Incredible. Really.


A review by ACES (Association of Chief Executives for Sport) supplied to USA Swimming reports that exactly ZERO are the number of people serving on the governing boards of directors for their international Federation, who are ATHLETES or COACHES. At the end of this short article, I’ll list all the federations who responded.

No athletes. No coaches. What conclusions can we draw from this?

  1. International Federations operate as paternalistic organizations where anyone except the “suits” (sport politicians) are not welcome.
  2. Professional athletes in all sports, are “done to, and for” by amateurs who reside in the old thinking of the 19th century that only “gentlemen” run sport.
  3. Professional coaches are not considered worthy to help govern the sports in which they spend their entire lives.

Someone told me recently that clearly it was a “bad idea” to have athletes and coaches on governing bodies. This same person is a ranking sport politician not only in their own federation, but in the international federation.

What flawed logic. (“it’s never been so, so clearly it SHOULD never be so.”)

In reality, this is the strongest possible indictment of the CREDIBILITY of International Sports Federations to govern their sport. Making them, quite literally, IN-Credible.

As proof of the absurdity of this conclusion, I point to USA Swimming and to Australian Swimming….the two most successful sports teams in the history of Olympic Sport, in terms of medals won, records set; etc. (we’ll dismiss the old drug cheating East German regime from consideration, shall we? )

Both organizations have both athletes and coaches imbedded permanently in the highest levels of decision making in their organization, quite successfully, it would appear. While I cannot speak authoritatively on the history of Australian Swimming, it is correct that USA Swimming has had athletes and coaches on it’s Board of Directors since it’s inception in 1979.

It works for the two most successful Olympic organizations on the planet, but wouldn’t work for International Federations? Please.

And please, remember that we’re talking “Serving on the governing boards…” not the eyewash of “athletes commissions” that the IOC and some others that they put in place to blunt valid criticism, and then roundly ignore.

Time for a Change. Incredible.

John Leonard

The sports represented in the survey: Badminton, Biathlon, Bowling, Equestrian, Fencing, Field Hockey, Hockey, Lacrosse, Luge, Masters Swimming, Rugby, Sailing, Shooting, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Synchro Swimming, Table Tennis, Volleyball, Water Polo, Water Ski, Wrestling.

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