Sport-by-Sport Funding - How it Works

Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013

The USSA invests over $20 million annually in its elite teams, and over $4 million annually in local youth, coach, club and development and competition programs.  These resources are used to support the USSA's Vision of being Best in the World in Olympic skiing and snowboarding, and its Mission of providing strong leadership that establishes and supports athletic excellence.  Winning more medals than any other nation at the Olympic Games is the ultimate manifestation of a Best in the World system, and is the benchmark that drives the allocation of USSA's resources in support of its athletic programs.

The USSA is unique as a national ski and snowboard association.  While virtually all national ski and snowboard associations worldwide manage all of the disciplines under the FIS umbrella collectively (alpine, Nordic, freskiing, freestyle and snowboarding), the USSA has established itself as the most diverse association in the world.  The performance of USSA's athletes has come across virtually every discipline.  In the 2013 world championship season, USSA won medals in 11 different sports.  Norway (with a clear priority on Nordic skiing) won across six sports, and Austria (with a clear priority on alpine skiing) won across five.

Also unique to the USSA is that – unlike every other major national ski and snowboard association – it enjoys no government funding.  USSA must raise all of its funds each year, and much of that resource generation happens after it has already committed to spending funds in each sport, leaving the organization to spend much of the year working to fill each of those buckets.  The USSA's primary resource channels are corporate sponsorship, media sales, private fundraising, membership fees, an annual grant from its Legacy endowment, and an annual grant from the USOC.  The USSA is widely recognized as being among the most successful (if not the most successful) NGB in raising private and corporate funds.  A breakdown of revenue sources can be found in the USSA's annual report.

The USSA has established a strategic resource allocation framework, which helps to assess and identify the most effective way to allocate resources on a sport-by-sport basis each year, with the goal of achieving Best in the World performance as an organization, and sustaining that level of performance over time.  This framework takes into consideration each sport's relevance to the USSA membership, fans, sponsors, the ski and snowboard industry, and the American public at-large.  It considers each sport's short-term success potential (4-5 year timeframe) including opportunities in technology, data tracking, human performance, athlete safety and protection, Olympic strategies, and the availability of talented human resources.  It considers each sport's long-term viability, including numbers of general participants, competitors, recreational and competitive clubs, recreational and competitive competitions, recreational and training/competition venues, high-performance athletes, and geographical distribution.  And it assesses each sport's future sustainability by measuring participation numbers and trends, athlete recruitment opportunities, certified and professional coaches, the ability of the sport community and industry to sustain the sport infrastructure capable of generating Olympic success, and the ability of the sport infrastructure and development systems to regenerate teams of podium potential athletes.

It is through this framework that USSA allocates resources across sports annually.  It's also the process that drives USSA's annual grant from the USOC.  The USOC provides approximately 15-20% of the USSA's annual athletic spending.  Each year, the USSA jointly reviews with the USOC projects that go "above and beyond" the USSA's core elite program, which will help to achieve the best possible outcome at the next Olympic Games.  These projects are prioritized and evaluated across sports, and are then evaluated across all NGBs by the USOC.  The USOC's funding – also known as high performance funding – is highly focused on medal performance at the next Olympic Games, and its strategy is very clear, and very effective at helping the USOC achieve its own mission of competitive excellence.

The USSA also provides significant resources for local athlete, coach, club and competition development.  The level of resources provided by sport for these programs correlates to the size of that sport's membership.  For example, alpine, which makes up the vast majority of the USSA's membership, enjoys extensive resources at the regional and local level, with personnel serving regional and youth development and competition programs, and dedicated coach development resources. Sports with smaller memberships receive correspondingly lower levels of support directed to youth and local development.  Similarly in other NGBs, large memberships dictate large allocation of resources at the local and youth levels – NGBs with large memberships typically service those memberships with robust local programs, even while many of them provide only very limited resources to the elite performance level (often based on commercial or fundraising limitations).

Luke Bodensteiner, EVP, Athletics

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