Thursday, December 3, 2009

Doug Logan addresses the State of the Sport (part 1)...


Some traditions are enduring, valuable and should stand the test of time. Turkey on Thanksgiving, champagne at weddings, the Yankees beating the Red Sox in the American League playoffs. Others seem arbitrary and should be re-examined from time to time. Last year I broke with tradition by providing the Bylaw-mandated CEO's State of the Sport address at the Closing Session of the Annual Meeting, rather than at the Opening. This year I will break with tradition once again.

First, I will divide my address into two parts. The first comes now, at the Opening Session. You'll have to stick around until Sunday morning to hear the rest.

Last year I was told it was traditional for the CEO to introduce the National Office Staff before the speech. I have come to the realization that by introducing and dismissing my colleagues prior to my address, I marginalized their contributions to this enterprise. Today, we break with another tradition as we stand before you to report on our accomplishments during this very challenging year.

One year ago in Reno, I gave a State of the Sport speech that laid out multiple goals. Different people remember different things about that speech. Based on comments I've received, a distressingly large number seem to recall my brown pinstripe suit. But the most memorable refrain from that pulpit-delivered speech was the biggest goal.

One year ago, we stated plainly that we will win "30 CLEAN MEDALS IN LONDON."

We are on our way. Led by Chief of Sport Performance Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, we have put into place many of the resources necessary to achieve that goal. As we develop more far-reaching development programs for technical events in the next 18 months, our progress toward that goal will become more obvious and measurable. But when you look at Berlin vs. Beijing in the technical events, we added two long jump medals and improved the color of our men's shot put hardware. We had more athletes than at any time in the last decade at or near the top of IAAF performance lists in the field events. Our women's middle-distance runners were ranked #1 in the world by the international statistical website All-Athletics.com. And about a month ago, we placed six men in the top 10 of a World Marathon Major, including winner Meb Keflezighi. Yet there is much, much more to be done.

One year ago, we said, "We will expeditiously adopt the recommendations of our Project 30 Task Force."

Done. And constantly developing. In February, the Task Force released its report and recommendations for structuring a high-performance plan that will lead to 30 medals. Their recommendations included hiring a GM of High Performance, creating a transparent team staff-selection system, restructuring the composition of team staffs, shortening the Olympic Trials, terminating the national relay program, establishing a comprehensive 2012 team preparation program, targeting technical events for medal growth, creating a professional athlete designation, establishing a more stringent anti-doping reinstatement system, and promoting and fostering an athlete's union.

As of today, all of those goals have been achieved or are in process, except for the athlete's union recommendation.

One year ago, we said, "We must find the way to connect the disparate parts of the long-distance community and provide it with needed services... We can and should apply newer technologies such as live streaming of races in order to propagate interest and following."

Done. USATF in 2009 provided live streaming of five national championship road races, thanks to a partnership with flotrack.com. We also provided videostreaming of the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. We look to at least match those numbers, and possibly increase them, in 2010, including the webcasting of three Youth events.

One year ago, we said, "We should create compelling reasons for more long distance runners to be members of USATF. Accordingly, we are challenging ourselves to grow our membership by 30 percent by the year 2012."

We are on our way. Our 2009 membership levels were up 11 percent from 2008, and the number of member clubs increased 5 percent. In perhaps a telling anecdote, after videostreaming our events, we received several emails from members saying that for the first time, they felt USATF was providing them with a valuable service. That's right, we actually got emails from SATISFIED customers! We even gained a few first-time members from the effort. That, my friends, was the idea.

One year ago, we said, "We will take this $16M business and grow it to a $30M business by the year 2012. We will forge new partnership alliances and negotiate higher prices for existing sponsorship arrangements."

We are on our way. On Monday, our Board of Directors unanimously adopted our submitted budget for 2010, which you, our members, hopefully will vote for on Sunday. After nearly six years of a flat budget of approximately $15 million, we have submitted an annual budget for 2010 of $21 million. Twenty-one million dollars. To increase our budget 40 percent in daunting economic times, we increased our revenue and changed our mindset from status-quo to "go, go, go." Our business plan is designed to generate new and higher-value sponsorships. In doing so, management is making itself accountable to deliver on what we are promising.

One way we have already done this is by reaching a deal in mid-2009 that increases the value of Nike's contribution to USATF by almost 50 percent. A good portion of those funds are earmarked specifically for the athlete, thanks to a pool of money known as the "Project 30 Fund". That Fund is one of the most revolutionary and important parts of our agreement with Nike, and it could have the biggest impact on our fortunes in London. It also will have a huge impact on the day-to-day functioning of the organization and our abilities to serve our grass roots constituencies.

Of course, getting the money is just the first step. What we do with it is what determines our success or failure. As President Stephanie Hightower described in her remarks, the introduction of Challenge Grants is one of the most exciting parts of the budget for the upcoming year. We believe that these grants, which will go to projects that foster competitive excellence, will have an profound impact on the Youth, Masters, Race Walking, Long-Distance Running and Disabled disciplines of our sport and will revolutionize how programs are created and administered. Groups that may in the past have felt overlooked, or at least under-funded, will each have between $25,000 and $50,000 in grant money earmarked for them. Now it's up to them, and you, to brainstorm the programs and state your case.

One year ago, we said, "We will do a far better job at getting our compelling stories out to the public through a variety of media platforms."

Done, but by no means finished. Shortly after I was hired, I instructed our staff to get us on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and any other social media that might expand our outreach, especially to young people. We are just a fraction of the way to where we want to be, but our Facebook presence has tripled this year alone, and we are increasingly communicating with fans and "friends" by posting non-USATF articles and fostering online discussion. Still ahead is a planned upgrade to our web site, including better use of our vast video archives to create compelling online content. By now, we hope you have seen our redesigned and re-imagined Fast Forward, while Elite Athletes have a fresh new magazine as well. That reinvention will continue and accelerate.

One year ago, we said "We must be global in our outlook. This includes participation in more international competitions with full teams, hiring multicultural, multilingual executives, and becoming more active in our international federation."

Done, and on our way. In 2009 we participated in smaller international competitions in the Caribbean, almost exclusively for the purpose of showing our goodwill as members of the NACAC region. We began talks with federations across the Atlantic to force team-based international dual, triangular or quadrangular meets, and of course 2010 will mark the debut of the highly anticipated USA vs. Jamaica home-and-home series.

One year ago, we said, "We pledge to find both a venue and financing and will successfully bid on the outdoor World Championships for 2015."

We're working on it. I don't know that I've ever been accused of mincing words, so let me say unequivocally that Chicago losing the 2016 Olympic bid was more than a small bump in the road for us as we move toward this goal. That bid would have given this country a stadium capable of holding a World Championship. But we haven't given up, and we are actively pursuing alternative options with other U.S. cities to consider a 2015 bid.

One year ago, we said, "If we want to make a serious statement as a major sport, we need to establish a presence on both coasts of the country. We will relocate a cadre of marketing and communications professionals to New York in 2009 in order to be able to perform those functions more effectively."

Done. Our New York office opened in October and is staffed regularly by Chief Public Affairs Officer Jill Geer. I will be spending one week per month in New York and am currently interviewing candidates for a full-time marketing sales position that will be based there.

One year ago, we said, "A large percentage of our elite athletes live or train in the Southern California area, and we will have a one- or two-person presence to service our athletes' needs in the region by the end of next year."

Done. Director of Coaching Terry Crawford, herself a coaching Hall of Famer, is based on California and is charged with overseeing USATF programs there, including the training center at Chula Vista.

One year ago, we said, "We will reach out to the coaches and their organization with a hand of friendship and solidarity."

Done.

One year ago, we said we will "return to the Chula Vista training camp in a major, managing role."

Done.

One year ago, I said, "We will look internally at our rules to eliminate those that are arbitrary, unenforceable or inconsistent with modern cultural norms."

Done. You accomplished much of that last year by enacting a small but meaningful set of Bylaw changes. At this Annual Meeting, you will have an opportunity to finish the job and make this organization more highly functioning than at any point in its history.

In the 12 months since Reno, we have spoken regularly about several additional items that all have been achieved and which all have significantly upgraded the professionalism of this organization.

Even before I was hired, this organization desperately needed a Chief Operating Officer and a "succession plan". The need to have a second-in-command was made vividly clear in 2008 when USA Track & Field had to cobble together a leadership team to help direct the administration though six months without a leader. Thanks to the selfless work of Bill Roe and a core group of National Office staff, we made it through just fine, but leadership should never be an ad-hoc venture.

Of course, we now have a COO in Mike McNees. Even more important, we have in our Bylaws a mandated procedure for what happens when the CEO is away from the office, traveling on business, taking a vacation, or has been abducted by an angry mob demanding an end, or at least a name change, to the CEO's blog. In any of those events, the Chief Operating Officer steps in. We haven't broken the news to Al Haig yet, but I think Mike can handle him.

Another constant directive from the USOC was that we must produce an Annual Report. Not a blow-by-blow summary of our finances or detailed account of all our activities, but a professional, corporate Annual Report that lays out the fundamental philosophies and core strengths of the organization and puts it in the context of the preceding year. In 2009, we did just that, in an Annual Report that is literally, visually and factually powerful. I expect us to improve upon it in 2010.

Nearly one year ago, I delivered a speech to Focus on the Future, a gathering of the dietary supplement and healthy food industries in Scottsdale, Ariz., the text of which I posted as a blog on the USATF Web site. In my remarks, I derided the Wild West-style regulation of the supplement industry, which is to say there is no regulation, and asserted that the lack of oversight in the face of blatantly obvious contamination was hurting our athletes and the American public. For those remarks, I was rewarded in the desert with shouts, boos, and people getting up and walking out. I'm pleased to report that yesterday, USATF joined the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and many of this country's most important sports organizations in launching an offensive to end the dangerous and unscrupulous practices of rogue manufacturers within the nutritional supplement industry. This new effort, called "Supplement Safety Now", will work to eliminate the practice of selling dangerous products containing steroids and other drugs as "safe and legal" dietary supplements. Although that battle is just beginning, we have every confidence that our goals will be achieved.

Finally, one year ago at our Closing Session, I talked about what at that time was my upcoming collaboration with newly elected President Stephanie Hightower. One year ago, I said, "you will never think of the phrases 'shrinking violet' or 'reclusive' when describing the leadership of USATF."

We certainly have lived up to that statement. I've often described my working relationship with Stephanie as one of the most rewarding of my professional life, and it continues to grow, change, and challenge both of us daily. In June, Stephanie and I sat down for a joint interview that became part of the Annual Report. More than any description either of us could offer, that interview captures the nature of our collaboration, and the chemistry, competitiveness and cooperation that has enabled us to play a joint role in elevating USA Track & Field to where it is now. We learn from each other. We learn how to lead, how and when to back off, and how best to guide this many-headed hydra of an incredible sports organization to a place where we have the financial and organizational stability to do our job better than any other organization of its kind.

Eighteen months into this journey, we can now say the groundwork is all there to really move toward the loftiest goals we discussed in 2008. It is now our responsibility to make sure that three years from now, we can recall that #1 goal of 30 CLEAN MEDALS IN LONDON and give a one-word report card:

DONE.

The text of Logan's speech comes courtesy of USA Track & Field. This was Doug Logan's opening session speech to the delegates attending the USA Track & Field Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Thursday. Logan will present the second part of his "State of the Sport" address at Sunday's Closing Session.

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