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USATF Masters Track & Field Committee - 2005 Strategic Plan

Background and Origin

Prior to the USATF 2004 Annual Meeting in Portland, OR in December 2004, Active Athletes Representative Dave Clingan prepared a "Strategic Plan" working document to stimulate discussion among national officer candidates and the Masters Committee Executive Committee. At the Masters Committee meeting, Chair George Mathews proposed the formal development of a Strategic Plan that would parallel one that had been developed by USATF. Upon subsequent discussion and approval for preparation of a Strategic Plan, Mathews was re-elected Chair of the Masters and then led an ad-hoc committee that obtained limited supplemental funding from the USATF Budget Committee for this effort.

The Executive Committee of the USATF Masters Committee met on March 10, 2005 in Boise, ID prior to the Indoor National Championships to begin work on a Strategic Plan to guide the continued success and development of Track & Field for Masters Athletes in the United States. Athletes were represented in the meeting by the Active Athletes Representative, Becky Sisley. National Officers included Chair George Mathews and Vice Chair Suzy Hess. Regional Coordinators present were Ray Feick, East; Bob Fine, Southeast; Mark Cleary, West; and Todd Taylor, Northwest. Also, Sandy Pashkin, Championship Games and Ken Weinbel, Championship Sites. National Masters News Editor Jerry Wojcik and Weight events chair Dick Hotchkiss sat in on the meeting. A second work session was held on August 3, 2005 in Honolulu prior to the Outdoor National Championships. In attendance at that meeting were George Mathews, Suzy Hess, Sandy Pashkin, Jerry Wojcik, Treasurer Joy MacDonald, Secretary Lester Mount, and Regional Coordinators Mark Cleary, West; Christel Donley, Mid-America; and Jim O'Neill, Midwest.

Strategic Planning Process

The Executive Committee adopted a formal strategic planning process consisting of three major stages. The First Stage began by creating a Mission Statement that could be a clear representation of the essence of Masters Track & Field-its purpose, values, and activities. The mission statement was discussed within the context of a Shared Vision of what the Executive Committee would like to see in the future with programs and activities as well as the structure and funding to support them.

The Second Stage in the strategic planning process was an Environmental Scan of the current situation in which Masters Track & Field operates-driving forces, trends, changes, competition, etc. Within that context, a Situation Assessment (SWOT Analysis) was then conducted to identify Internal Strengths (to build on) Weaknesses (to resolve), External Opportunities (to maximize) and Threats (to overcome).

The Third Stage was focused on developing actual goals, objectives and strategies for their attainment. From the SWOT Analysis, the Executive Committee isolated the major or Critical Issues facing Masters Track & Field. Goals, Objectives/Strategies, and Initiatives/Action Steps were developed for the Critical Issues.

Mission Statement

USATF Masters provides and promotes safe, quality, lifetime competitive opportunities for masters athletes at all levels, recognizes their accomplishments, and practices diversity in all of our activities.

Considerable discussion focused both on what Masters T&F has been up until now and what it should be in the future. The consensus was that the essence of Masters Track & Field is local competitions that also provide athletes with the opportunity to compete further at a Regional and National level in all of the traditional track & field events- sprints, endurance, jumps, throws, multi-event. A clear differentiating aspect of USATF Masters events has been its association with and adherence to rules of competition that are followed by open athletes as well, thus assuring athletes of both a "quality" and "competitive" experience.

Thus, within this context, the current organization structure was essentially validated with its major components being administration or governance (national & regional), competition (national, rules, WMA), and recognition (awards, rankings). The major programmatic activities of USATF Masters can be summarized in the following categories of Governance, Competitions, Recognition, and Promotion:

Governance

  • Executive Committee
  • Annual Meeting
  • Regional Coordinators
  • Games Committee
  • Team Manager
  • Athletes Representative
  • Local Associations

Recognition

  • Records
  • Rankings
  • All-American Standards
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Hall of Fame

Competitions

  • Local Meets
  • Regional Championships
  • National Championships
  • WMA-world & regional
  • Masters Invitationals

Promotion

  • Sponsorship
  • Media Relations
  • Clinics
  • Growth and Participation

Environmental Scan and SWOT Analysis

Today there is a greater emphasis by seniors on health and wellness. Many opportunities exist for general fitness and moderate to highly competitive athletic pursuits. Athletes who compete in USATF Masters are a mixture of those who formerly competed in track & field in their younger years ("lifetime sport") and those new to the sport. Data are not available at the regional and local level, but participants in the 2004 Outdoor National Championships were from the following age groups: 30-39 (150), 40- 49 (327), 50-59 (284), 60-69 (203), 70+ (143). Nearly 60% of participants are age 50 and above. With many having raised families and been established in careers, persons in this age group have both the time and disposable income to pursue track & field competitions all the way to the national level. [missing data point is whether breakdowns for local and regional competitions are quite similar.] In one sense, Track & Field is competing with other social and recreational activities for the available "dollars and time" of masters age athletes.

State Games, Senior Games and other such organizations also host competitions but the rules of competition and facilities are not always equitable to the standards of USATF. Many USATF members compete in these competitions as well. Membership in USATF Masters (about 7,000) was best described as having "nominal growth" - meaning that there is general increase through gaining a few members than are lost through attrition. It is not clear that specific, targeted promotional efforts would significantly increase the numbers of members or participants at meets. Not all associations and regions within USATF Masters hold a "championship" event. Some individual meets with a long history also rotationally among them serve as the venue for an association or regional championship. In some cases, those meets have received underpinning financial support through a family, foundation, or other "endowment" type of funding to insure its ongoing support.

The association of Masters within the USATF, the governing body for Track & Field in the United States, was seen as a positive because of services rendered to the organization. A stark reality, however, is that the "Masters" section, while large in numbers, pales in comparison to the numbers and revenue generated by youth & open athlete and the LDR (long distance running) categories. It is believed that USATF will place increasing emphasis on youth and the development of the elite/"professional" athlete programs as a feeder system to the US Olympic Committee (USOC).

In other countries, especially Western Europe, the "club" system is the dominant organizational form of participation, i.e., one joins a club in a local geographic area and has both facilities, coaching and competitive opportunities from youth through open and masters categories. In the United States, high school and college competitive structures and organizations supplant the club continuity found in other countries. Also, Masters in the USA are highly dependent upon access to facilities of high schools and colleges. USATF has recently made a push to support Clubs with the hosting of Club National Championships and designating Centers of Excellence for development of open and elite athletes. USATF Masters began hosting of a "club championship" based upon event point totals of their members at the 2005 Indoor National Championships. Some local USATF associations do not conduct championship events whether due to low membership numbers, distant geography or organizational factors.

An assessment of USATF Masters Internal Strengths and Weaknesses within this operating environment resulted in the following:

Strengths

  • Lifelong Sport-Health & Wellness Recognition
  • Quality of Volunteers
  • Services provided by USATF
  • Organizational Structure in place for Masters
  • Recognition Programs for Athletes
  • National Masters News
  • High Quality of National Events
  • Support for International Competition (WMA)

Weaknesses

  • Financial Dependence upon USATF
  • Access to Facilities for Meets
  • General Public Awareness
  • Strong & Active Marketing Program
  • Membership Growth
  • Utilizing Member Resources-skills and finances
  • Cooperation with Other Organizations (e.g. Parks & Recreation)
  • Grass Roots Programs
  • Alliance with Youth Programs
  • Variation among Associations and Regions

An assessment of USATF Masters Opportunities to maximize and Threats to overcome within this operating environment resulted in the following:

Opportunities

  • Establish financial self-sufficiency
  • Leverage Health & Wellness benefits of lifelong competition
  • Cooperative Advertising and Mailings with other Organizations
  • Endowment and Insurance Giving by Members
  • Corporate and Foundation Giving and Grants
  • Increase Number of Volunteers

Threats

  • USATF increasing emphasis on elite/professional athletes
  • Masters Program Sustainability dependent upon USATF Budget allocation
  • Facilities Availability
  • Associations with no Championship meets and few competitive opportunities

Critical Issues

As the starting point for development of priorities and action plans to move USATF Masters forward, several critical issues were isolated that must be addressed to insure continued survival, market positioning and prominence.

1. Finances

Be in a position to be financially self-sufficient within the structure of USATF by increasing the amount and number of sources for outside funding of programs and activities. Masters Track & Field must be able to leverage the advantages of its association with USATF but not be forced to abandon programs and activities desired by Masters members due to changing or shifting priorities of USATF. An analogy was offered that we should be able to support ourselves much like a university endows both programs and academic chairs from outside financial giving.

Goals

  1. Become financially self-sufficient within USATF within 1 to 3 years.
  2. Increase the number and amount of external funding resources.

Objectives/Strategies

  1. Obtain additional USATF budget funding (FY 2006) to meet the projected Masters Committee budget gap for current programs.
  2. Increase in Masters' membership fees.
  3. Rights fees for award of national events to LOC's.
  4. Secure Title Sponsors for National Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
  5. Solicit sponsors for special programs such as National Rankings and the BenGay Masters Invite Program within major open meets.
  6. Funding and grants from corporations and foundations.
  7. Convention & Visitor Bureau financial support of Masters.
  8. Masters membership contributions through endowments and insurance giving.
  9. Annual update of Strategic Plan.

Initiatives/Action Steps

  1. Submit expanded Masters Budget for FY 2006 based upon identified priorities of the Strategic Plan.
  2. Engage USATF in discussion of membership increased fee proposals and a reasonable distribution of proceeds to Masters Committee budget/programs.
  3. Leverage USATF National Office expertise for financial opportunities.
  4. Appoint/retain an experienced marketing professional to pursue Corporate funding, grants and sponsorships.
  5. Appoint a Masters member to research private foundation grant opportunities.
  6. Appoint a Masters member to negotiate national meet right fees during bid solicitation and contract negotiation.
  7. Appoint a member and committee to develop a Masters financial giving and endowment program.
  8. Seek annual budget allocation for Strategic Plan update.

2. Marketing

A strong and active marketing program must be developed which creates general public awareness of Masters Track & Field while also promoting and publicizing our competitions and activities.

Goals

  1. Increase general public awareness about USATF Masters.
  2. Increase media publicity about USATF Masters at the national, regional, and local levels.

Objectives/Strategies

  1. Improve Masters web page of USATF website for improved site navigation and access to information on events & activities, and how and where to participate in Masters track & field.
  2. Develop commercials for cable television.
  3. Position and write articles for national publications-in general and within master athlete demographics.
  4. Cooperative mailing programs with other associations and organization, e.g., AARP, YMCA Gold's Gym, 24-Hour Fitness, etc.
  5. Develop and distribute a media Kit for local and regional promotion and publicity, for Masters meet directors, clubs, and associations.
  6. Develop a Speakers Kit for use by members at Service Clubs, e.g., Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.
  7. Posters and flyers available at retail running store outfitters.

Initiatives/Action Steps

  1. Appoint a USATF website liaison to interact with USATF webmaster and to serve as a gatekeeper for Masters web page format, content and submission of material.
  2. Appoint an Information Technology specialist to assist and coordinate IT technical support issues.
  3. Appoint and adequately fund an experienced marketing professional member-volunteer to develop a marketing and media program and lead this initiative.
  4. Continued funding support for National Masters News.

3. Grass Roots Programs

Encourage local associations and regions to actively promote and recognize opportunities for Masters Track and Field.

Goals

  1. Encourage local USATF Associations and Regions to actively promote and recognize opportunities for Masters Track & Field.
  2. Promote lifelong athletic competition from high school through masters categories.
  3. Increase the number of competition opportunities at the local level.

Objectives/Strategies

  1. Conduct a national survey of facilities available for masters training and competitions; create and disseminate a database.
  2. Encourage joint competitions with junior, college, open and masters athletes competing within the same meet.
  3. Continue specialty competition opportunities such as Masters Invite Program within major national open meets.
  4. Develop a larger base of volunteers-officials, organizers, helpers, committees, meet management.
  5. Develop software for conveniently translating USATF-certified meet results into a National Rankings accessible on the USATF website.
  6. Continued nomination of Masters Hall of Fame athletes and appropriate media exposure.
  7. Encourage cooperation with non-USATF and WMA organizations such as National Senior Games and State Games Associations.

Initiatives/Action Steps

  1. Appoint a member as Masters Track & Field Facilities Database Coordinator to facilitate its development and maintenance.
  2. Appoint a Mini and Specialty Meets Facilitator.
  3. Appoint a National Volunteers Coordinator to develop specific programs for increased depth and breadth of volunteers.
  4. Appoint a Masters Hall of Fame curator/custodian to solicit appropriate display materials.
  5. Budget line item funding for national rankings software development.
  6. Appoint a liaison to National Senior Games Association; State USATF Associations appoint a State Games liaison.
  7. Continue funding of masters demographics surveys at National Meets.
  8. Survey USATF Masters members for skills and abilities that can be entered into a database for volunteers to advance USATF Masters programs and objectives.
  9. Conduct an Annual Membership Drive.
  10. Appoint a Diversity Coordinator.
  11. Conduct a Diversity Training Seminar to insure that USATF Masters is providing opportunities and full access for those who wish to participate in track and field competitions and administrative activities of the organization.

4. Clubs

Encourage member participation in clubs and promote inter-club championships at association and regional events.

Goals

  1. Encourage member participation in Clubs to promote social interaction, training opportunities, and recognition.
  2. Encourage greater club involvement in fielding teams for regional and national competitions.

Objectives/Strategies

  1. Encourage clubs to stage "fun" meets with members trying different events.
  2. Conduct training clinics for current and prospective Masters' athletes.
  3. Encourage clubs to host a series of "mini-meets".
  4. Maintain 2005-initiated club scoring at the National Meets.
  5. Encourage club scoring at association and Regional Championship meets.
  6. Encourage clubs on an annual basis to formally recognize the best athletes for track and field categories within age groups.

Initiatives/Action Steps

  1. Appoint a USATF Masters Club Advocate.
  2. Appoint committee to review validity and fairness of club scoring at national meets.
  3. Obtain existing Associations and Region Championship team scoring rules and encourage standardization that would also pertain to national meets.
  4. Task newly appointed Mini and Specialty Meets Facilitator to assist with club meet development and promotion efforts.

5. Associations

Encourage and provide support resources to Associations to insure that Association Championships are held.

Goals

  1. Encourage and provide support resources to Association to insure that Association Championships are held annually.
  2. Assist Associations in promoting track and field participation for Masters.
  3. Recognition of significant accomplishments and performances.

Objectives/Strategies

  1. Conduct survey of local associations to determine frequency of championship meets and assess obstacles and impediments to annualized event, e.g., travel logistics, facilities, implements, funding, etc.
  2. Develop and disseminate a Meet Manual on how to conduct a well-run Track & Field meet that ensures USATF meet certification and appropriate officials, support resources, and event scheduling for an enjoyable athlete experience.
  3. Conduct training clinics for current and prospective Masters' athletes.
  4. Encourage local associations on an annual basis to formally recognize the best athletes for track and field categories within age groups.

Initiatives/Action Steps

  1. Task Regional Coordinators with surveying USATF associations within their regions and reporting on findings on frequency and issues in conducting championship meets.
  2. Appoint a Meet Manual Coordinator to develop a Meet Manual for conduct of a successful track and field meet.
  3. Provide funding assistance to local associations for training clinics.

Strategic Plan - Next Steps

  1. A Summary of the Critical Issues, Goals, Objectives/Strategies, and Initiatives /Action Steps will be published in the National Masters News.
  2. Copies of the Strategic Plan will be available and distributed at the 2005 USATF Annual Meeting.
  3. In both forums, volunteers will be solicited to work on the Initiatives/Action Steps.
  4. The Strategic Plan will be posted on the USATF website for member access and review.
  5. The Masters Executive Committee will discuss the plan in its meeting.
  6. Line item program budget allocations for start-up funding of Initiatives/Action Items must be made for submission in the 2006 USATF Masters Committee Budget request.
  7. There must be an assigned accountability or manager for each Initiative/Action Step with associated time frame for completion and key tasks or milestones to be achieved.
  8. As appropriate, the Action Step Manager and accompanying Committee members will prepare a detailed work plan to guide their efforts.
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