Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, ME. “Our number one objective is to support our current athletes, but very close behind that is the need to support and develop a new generation of athletes that will keep our sport strong and growing,” was Chairman Larry Pugh’s statment on athlete development at the fall meeting of the US Biathlon Association Board of Directors today.
Pugh’s comment followed the announcement by US Biathlon Executive Director Max Cobb that Piotr Bednarski of St. Louis Park, Minnesota is the USBA’s Athlete Development Director effective today. Bednarski’s responsibilities include working with development coaches and regional training centers and at the same time, bringing the best high school and collegiate cross-country skiers into a well-structured program to help them become biathletes.
As the father of Minnesota Biathlon and the person who developed the concept of regional training centers in the US, Bednarski is well suited for his new position. In his presentation to the USBA Board, Bednarski commented that he would draw off the successes of the late nineties up to 2002, but also would try to solve the biggest problem of athlete retention. He stated, “We have to find ways to develop a program that allows athletes to complete their educational goals while continuing to do biathlon, and at the same time make the transition from the junior level to senior an effective, seamless process.”
To start this process, Bednarski and Cobb will meet shortly with the regional development coaches to plan their strategy, which will include recruiting camps, visiting ski carnivals, and setting athlete quotas for each region. Cobb commented, “We always exceeded our athlete recruiting quotas in the years prior to 2003, so with a well executed recruiting plan and good program to present to the athletes, this should not be a problem now.”
Other agenda items today included updates on athlete training and preparation for the coming season, IBU and USOC relations, and fundraising. Just hours after the completion of the first US Biathlon/NENSA Golf tournament, Marketing Chairman Andy Shepard announced that the fundraiser was a rousing success. The tournament, dinner, and auctions netted more than $25,000, which will go directly to support association programs.
On the heels of this successful event, a new fund raising program, the USBA Gold Medal Campaign was unveiled. This annual program will support US Biathlon’s efforts to win the first Olympic Biathlon medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. The program will focus on securing contributions from both the biathlon and corporate communities.
As the meeting adjourned, Cobb commented, “I feel like all of the planning and work over the past 5 months came together with today’s meeting. Our National Team training is going well; a new qualifying criteria system is in place; we have set in motion a plan for athlete development, had an enormously successful fund raising event, and we now have consolidated our operations here in Pineland, after finishing our final annual audit in Vermont. This has been a very satisfying day.”
The United States Biathlon Association is the National Governing Body for the sport of Biathlon in the United States as recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Biathlon Union. The US Biathlon Association supports the US Biathlon Team and development of the sport on all levels within the United States.