PARK CITY, Utah (May 18) - Dedication and talent aren't the only ingredients for the unprecedented success by the U.S. skiers and riders in recent years, President and CEO Bill Marolt told the 2007 U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Congress. There's also the "Team Behind the Team," which facilitates opportunities for excellence by the athletes.
That was the message Friday in Marolt's keynote address to the annual USSA Congress at Deer Valley Resort. Some 200-plus delegates from across the country were meeting for four days of committee, subcommittee and working groups to discuss plans to improve USSA's 15 national teams in seven Olympic and Paralympic sports as well as, among other items, the development pipeline for each sport.
Marolt, a 1964 Olympic alpine racer from Aspen, CO, said he had been thinking about the spirit of Olympism and the Olympic movement, and he tied his beginnings in alpine racing to the experience of USSA athletes and coaches, volunteers and officials, and other stakeholders in USSA.
Clubs provide starting point for Olympism
"Olympism starts in the local clubs. It starts with parents who put their kids in our programs, and it starts with the volunteers," Marolt said as he broadstroked the Team Behind the Team.
"Those volunteers and those parents get involved because they want to create an environment of excellence, programs where kids can learn and believe in the values and lessons of competition," he said.
The stakeholders in USSA, he explained, include not only the coaches and athletes, competition officials and club staffers and volunteers but ski areas and resorts, corporate sponsors and private donors as well as the media. "Why are all those people involved? Because they see value" in USSA participation, he said, although each sees its own involvement in a different way.
"Parents see it as something valuable every day - keeping kids out of the mall, for instance," he said. Athletes are involved "because they want to be the best they can be," Marolt said. Coaches have their own competitive element and not only want to encourage and teach young athletes but look to build a successful program and show they can coach better than anyone else.
Volunteers, officials and donors participate "to make a difference in the lives of young people." Involvement can help bring credibility for a ski area or resort, he went on, and possibly bring business to the resort. Sponsors look for exposure in branding their product(s) but also want to be associated with first-class programs and successful athletes.
"And it's important we have good relations with the media, important they have the opportunity to tell our story. The media's not going to be our PR agency," he cautioned, "but what we do needs to be covered."
Synergy links all stakeholders
The combination of these stakeholders, the inherent partnership of the participants, creates not only the Team, Marolt said, but the Team Behind the Team - and none of it operates independently. There's a synergy that grows from the participation of each component.
USSA has become an organization, which is "education-based and athletics-focused," he said. USSA's education program has grown beyond coaches' education to include officials, clubs and athletes looking to further their studies.
"We're doing a good job, but that's the time we have to say, 'What do we have to do to get better?' What's the next step? How do we challenge ourselves?"
To continue improving, he said USSA is looking to provide world-class facilities with an eye toward being on snow in late October or the first week of November. For instance, the organization, which is the governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding, not only is working with Colorado resorts, but also investing in Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic cross country venue, to improve those facilities for greater training opportunities.
National center planned in Park City
A cornerstone for the ongoing improvement, Marolt said, is USSA's vision to build a national center - a Center of Excellence - in Park City. The facility will house all administrative and athletic functions with a total approach to athletes' training and, if necessary, rehabilitation. It will include a weight center, cardio center, nutrition center, and a ramps-and-tramps workout area, among other elements.
"It's going to be an incredible facility, he said. "There will be very few facilities like our national center anywhere in the world...
"It will represent our company nationally and globally. It will represent our commitment to be the best in the world."
USSA and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation began a $60 million Legacy Campaign five years ago, he said, "and we're nearing our goal." The Legacy Campaign is already generating more than $1 million annually, which goes into athletic development, according to Marolt.
"We're doing all that because we want to take that [next] step" toward greater success, he said.
"How are we going to get all this done? We go back to our old friend, leadership," Marolt said. He reminded delegates that while USSA is doing a good job, "We're only part of the way down the road to where we want be." Each of them needs to be thoroughly involved in supporting USSA and helping further its mission, vision, goals and values, he said.
Marolt concluded that total participation and commitment will make the group's legacy one of even greater success.