2015 USSA Congress Opening Address

Park City, UT (May 15, 2015) – A year after stepping into his new role, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw opened the 2015 USSA Congress by reflecting on the successes and challenges the organization experienced this year and looking towards better alignment in the future. Full video of the opening address can be found here. 

Good morning and welcome to USSA Congress here in Park City. Before we begin this morning, I want to take just a moment to reflect on a terrible tragedy that occurred this January that has deeply impacted our organization, each of you in this room and our entire USSA family. Bryce Astle and Ronnie Berlack were great young men pursuing their dream with the U.S. Ski Team. Please join me in a moment of silence honoring Ronnie and Bryce.

Thank you very much.                    

This tragedy has triggered an introspective look for me as well as for our entire organization. This entire year – the first season after the Olympics in Sochi and my first season as leader – has given us pause to take a closer look at our organization. That includes things that we do, how we do them and what we should be doing.

Coming into the USSA 2015 Congress, I’ve had to ask myself, “How am I feeling? It’s been a year since I took charge. We really have taken quite an introspective look at our organization and at ourselves.

I have to say, that I am feeling quite excited about where we are. At the same time, though, I’m feeling very humbled. More than ever, I also feel committed to the future and to you.

As I look back at the season, my staff and I are genuinely excited about our athletic performances, our accomplishments as an organization and our prospects for the future.

But I’m also humbled by the dedication I see in this room to the organization, to our sports and to the athletes. I’m especially humbled by the athletes themselves – by their efforts and the dedication of their lives to their craft. I’m humbled by what we have all learned from each of you. And I’m humbled by what we have learned from our mistakes.

All of this has made me even more committed to outreach, committed to listening to you and committed to changing and evolving as we reshape the USSA to fit our collective needs. That commitment needs to answer the question, “How do we get better?”

So, why are we all so excited? Well, it’s been a heck of a year.

In Olympic events at World Championships this year we were Best in the World.

Our athletes won 22 medals in Olympic events with 18 World Championship medals and 15 Junior Worlds medals across all sports. We took eight season titles.

In snowboarding, our women’s halfpipe athletes won 83% of the podiums in major events. Lindsey Jacobellis won X Games and World Championships. 14-year-old Chloe Kim won X Games and Kelly Clark took her eighth Burton U.S. Open crown.

Our freeskiing athletes won 50% of the medals at X Games with Nick Goepper and Maddie Bowman taking gold. Across the season, Gus Kenworthy, McRae Williams, Devin Logan and David Wise won AFP titles.

We won three of four freestyle World Cup titles with Hannah Kearney, Kiley McKinnon and Mac Bohonnon. Hannah closed out her career winning her 46th World Cup to match Donna Weinbrecht for the all-time record.

At the Nordic World Championships, Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg skied to a pair of inspiring medals in the 10k as our coaches and techs helped them seize the day. Liz Stephen had an inspiring season – an American record fifth in Tour de Ski and on her first World Cup podium.

In nordic combined, Taylor Fletcher was on the podium in Sapporo, while brother Bryan fifth in World Championships. World Champion ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson was back on the World Cup podium while newcomer Nita Englund scored five top-10 finishes.

At the Alpine World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, record audiences around the world watched as the USA won five medals including a second straight gold for Mikaela Shiffrin and third straight for Ted Ligety, plus a brilliant silver from Travis Ganong in the downhill and bronze from Lindsey Vonn. Lindsey also made history, coming back from injury to set a new World Cup wins record at 67 and win a record-matching 19th crystal globe.

I could go on and on. It was a great year.

I am humbled, too, by the many and varied challenges that we face as an organization. The only solution is to tackle them head on.

Revenue generation is always a challenge. And we need to be steadfast in our fiscal responsibility. We provide amazing resources to our elite national teams. But we still have a $2-million gap to fund travel. We haven’t solved this yet. But it’s high on our radar.

Fortunately, we have a wealth of independent partner programs to help athletes. We’re deeply appreciative of the efforts of T2, NNF and many others. RallyMe has played a pivotal role for athletes. And to these partners we say, thank you! This past year our own new endowment growth provided $100,000 in additional needs-based athlete funding. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start. Next year we hope to grow that to over $200,000 accelerating to substantially reduce the gap within 5 years.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize what the USSA does for our athletes and what we fund. We provide the infrastructure for each program – at a cost of over $100,000 per athlete for some sports! This support includes the high performance elements such as elite coaches and staff, athletic trainers, equipment technicians, rehabilitation experts, support while at the Center of Excellence along with our sport science and sports medicine programs. We also provide career counseling services, academic scholarships and access to tuition free enrollment at our partner Westminster College. Programs that are maturing and are making a big difference to our athletes.

We often don’t get the acknowledgement for the depth of services we do provide to nearly 200 elite athletes. That’s OK. But it is important that everyone understands our direction in funding a truly remarkable athletic infrastructure and the impact that has on results.

We also have challenges within our Olympic sports. We need to be constantly evolving our sport programs to stay in sync with what’s important to kids and the public. We have a good track record here but we need to remain ever vigilant and progressive. And we need to grow the quality of programs in each sport to keep our sports relevant in the Olympics. IOC President Thomas Bach’s Agenda 2020 program gives us that platform.

We have the constant challenge to increase the notoriety of our sports through promotion and active engagement. This past year we saw record broadcast, streaming and digital media numbers. It was a big step forward for us on many fronts.

At the same time, we’re taking on a historic endeavor to expand our impact and visibility in alpine, while at the same time supporting our clubs with direct connectivity to a recruiting tool as we assume operational management of NASTAR. This will allow us to reach up to 200,000 new prospects for our sports at well over 100 resorts nationwide.

Amidst all of this, one of the most important things we can do is to be transparent. I’m committed to that as are my staff, and I hope you’ve seen that this year.

We’re presently working on sport allocation models where we will share complete information on how we fund our elite teams. An Sport Resource Allocation Plan that was developed that will provide our staff with a roadmap to funding decisions.

We have reviewed our vision, mission, goals and values. Our new mission will be expanded to better explain Best in the World and be more inclusive of the broad scope of what we do as an organization. We are reworking our goals to be more active guideposts to better define the organization and how it works. We are also discussing our values and taking public input from members here at Congress, to get a better sense of the values that you feel are important in forming our organizational image.

We need to be completely transparent in our operations – how we choose teams, how we fund programs, benefits of membership. We need to have stronger partnerships with organizations that have evolved around us and with us – groups like USASA, USCSA, NENSA, CXC, NNF, ski jumping and others. We’re not trying to be everything to everyone, but rather to integrate and partner.

A major part of transparency is communication. We know we need to improve. That’s especially true at the younger levels with effective communications between athletes, parents and coaches.

We’ll gain this with community outreach. Some of you may have heard Andy Wirth from Squaw Valley speak of this at the USSA Club Excellence workshop. It takes a community to raise an Olympian. His community was Steamboat, and now it’s Squaw.

Our community embraces all of you. We need to listen. We need to take counsel from task forces as we have been doing. The feedback from those mechanisms has been critical. YOU are making a difference.

What’s our vision for the future? The future is about and with YOU. It’s about the USSA engaging with you. It’s about working with you and responding to you. It’s about listening and acting on what we hear.

We heard from you this past year and took action. One example is the sweeping changes in membership that came from your task force feedback. We looked at ways to better work with colleges and are rolling out our first alpine college team. We are working towards partnerships with entities that have the same mission, the same stakeholders and the same members.

We’re seeking to foster sport at every level. It’s about inclusion. That’s how we will grow.

We are committed to the future. We are committed to listening. We are committed to change. Everyone and everything around us is changing. WE need to stay ahead of this curve. That takes organizational commitment. You are a part of that commitment.

In closing, I’d like you to think about the importance of alignment. This was a central theme at our USSA Club Excellence workshop earlier this week.

Alignment isn’t possible without you believing that we’re reaching towards a common goal and with the same sense of purpose. When we are all aligned and pulling the rope in the same direction, we’re a stronger organization. The power of all of us in alignment is what will move our organization and our sports forward.

We’re humbled by YOUR efforts and YOUR devotion. We see your endless days and nights. We’re humbled by what we see. I can see it in your eyes as I look across the room.

I invite you to stay committed with us – to align with us. Be engaged. Everyone is a part of it.

While we should be humble alone, together we are a force! We can change things. Together, through alignment, we will move forward.

We have a lot to do.