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.
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:
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:
An assessment of USATF Masters Opportunities to maximize and Threats to overcome within this operating environment resulted in the following:
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.
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.
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.
3. Grass Roots Programs
Encourage local associations and regions to actively promote and recognize opportunities for Masters Track and Field.
Encourage member participation in clubs and promote inter-club championships at association and regional events.
Encourage and provide support resources to Associations to insure that Association Championships are held.
Strategic Plan - Next Steps