Club-Based Organization - Progress Report

Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013

Last winter the USSA undertook a self-study to determine how to partner more effectively with the USSA's 400+ clubs to deliver an optimal athlete development program and ensure Best in the World performance well beyond 2014.  This study, which is initially focused on the alpine domestic system, involved the direct feedback of over 100 individuals comprised of Club and divisional leadership, athletes and parents, analogous organizations, USSA Board members, FIS and USOC leaders, and affiliated industry experts.  In addition, nearly 800 USSA coaches and club leaders were surveyed to inform the study.

The results of this study were compiled into a report and plan forward, which was adopted by the USSA Board of Directors at its May 19, 2013 meeting.  Through implementation of the plans laid out in the study, the USSA aims to become a stronger club-based organization.  These plans fall into three areas; strengthening club and member value through additional field-based resources and enhanced club/coach services, improving communications through more frequent, more open and more tailored communications, and enhancing and streamlining governance through implementation of a federated model.  Since the adoption of the plans in May, much progress has been made toward their implementation.

In the area of strengthening club and member value through additional field-based resources and enhanced club/coach services, the USSA has implemented the following:

·         Additional regional-based staff resources, including; an Eastern program director, to complement the region/division managers in the Western region, Rocky Mountain division and Central division in facilitating the deployment of USSA competition and broad-based development and education activities.  An Eastern region coach, to complement the Western and Rocky/Central coaches in high-level targeted development activity.  A regional development director, to provide oversight and direction to the region coaches and youth coordinators. An alpine program manager, to manage all competition and broad-based development activities in the regions and nationally, along with program-specific communications.  And a club development director charged with developing and implementing an education and certification-based club development program.

·         Youth coordinators in both the Eastern and Western regions, in partnership with those regions.  These positions are in the process of being identified and hired now, and will be in place prior to the beginning of the 2013/14 season.  Region youth coordinators will engage in U14 development projects, and along with various other regional personnel and U.S. Ski Team alumni, will enhance the delivery of the USSA's SkillsQuest program, which reached over 1,000 youth last year, and will be further expanded this coming season.

·         Expansion of the USSA's coach education program to improve the delivery and accessibility of its programs to club coaches.  The USSA's Fast Start coaching education program requires all non-certified coaches to take an online course covering the elements of SafeSport, fundamental coaching principles and athlete management.  Over 2,000 coaches have now completed the course, meaning that for the first time in the history of the organization, all USSA coaches received some level of formal training!  Fast Start has also provided a strong foundation for the continued expansion of online learning modules, which are facilitating increased accessibility for coach education. This evolution has already resulted in 40% growth in Level 100 course participation.  Coupled with that, the USSA has trained many of its Level 300 club coaches to deliver Level 100 courses within their clubs, encouraging senior coaches in USSA clubs to use the USSA coach development process and curriculum to train and improve their own staffs.  Through this localized program, nearly 200 club coaches have received their Level 100 certification, effectively de-centralizing the USSA's coach development program out to the clubs in the field, and providing benefit to the clubs in the form of efficient staff development.  The USSA has also expanded the number of courses, certifications, and continuing education courses (many served online) to capitalize on the momentum in the program, resulting in an over 50% jump in Level 200 clinic participation.  The USSA's National Coaches Academy has continued on its renewed path, giving the USSA's top club coaches another opportunity in addition to participation at selected camps and regional projects to learn side-by-side with the USSA's elite team staff.  The USSA' Center of Excellence TV has been expanded with over 700 educational videos available, and has been re-organized to enhance accessibility to the content, yielding over 500,000 views.  Center of Excellence TV offers USSA coaches and athletes vignettes produced by the elite team staff, with commentary and text instruction often accompanying the instructional videos.  And the USSA is currently moving forward toward making premium "members-only" content available on Center of Excellence TV.  With this focus on coach development, the USSA achieved an important milestone, providing one certified coach for every ten athletes in the association.

·         Ongoing development of the USSA's club development program, which will offer education, recognition, best practices sharing amongst clubs, and club consultation services (some of which are already being requested by a number of the USSA's largest clubs).  The program will also establish a club certification system which will verify the quality of programming in clubs in accordance with USSA standards, and mentor those clubs not meeting standards to achieve higher levels of quality and performance.  Certified clubs will be granted the use of the USSA's logo for promotion and fundraising, along with the right to promote their affiliation to parents and athletes as a USSA certified club.  The Club Excellence seminar, which is the annual educational gathering of the leadership of the USSA's Clubs, will continue to be a valuable feature of the club development program offering information, insights, and club-to-club collaboration.

·         IT development on behalf of USSA Clubs is being expanded.  The USSA's online race registration and management system continues to improve, with additional functionality being added on based on the feedback of clubs and competition organizers.  In September the USSA will roll out improved member websites in each of its sports, increasing accessibility to information and providing improved demographic segmenting.  The USSA's regional alpine regional sites will now be incorporated into the architecture , facilitating streamlined and improved communication out to the regions.  And Club AMP, a club-level version of the USSA's elite team athlete management platform, is in beta-test now with a number of the USSA's top clubs.  Once the final version is complete (likely this fall), subscription to the platform will be offered across the USSA's clubs.

·         Exclusive USSA member discounts are now available through each member's account, and U.S. Ski Team licensed merchandise is available at //

In the area of improved communications, the USSA has also implemented:

·         Improvements in the design of to be rolled out in September to facilitate more targeted demographic communication and consolidated communication across regions and divisions/states

·         A task force of divisional leaders to review governance affiliations and local fee structures

·         An athletics blog to provide transparency and information about organizational decisions and directions

·         An expanded club visitation program utilizing various athletic staff

·         Improved communication through an expanded regional presence

·         Expanded communication through the USSA's club development program

·         Sport leader forums will be conducted monthly beginning in August to discuss programming and disseminate information throughout the club network

          Improved sport-specific segmenting of parent contact information has been completed to allow for sport-specific targeting of communications to parents, with sport-specific Excellence newsletters planned           to roll out in September.

Finally, a task force of divisional and state representatives is working to align governance structures at the local level to foster enhanced communication and decision-making processes, consistency of programming and a rationalization and harmonization of regional membership fees, which vary widely from $70 per competitor in New York and $65 in Vermont, to $25-35 in the majority of other divisions and states, with similar disparities at the youth member level.

There are still more enhancements that must be tackled, such as further improvements in targeted member communications by demographic and interest, and additional enhancements to club and member benefits.  The USSA's web-based information for parents to help them navigate the athlete development process must be improved.  And each of the newly-initiated programs require further development.  But the progress made already in the first two months of the project has been meaningful, and has improved the USSA and its ability to realize its Vision of being Best in the World.

-Luke Bodensteiner, EVP Athletics

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