Introduction: Chuck Wielgus spoke to us as our new Executive Director, and I think in a year’s time, he’s been able to finally shed the title of “new,” and he’s just our “Executive Director.” I also think that in that time Chuck has gone from being the Executive Director of United States Swimming to the leader of American Swimming. A year ago one of my fellow board members told me that he knew what we were fighting against, but he forgot what we were fighting for until he heard Chuck talk. And now we’ve had one year to see Chuck deliver, and he has delivered everything we were fighting for. We just had two marvelous examples of it in the spectacular television presentations we’ve seen our sport have in the dual meet format in the Goodwill Games and the great presentation of US Nationals that excited and inspired us all. I’m personally thrilled to welcome our leader to talk to us after one year, Chuck Wielgus.
Wielgus: Thank you, George. I was pretty excited to be here a year ago to talk about a lot of our ideas and plans for swimming in the United States. I’m even more excited to be here this year because I can talk and report to you on some progress that we’ve made and then on some new areas into which we’re moving. So, I can move from that stage of talking about just plans and concepts to talking about reality. That makes it that much more exciting to be here. What I’d like to do is, in a short amount of time, try to quickly take you through some of the highlights of the past year, and use those maybe to illustrate some of the building blocks that we’re putting in place for wherever we see swimming going in the future. I have kind of a unique perspective in that, coming from professional sports. I think I was able to come into this job and over the past year try to bring—I don’t in any way want to insult my predecessors—but maybe a more businesslike or a different businesslike approach to our sport. This is going to be a tough act to follow having to listen to the inspiration and thought provoking comments that Chuck Warner had to make and then all the inspiration and motivation that Buddy Lee brings to it. But I’ll do my best to make the business side of swimming a little bit interesting.
We started a little over a year ago trying to lay some groundwork with some fundamental philosophies. I could spend the whole afternoon talking about those philosophies, but I’m not going to do that. I do think understanding at least what those philosophies are, to a small degree, is important because it’s the place from which we start to build; and I think these ten philosophies are philosophies that any team, any club, any organization can adapt and use as its own foundation. I’ll just tick through them quickly. There are ten of them. The 248 first is we’re going to strive for excellence in everything we do. We’re just not going to settle for being second best at anything, whether it’s in the pool or in a brochure that we publish. We want to be the best at everything that we do. Number two, we want to be service oriented with everybody we work with. I feel privileged and honored to serve, serve, serve as the Executive Director of USA Swimming. I have no sense of ownership. I’m here to serve every day, and that’s the attitude I want our staff to have as well. Three, we want to be entrepreneurial. It’s a fast moving world. The world is getting smaller. There are less resources and more people competing for those resources. We need to be in the marketplace in an entrepreneurial fashion. We want to establish and stick to clear priorities. It’s one of the hardest things and one of the most important things I think any of us have to do today, whether it’s working with an individual team or working with a business. It’s figuring out what the priorities are and sticking to them and trying to fend off all those outside interests, many of which are important, but all of which can take us away from our focus on the priorities. We want to maintain a willingness to question and a willingness to change. The day we stop questioning, the day we stop being willing to change, is the day we stagnate. We want to seek consensus whenever possible, but we have to realize it’s not always possible. That’s what comes with leadership.
Sometimes people just have to step forward and make decisions and move on and accept the fact that everybody’s not going to be pleased. We need to reach out. We just can’t say we’re going to be service oriented and say we’re going to be entrepreneurial. We’ve got to step forward and do something about it. We’ve got to walk up to you and say, “Tell me what you think.” We’ve got to build partnerships—individually, as organizations, with other businesses, with the media. We’ve got to make friends for swimming everywhere we go. Nine, we want to engage in disciplined planning, but we want to be unafraid to act intuitively. We’ve got a great business plan for USA Swimming; but if some great opportunity comes along and it doesn’t fit neatly into our business plan, we can’t be afraid to take advantage of that. And finally, number ten, we’ve got to embrace the responsibilities of leadership. If you’re a coach, if you’re running a club, if you’re running a college program, if you’re running a business, you’ve got to be unafraid to lead. We took these ten philosophies; and upon those we said, “Okay, what business are we in?” Every business has to know what its goals are, what its objectives are. We established three very clear priorities. Our poor staff has heard these ad nauseum, but: Build, Promote, Achieve.
We want to build the base of our sport, more and better athletes, coaches, clubs. We want to promote our sport in every way we possibly can in a positive, responsible way; and we want to sustain our success at the highest level. We then set about building a business plan. We spent a lot of time at USA Swimming putting together a very detailed and fairly sophisticated business plan for our sport, and we review that continually. It’s a living document. It’s something that just doesn’t sit on a shelf. We took our business plan (we call it a “game plan”) and put it in a notebook (we call it a “play book”), and we carry it around with us. When something comes along where we need to adjust it, we adjust the plan. That’s our game plan. That’s our play book for the future. It’s a living document that we work from every day, and we must link everything we do to that. One of the elements of our game plan involves the restructuring of our headquarters of operation in Colorado Springs. It began, actually, with the relationship between the Executive Director and the Board of Directors. Everything we’re doing is meant to, not exclude our volunteer leadership, but rather better focus the energies of our organization. We are all for the inclusion of even more volunteers in swimming, but with defined roles and responsibilities. The role of our Board of Directors is to set our overall direction, to adopt and send us forward with a budget that works against the total program that we’ve put together, and to adopt the policies under which we work. It’s the Executive Director’s job to drive the business forward, being absolutely accountable to the Board of Directors every step along the way. I think that philosophy has worked well over the past year. It’s to the credit of our volunteer leadership. They have accepted it, accepted their role and accepted the role of our staff as being the folks that are on the front line trenches working to develop and implement programs on a day-to-day basis. We then organized our headquarters into three basic divisions: our sports development division, which primarily focuses on building the base of our sport; our national team division, which focuses on achieving success; and our business development division, which primarily focuses on marketing and promoting the sport.
Now, all three of these are interconnected, and it’s a triangle. When we have great success in the pool, that helps us promote the sport and helps give us an opportunity to recruit new kids into the sport and build our base. So all three are interconnected, but our three operational units at USA Swimming are consistent with our core objectives. This is probably an appropriate time to let you know we’re changing our name. We’ve been using USA Swimming increasingly over the past year, and we’re in the final stages of adopting that as our official name. We’ve gone by “US Swimming” and “USS.” We are going from this point forward to go by the name of “USA Swimming,” and we’re not going to use any initials. “USAS” refers, for many people, to United States Aquatic Sports; we are just going to be “USA Swimming.” It’s simple; it’s recognizable; it works internationally as well as domestically, and everything we do from now on is going to be tagged with “USA Swimming.” It all has to do with helping to build the brand for our sport. You may not be a basketball fan, but you sure know when you see that NBA logo. We’re also going to develop a tag line for our sport. NBA you know, “Love that game.” Hockey, “The coolest game on ice.” Sports have tag lines that go with them. We have over a thousand entries so far from people who have submitted suggestions for our tag line. Sometime over the next couple of months, we’ll whittle that down to a list of 10 or 20, and then we’ll put that back out on our Web site and get more feedback. We’ll take it into the corporate community and get some feedback. Towards the end of this year we’ll announce what our tag line will be as we move into 1999. What I would like to do now is go through our three “core objectives” and our three divisions, and quickly just touch on some of the highlights from this past year. Then I’ll try to tie those in to where we’re going in the future.
The area of building our base is primarily what our sport development division does. Steve Roush is our Assistant Executive Director in charge of that division, and poor Steve’s been bounced around by me quite a bit over the past year. We’ve finally got him in a home, and he’s doing a heck of a job bringing this division together. Membership—for the tenth year in a row our membership is going to grow, and this is a good sign for all of swimming. US Swimming had 153,000 members in 1988, and in 1998 we will surpass 215,000 athlete members and more than 250,000 total members. We see no reason why those numbers aren’t going to increase in the future; and, in fact, we’d like to try to find ways to accelerate, again responsibly, that growth. Our relationship with ASCA has never been better. One of the things I spoke about last year is how it just didn’t make sense to me that USA Swimming and its coaches’ association shouldn’t have a good relationship. It makes all the sense in the world, and we have been working very hard over the past year to build that relationship. There are regular, literally weekly, communications between the ASCA staff and our staff. This past July we had a joint meeting with some of our staff members and worked on the formation of a collaborative plan that deals with coaches’ educa tion. We are on the verge of signing what I think is a pretty—at least in the swimming world—it’s going to be a pretty historic collaborative agreement between ASCA and USA Swimming that will have an awful lot to do with coaching education and how we move forward. We’ve really reached out to our alumni. It just flabbergasted me how many of our top swimming heroes from the past were just disconnected from the federation, and it’s an absolute shame. So we spent a lot of time, not just creating an alumni association for all of our Olympic-National-Pan-American-World Championship Team, etc. athletes to be a part of, but we want to get them back 249 involved in the sport. So don’t be surprised if in the coming year Matt Biondi or Tom Jaeger or Janet Evans or others become available to you or show up at clinics, camps, workshops, or meets. We need to bring these people back into the sport, and we need to bring them back in with open arms. We’re working with a number of other swim-related organizations to build partnerships—the College Swim Coaches Association, NISCA, the NCAA, major aquatic facilities’ directors, etc. Outreach programming—We can’t do enough with outreach programming.
I was at the PGA tour when Tiger Woods blossomed, and I can’t tell you how that energizes a sport from the inside—and how it can disrupt it if you’re not ready for it. We need to be ready for that. We need to be on the cutting edge of extending our outreach efforts as far as we can. It’s a critically important program. As we look ahead in the area of sport development, I think you’re going to see Steve Roush and his division focusing on three major areas. I think you’ll see these three “themes” over and over again in the things we do. One will be coaching education through our work with ASCA. Number two will be club licensing. We’re taking a real hard, serious look at how clubs are functioning. What is the relationship between the club and its coach? How can we enhance that relationship? How can we strengthen? How can we better support the club system? the club structure? You’re also going to hear a lot of discussion over the next twelve to eighteen months about club licensing. We intend to air this out with ASCA to a great extent and get an awful lot of feedback over the next twelve to eighteen months. We’re not going to unilaterally make some decisions and announce some new program, but the one message that I would like to send out in this area in the next twelve to eighteen months is that this is the time to be talking about it. I’ve got a little daughter, and I take her to gymnastics. When I walk in, the first thing I see is a monster banner that says “USA Gymnastics Member Club.”
I went and looked at two or three other gymnastics schools, and we didn’t see that; so we asked them the difference. There was no doubt in our mind which was the best gymnastics club in town; it was the one that was basically a franchise of USA Gymnastics. So they got our business; they got our participation. I think that’s the sort of thing you’ll see happening at some point in the future with swimming in this country. Distance swimming—Distance swimming is going to become a priority for us. We’re concerned about it. You’re going to hear more coming out of USA Swimming like the presentation that Chuck Warner made earlier. That doesn’t mean we’re opposed to sprint racing. I mean, we can’t start talking about events, but distance swimming will be a third theme that will be coming out of our sport development division. I would also like to say that we’re extremely committed to our whole sports science effort. We’ve had some staff turnover in that area, and some folks who have moved on with their careers. They have been wonderful for swimming—Jane Cappaert and Jaci Van Heest—over the last 8 or 9 years. But frankly, it’s a great opportunity for us to reevaluate what we’re doing in the area of sports science. It’s a time to refocus and, if necessary, redirect our efforts. We aren’t going to hire new people until we figure out where that focus is going to take us. Then we’ll figure out what the appropriate functions are, and hire the right people to fit into those functions. So, even though we’ve had some turnover, our commitment to sports science is stronger than ever. The second area, promoting our sport, has kind of been my focus—much of my focus—over the past twelve months. We have hired someone who has come on board to help us with this effort, which will now allow me to spend more time in the technical development side of our sport. Quite a bit has happened in the area of promoting our sport.
The first and most significant thing we did was that we brought the whole marketing function and responsibility in-house. Swimming had an 18 or 19-year relationship with an outside marketing firm who, for a long time, did a great job on behalf of swimming. However, we just took the basic philosophy that no one was going to work harder, no one was going to stay up at night worrying about it or get up earlier more enthused about it than we would be if we brought the responsibility for marketing in-house. So that was the first major thing that we did. We then built on our fundamental philosophies and began com municating. We just started to survey people—athletes, coaches, clubs, people in the corporate sector, people in the media—trying to gather as much input as we could so we could determine what would be the best way to start moving our sport forward from a marketing perspective. We took “Splash,” and we converted it from a newspaper/newsprint publication into a magazine, and there’s just been rave reviews for it—not just from our own constituency, but from advertisers, from potential sponsors, and from people in the media. As important as the recognition that we get from our constituency is, it’s equally important that we get that professional trade recognition that’s out there. That helps position us for the future. Our Web site is award winning. It’s ranked as the number one swimming web site in the world, and it’s in the top 100 sports web sites. Sponsorship—This is an area in which I think you’re going to see a significant amount of development over the next three to four years.
We’ve had a little bit of frustration this past year in that we signed a 7-year $1.7 million sponsorship with General Motors, but we haven’t been able to really talk about it. The reason we haven’t been able to talk about it is because General Motors had a little strike situation to deal with. Lots of people in the marketing department who were there six months ago are no longer there, and we aren’t hooked up with a brand yet. Once we get hooked up with a brand, and hopefully that’s going to happen soon, I think you’re going to see all sorts of promotions involving swimming in our relationship with General Motors. As much as the money is important, in some ways what’s even more important is the promotional significance of our sponsor relationships. There are a number of companies that might just give us money, but what we really want to know is, “How are you going to interface with our sport? How are you going to promote our sport? What are your expectations for us?” We want to have long term relationships. I’m sure all of you, no matter whether you’re with a club team, or a college team, or a high school team, you’ve got business relationships with sponsors of some form or another. It could just be the parents, and those relationships are built over time. That’s why long term relationships that have a promotional significance are what we’re seeking for USA Swimming.
Licensing—We’re changing the way we do business, or licensing. We’re coming out with new merchandising for swimming. We’ve eliminated a lot of red ink on our ledger sheets at USA Swimming. We’ve gotten that red ink off, and we’re moving in a new direction. It’s the direction that, frankly, all the professional sports have long since gone to, which is the theory of licensing. Now we’ll be in that area as well. Events—For every sport, its lead marketing assets are its events. Without question, the events are what makes sports happen in the marketplace. One of the unique aspects of our sport is that we’re unlike the big four—football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and I guess five if you add golf—in that we don’t have a sport that lends itself to three games a week for 40 weeks. It just doesn’t work that way. So we don’t have that even platform that these other sports have to work with, and that puts us at a huge disadvantage in the marketplace. It just creates some new challenges that we have to figure out how to overcome. One of the strategies that we’ve set in place is to develop a defined annual schedule on which we have three or four major high profile events that we’re looking to market. The Summer National Championships is clearly one of those events, which is why we put so much effort on getting that event on a network broadcast with NBC this year. It needs to become one of our anchor events.
The National Club Championships, which many of you may have heard about, is something we are very much in support of. That is proposed to take effect in the year 2001; and I stress, we are very much in support of that concept. The US Open will continue to be an important event for us. I’m not sure if we’ve really figured out how to identify it, how to tag it, how to peg it in the marketplace. In fact, I know we haven’t yet, but it’s still going to continue to be an important event; and we’ve got to figure out how to position it better. The Goodwill Games competition was incredibly well received. I think if you’d asked a number of people in the business sixty days before the Goodwill Games what they thought of the Goodwill Games, the answer you might have gotten was, “Well, this’ll probably be it. This is the swan song.” I think if you asked those same people today, what many of them will say to you is that the Goodwill Games have been reborn. They have a clear identity. The whole dual team competition format that we used, not just in swimming, but across the board in all the sports, really took hold. International federations that participated in that format, many of them for the first time, really took to it. TV ratings went up virtually every single night during the Goodwill Games. The next Games will be 2001 in Brisbane, Australia. They paid an awful lot of money for the rights to have those games. I think you’ll see, for swimming, that this will become an event that becomes a critical, key event on our international calendar.
New events—We’re probably going to step out a little bit and use maybe the Goodwill Games as a model, or maybe other match race, skins type competitions. A long distance championship promoted as a heavyweight fight. We’re going to find a new event idea (there may be one or two out there), and we’re going to have some scheduling issues to deal with; but I think within the next three years you’ll see USA Swimming with one or two new event properties that will be brought forward in the media that are going to, again, be anchor events that really help to communicate to people in the general public that swimming isn’t a sport that just shows up on the Olympic year then disappears for three or four years. World Cup—We’re hosting a World Cup event December 1 and 2 at TexasA&M, and that’s significant in that we’ve also committed to send up to 8 athletes and 2 coaches to each of the other 12 World Cup events around the world. So, we’re not just hosting a single event, we’re making a commitment to a 13-event series. We’ll be helping to support athletes who view that as an opportunity that works with their training and competition schedule to keep them involved. For some of our post-graduates in particular, we need some more racing opportunities. It’s going to help serve that purpose. You may have read in the newspaper this morning that there is talk about a bid for the 2003 World Swimming Championships to be brought to the United States, and that’s an accurate report. We’ll know within about 60 days whether or not this bid will legitimize itself, but we have three or four cities that are extremely interested. The financial cost and other costs are quite extraordinary, but we will know within 60 days whether or not we’re going to move forward with that effort. We happen to think it would be great for swimming. I mean, to have a World Championships in this country will give us so much to focus on and bring so much attention to our sport. So whether we move forward or not, we’ll know soon. Our first priority is absolutely to host the Long Course World Championships. Short Course World Championships is also something that would be considered.
Television—The World Championships this year received nine hours of coverage on FOX. The Goodwill Games, we got six nights of up to two hours a night in coverage; and, especially when the women were swimming, it was pretty exciting. Not that the men weren’t exciting, but the ratings were just a little notch higher when the women were winning. The Nationals—We really, excuse the expression, hung our butts out there this year at the Nationals. I have to tell you, no one’s lining up at our door to pay to put our events on television. It doesn’t happen unless we get out there and make it happen, and we’re going to lose money. We’re not going to lose a lot, but we’re going to lose a little; but whatever we lose, it’s probably worth it. We got a 1.4 rating on the overnights, which means that about 1.3 some odd million people tuned in and watched the National Championships on a Sunday afternoon in August, which is one of the worst times of the year to be on television. People 251 are just outside doing things at that time of year. That 1.4 rating was pretty darn good. The insiders at NBC were telling us that if we got a 1.0 they’d be pretty happy. A 2.0 would have been a home run. I won’t kid anyone, at 1.4 we hit a solid double off the wall, but it’s a good place to work from. We had a 4 share, which meant that 4% of the television sets that were on were tuned to our event. Again, nothing to be ashamed of at all. To put that in some perspective for you, the track and field championships got about the same rating. Now, the Super Bowl got an off the charts rating. That’s at the other end of the spectrum. There’s an awful lot of sports that get a lot lower rating. That single event ran on a par with WNBA games, just to give you another field of comparison; we’re running about par with the WNBA. Tennis—a little bit ahead of some tennis events, but certainly not ahead of an event like Wimbledon or the U.S. Open that’ll be on this weekend, but nothing to be ashamed of. We kind of did the whole thing ourselves, quite frankly. I mean, we basically negotiated for a pretty favorable time slot, we did the actual production, we hired the production company, and we oversaw the whole story line and content of it.
Those of us that looked at it multiple times, we find all the little pimples and things we’d want to change; but in general we’re very pleased with the presentation for our sport. We thought there was an awful lot of racing for the purists. There were plenty of “up closes” for the athletes, which helps to build some of those personalities. Clearly, that came across as what extraordinary kids we’ve got swimming. That just came across, I think, so strongly. Even the advertisers—which I hope you noticed in there, that we need to start supporting—it was a strong lineup of advertisers. Again, we’re pleased in general with how that went. World Cup—We’re kind of at about second and goal from the three yard line with World Cup in terms of punching it in for the ESPN End Zone, so we’re hopeful that it will be on ESPN. We’re looking at maybe a Monday night airing, probably a week after the event this December. So, again, this World Cup event could become kind of another anchor in that annual calendar of events that keep us in front of the general public. One thing we’ve overlooked is open water. We’re in pretty serious negotiations to have all of our open water events televised on the Outdoor Life network. Again, I’m not saying it’s happening; it’s just we’re close. We’re probably on the 20 yard line in trying to get that one in. These are things that we’re working on. They’re not what we spend every minute of every day working on; they’re not our number one priority, but they’re real important. We’ve hired a fellow by the name of Skip Gilbert. Skip joined us this past June as our new Assistant Executive Director overseeing our business development division. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is for me to hand the ball…a lot of this stuff off to him on a day-to-day basis. He comes to us from soccer where he was National Sales Director for US Soccer Properties. Prior to that he was with “The Sporting News” as their National Sales Director for ten years. So, he’s a guy who gets up in the morning and kind of glazes over at the thought of who he’s going to sell what to, and it’s real nice to have him in our corner. I think as soon as you get to meet him you’ll see he fits right into the culture of our sport. In looking ahead in the area of business development I will just say one thing, that we are going to aggressively and responsibly, underline responsibly, but aggressively and responsibly continue to push forward in our efforts to promote and market this sport.
I understand completely that sometimes we’ll run into little bumps in the road with the technical side of the sport, with scheduling issues; but these are the things we need to do to keep moving forward. As long as we keep our ears open, as long as we keep the dialogue strong, I think we can move forward very responsibly. The third and final core objective we have is achieving competitive success, and Denny Pursley as our National Team Director is responsible on our staff for kind of spearheading our efforts in this area. I guess our number one accomplishment this year is that we are exceedingly proud that we, based on the World Championships in Perth, remain the number one swimming nation in the world. At the same time, we’ve got to take a little breath and say we’re real concerned about our men’s program. The Australian men beat our men. So our men are really going to have to rise to the occasion in 2000, and I think that’s going to be a significant challenge for us. So we’re certainly up to it, but the attack is on. The attack is on, and we should feel that across the board. Just like basketball—every year there are countries getting closer and closer to the U.S. in basketball, and some day it’s going to happen. We’re going to send a team of our very best basketball players, and they’re going to be severely challenged; and we’re closer to that point with swimming. On the bright side, however, I think we saw a large number of younger swimmers coming forward. We just saw many of them at our Nationals. So there’s great hope for the future, and we shouldn’t for a minute be intimidated or afraid. There’s an awful lot of talent out there, and they’re part of our future success. Issues involving drugs and doping—I can’t think of anything that I’d rather not talk about, but what I will say to you briefly is that USA Swimming is absolutely engaged in this on a day-to-day basis. You may not hear much from us on this, but it is something that’s very, very important. There are two basic fronts we’re working on. One is dealing with—and you’ve probably been reading things in the paper—if you read USA Today this morning, there’s a big story on this subject in the paper. This whole business of what’s going on in East Germany, or in Germany, with the trials, and things that are coming forward— USA Swimming’s position is absolutely to seek recognition for our athletes who were beaten by doped East Germans, or others.
We’re not looking to punish athletes from other countries. In many cases they were the victims as well, but we’re working very diligently to seek that recognition. We have retained legal counsel, both here and in Germany, to monitor the situation and keep us apprised of everything that’s going on. We have Richard Young, who is our legal counsel and has prepared a detailed report on this on which the ink is still drying. If anyone would like to see a copy of this report, we’d be happy to share it with you. It’s really fascinating stuff. It goes into great detail about every American athlete that in any way might be affected—at least that we know of right now. If you simply call the USA Swimming office and ask for a copy of the East German doping report, we’ll be happy to send that to you. Also, I think it’s not inappropriate at all that I just take a moment and recognize Carol Zaleski, who is the president of USA Swimming and has been quietly instrumental in this whole effort. I’ve got no reason to suck up to Carol now because she’s out of office in a couple months and won’t be running again, but Carol Zaleski has done an extraordinary amount of quiet work in this area. She’s here with us today. The last thing I’ll say on this, John Myer and Peter Daland, we appreciate the work you guys do as kind of the First Knights. We may be back there working quietly, but it’s nice to have somebody out there making some noise and racket. That’s all part of the overall strategy, and it’s very appreciated by all of us in swimming. In looking ahead in the area of international team activities, I think you’re going to see our relationships with the NCAA improve dramatically. Again, it’s a scenario that USA Swimming and NCAA officials get across the table from each other and start scratching their paws on the ground getting ready for the fight. We’re going to try to change that.
We had a little summit meeting at the Goodwill Games. We’ve identified three objectives that we’re going to work on collaboratively. Interestingly enough, those objectives kind of line up right with ours. The three we identified are: growth, which lines up with our “building”; promotion of the sport; and performance. So we started working with the NCAA on growth issues, but that’s going to take us into the whole area of gender and Title 9 and maximizing participation, retention issues. When we start working on promotion, we’re going to get into issues that deal with scheduling and meet formats and television and media. When we start working with performance areas, we’re going to start dealing with issues that relate to legislative restrictions and technical issues that affect the overall performance of swimming. We’ve got to find ways to work more collaboratively and more effectively with the NCAA. We’re going to be committed to that, and I think you’re going to start to hear a lot more over the next twelve months about those efforts. 1999—You’ve got four major international competitions to which we’ll be sending a national team, the most important being the Pan-Pacific Games which will be next August and will be the real report card in where we stand in our preparation for Sydney. Pan-Pacifics are in Sydney; this will be a major competition. The Pan-American Games, World University Games, and the Short Course World Championships are the other three events to which we’ll be sending national teams. As I mentioned earlier, we’ll also be sending individual athletes to various World Cup events around the world. The USOC has conformed with a new grant program. It’s called their Venture program, and it is going to provide performance related funding, in significant amounts of money quite frankly, not just for the next two years, but it will be an ongoing program. I think the relevant thing here for me to communicate to you is that we have identified as our number one priority for this new funding source the coaching incentive and support programs. We are going to be going to the USOC—in fact, we’re in the midst of this process right now—with some very significant coaching incentive and coaching support programs. I wish I could talk with you in more detail about it, but I can’t because we’re developing the program right now. In the next 30 to 60 days we’ll start being able to talk about those programs.
There are a couple of challenges when looking ahead for age- group coaches; I guess I would challenge you in two areas. One, think long term with your athletes. Two, think long term with yourself. Think of coaching as a career that you can stay with your entire life. We need good young people who come in and who see this as a legitimate career. We need to help educate our clubs that they’re a critical part of that process. We need to help motivate and educate parents organizations, or whoever is direct ing these clubs, that they’re dealing with a young professional; that they’ve got a responsibility to provide certain things for and give that young coach an opportunity to grow. Older coaches need to mentor younger coaches, but think long term with your athletes and with your career. To our elite athletes and to our national team level coaches— it’s time to start thinking about 2000. I know I’m telling you something you’re already thinking about, but we need to really turn our focus there. It’s time. It’s time to think about 2000. In closing, just a couple of quick comments. I hope it comes across from our staff—and if it doesn’t, please, someone needs to let me know—we are committed to being service oriented;, we’re committed to listening; we’re committed to reaching out. We can’t be everything to everyone all the time, but we’re committed to being in touch with the pulse of our sport. That’s so, so important. You can help us stay in touch. We are not the Colorado Mafia. We have so many people on the staff who just get up every morning thinking about how to make swimming better, and it’s amazing how many former coaches we have in that building. All of us need to be unafraid to lead, and I think I would just close by saying that I am honored and privileged to have this position. I thank everyone who’s been so kind to me during the past year. Thank you.