a membership organization. I would add sponsors, media and the general public to that list too! We are an organization entrusted with the words “USA” as part of our name and we take that responsibility seriously. I know Chuck believes this is one of the most important things we do as a Board. It provides him with the opportunity to know how he can improve and make USA Swimming an even stronger and more successful organization.
The executive director role is like working in a fish bowl sometimes and every move is analyzed. His annual performance review is what is known as a 360-degree evaluation. Our process involves giving every Board member and the senior staff the opportunity to evaluate his performance. These individual evaluations are anonymous so we can get the most candid feedback from the people who interact with him daily.
After reviewing the evaluation responses with the Executive Committee, the President, Administrative Vice President, and Treasurer meet personally with the executive director to report and discuss the evaluation. Including my term as treasurer, I have now participated in this process eight times and each time Chuck has received the very highest marks for his integrity and for the trust and respect the Board and staff have in him.
Although I do not think it is appropriate to share details of the performance review, I thought you would be interested in the process. From my vantage point as President, I could not be more pleased with my look into the fish bowl and I am proud to report that so many others closest to Chuck within the organization share my view.
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