Hightower, McNees speak at USATF Annual Meeting Opening Session


Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The 2010 USA Track & Field Annual Meeting began in earnest Thursday evening with the event's General Opening Session at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. USATF Chairman and President Stephanie Hightower and Interim CEO Mike McNees welcomed approximately 1,000 volunteers, officials, coaches, athletes and administrators who chart the future of the sport.

Hightower charged those in attendance to embrace the change of the previous year and to recognize that more is in the offing.

"I think we all recognize that change may be one of life's constants; continual improvement, growth and refinement isn't nurtured by inertia," she said. "And because of factors like competition, high performance and the pursuit of excellence, USA Track & Field can't afford to settle for doing things the same old way and expect to get different results."

First among the changes Hightower pointed to were the substantial second round of retooling governance reforms to establish the primacy of the (USATF) Board as the fiduciary agent of the organization. Additional changes in 2010 cited by Hightower included the appointment of a five-member ethics committee that promotes and projects integrity and appropriate conduct within all levels of leadership; the development and implementation of a registered coaches program that maintains the highest ethical and honor standards for all coaches; and the Board's judgment to pursue a leadership change in the organization's CEO position.

"These changes can be best appreciated in the context of the governance reforms and the strategic plan tactics that this body collectively refined and ultimately agreed upon," Hightower said. "So by eliminating the mystery of where we are collectively headed, we can take comfort in shared goals, shared direction and managed change."

Hightower announces President's Awards

As part of her remarks, Hightower announced this year's President's Awards winners, recognized for their contributions to the sport and organization:

Steve Cuomo - USATF Chair, Athletics for the Disabled Committee

Julia Emmons - Former Executive Director of the Atlanta Track Club and the Peachtree Road Race. USATF Women's LDR Chair (1990-1996) and directed the Olympic Marathons and Race Walks at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Karen Krsak - USATF General Competition Division, Associations Committee Chair

Bob Latham - USATF Long Distance Running Championships Subcommittee Chair

Bob Weiner - Chairman, Masters Track & Field Media Committee

State of the Sport Address

USATF Chief Operations Officer and Interim CEO Mike McNees closed out the Opening Session by delivering the State of the Sport Address.

McNees described organizational successes in the last year. The Visa Championship Series continued to be a ratings winner for USATF's television partners, posting a whopping 43% increase on ESPN and an 18% increase on ESPN2, and the Saturday airing of the USA Outdoor Championships on ESPN drew a best-ever rating. The ratings success translated into value for all Visa Championship Series partners as the series delivered almost $10 million in advertising value; USATF will look to expand and improve on television opportunities as a revenue-generating opportunity.

In keeping with that goal, this fall USATF launched a comprehensive effort to improve the television broadcasts of all its properties. The organization has selected a new production partner for 2011, who will work collaboratively with USATF to better highlight the entire sport, not just certain glamour events and revolutionize USATF's broadcasts from a technical perspective as well as from an artistic perspective.

Additional changes for the better undertaken by USATF include a revamping of the Project 30 program to make it more straightforward and ensure that the roles of all parties are better understood; making athlete communications a top organizational priority; and the incredible success of USATF's St. Vincent Elite Athlete Medical Support Program, whichprovides medical assistance to qualified injured athletes.

McNees also pointed to USATF's efforts to engage the general public by stating that USATF membership now exceeds 100,000 members, the organization has exceeded 50,000 friends on Facebook and in the coming days a new-look USATF website (www.usatf.org) will be unveiled.

During his speech McNees also recognized the challenges the organization faces. Foremost is expanding revenue and USATF's stable of events. Toward that end, USATF has proposed to add a marketing sales position to increase revenue as the organization continues to work closely with the USOC on joint partnerships, such as the recently announced BMW sponsorship.

With the loss of two Visa Championship Series events, USATF is focused on creating new, professional events that will make up a legitimate, geographically diverse series that will enhance competitive opportunities for its athletes and serve as the mechanism for the Visa Championship Series.

The 2010 USATF Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach continues through Sunday. For more information on USATF and the Annual Meeting, visit: www.usatf.org