Best in the World - Not Only for the Elite

Saturday, Jul. 27, 2013

For the past 17 years, the Vision of USSA has been to "make the United States of America the best in the World in Olympic skiing and snowboarding."  That Vision has driven every decision the association has made, and every direction it has established since then.  It has been a game-changer in focusing the association on organizational performance, and on excellence.  Prior to that Vision, the association lacked direction and inspiration, and had little to measure itself against to determine progress and success.

The ultimate manifestation of applying that Vision has been elite team performance at the Olympic level.  The successes of the USSA's elite athletes have provided both validation and vitality; establishing focus, driving public awareness and engagement, creating revenue growth, motivating  youth to take part in our sports, driving innovation, creating a strong sense of urgency, and providing an annual "report card" to validate work done or to highlight weaknesses to be addressed.  Importantly, the Vision of the USSA has also put it squarely in line with the Vision of the U.S. Olympic Committee – sustained competitive excellence at the Olympic Games.

But the USSA's focus on Best in the World should not be confused with a solitary focus on its elite athletes!  Best in the World is a continual process; competitive sport creates an environment where a team is only as good as its last performance.  While winning at the Olympic level is an intense endeavor, requiring world-class coaching expertise, science-based training and technology, medical support to prevent and rehabilitate injury, and strong logistical and operational support (among many other factors!), sustaining those levels of performance over time requires an equally focused effort. 

Nothing provides the impetus for developing for the future like a focus on being Best in the World.  USSA's Vision has provided the motivation necessary to make vast improvements in the quality and accessibility of the USSA's coach development programs, driving quality coaching down to the youngest and most local levels.  It has driven the development of the USSA's National Training Systems, which provide education and information to local clubs in order to deploy best-practices in training and skill development across multiple domains at each stage of an athlete's development.  It has led to the development of SkillsQuest, a national fundamental skill development and talent identification program, which has been delivered by the USSA's accomplished elite team alumni.  It is the rationale for the development of the USSA's Club Development program, which will educate clubs, create collaboration between them, and ensure high levels of standards for athletes and parents in USSA's certified clubs, including training, athlete treatment, and SafeSport, and will grow participation in the sport through high-quality offerings to athletes of all ages and abilities.

Best in the World has also provided a strong framework for the efforts being made now to align the many and various local governance bodies operating in competitive skiing.  The historic model that exists today is not built for high-performance, is difficult to rationalize, and has not created a system where growth or consistent quality can be systematically and effectively delivered at the local level across the country.  The efforts being made to better affiliate with these bodies is being done with Best in the World in mind, along with all of the positive effects that Vision has all the way down to the most local level.

Partitioning out only certain elements of Best in the World – be it growth in participation, providing a world-class development experience, developing a lifelong passion for the sport, development of character and values, or anything in between – sells the organization short.  Undoubtedly, these are all important elements of Best in the World, and integration under that idea has created a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts.  Certainly there is still much to be done, and as we know it is a never-ending process.  But much progress has been made under the banner of Best in the World.

And perhaps most importantly – particularly in this Olympic season – the entirety of the USSA owes it to the many elite athletes who will compete for positions on the Olympic podium in Sochi, who came from grassroots organizations and were developed through a national system, to provide them with the support necessary for them to achieve their highest levels of performance.  Their success now provides the platform for the future, and demonstrates to the young athletes interested in ski and snowboard competition that it can take them as far as they want to go, and can develop in tem a lifelong passion for our sport.

Luke Bodensteiner, EVP Athletics

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