USA Track & Field’s 2013 Annual Meeting has come and gone, and 2014 looms on the horizon. As we all take a moment to take a deep breath over the next few weeks, we start to look ahead. This time of year, we also do a little bit of looking back.
In my President’s Report at the Annual Meeting, I quoted one of my favorite mantras, that you can’t keep doing things the same old way and expect different results. The 2013 Annual Meeting was a very clear example that we are NOT doing things the same old way. Nearly everyone I spoke to commented on how the convention both looked and felt “different.” Everything from the branding of the event schedule to the overall feel of the event, and even the hotel itself – everything was a clear upgrade from Annual Meetings past. We are in the midst of the establishment of a new culture, with a new staff and new energy permeating the organization.
It started with a “different” Opening Session. We had the usual financial reports and credentialing reports, but we also changed it up a bit. Rather than officers and executives talking to the audience, we invited several of our stakeholders – current athletes, Hall of Famers, volunteers, broadcasting partners and sponsors – to speak to you about the change they themselves have experienced. It wasn’t all roses, either. People like Peter Diamond of NBC, John Capriotti of Nike and our own Jackie Joyner-Kersee had to give context of how things haven’t always been so great between them and USATF. But they spoke about how they see us reaching out in new and collaborative ways. The result is stronger business relationships and more meaningful personal ties.
They testified that change isn’t easy, even when it’s good. We saw that ourselves at the Annual Meeting. We engaged in what I like to consider healthy debate about everything from our legislation to the role of committees in our governance to selection processes for our honorees. Change is not one-way, and it is not done by edict. It’s done through give and take; through taking a new course and through facilitating an understanding of that course.
One of the themes along that course of change is our board’s support of our CEO. For our organization to function, support between the board and CEO is absolutely critical, although it has rarely, if ever, existed for any length of time … until now. We hold Max accountable and look to him to make the hard decisions – and then to defend those decisions to us. He does that, all while neither shrinking from the responsibility nor holding back his opinions. That healthy give-and-take of ideas happens in our Annual Meeting hallways, in our committee meetings and in the boardroom as well.
One of my favorite moments of the Annual Meeting was a breakfast held Thursday morning to discuss the role of women in our sport and how USATF's female leaders can facilitate progress nationally and especially globally. There was healthy debate, collaboration, different opinions, but a shared vision. That’s what the organization and the Annual Meeting is about.
Without people like the folks at that meeting, the athletes in the AAC, the coaches in Coaches Advisory, passionate advocates in the Youth Division, our officials, Association leadership, volunteers, recordkeepers and everyone in between – USATF doesn’t function. A simple, if impassioned, “Thank You” is never enough. So I will continue thanking you all year long and into the next as we continue on this journey.
This past year was a year of change. There is more to come.