Ski Team boasts of big finances
The last 10 years – with Bill Marolt driving the bus – have seen unparalleled success for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. But the next four years, Marolt says, "are going to be very special."
USSA, which has been headquartered in Park City since returning in 1988, oversees 14 teams in seven sports. Marolt, a 1964 Olympian and then U.S. alpine director 1978-84, took command in 1996 when the organization was starting to get its legs back under it after near-bankruptcy in the mid-Nineties.
In his keynote address Friday morning at Prospector Square as USSA opened its annual convention, Marolt said the 101-year-old organization – now on a corporate footing rather than a volunteer-run federation – has a budget that’s more than doubled since he took over. Athletic spending has nearly tripled.
The goal – unquestionably ambitious but unquestionably do-able, he said – is to be a $34 million company by the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. USSA also has established a goal of a $60 million endowment and has received pledges for $44 million, he said.
Friday night, Olympic champion Ted Ligety of Park City, who not only took the men’s alpine combined gold medal but won his first World Cup race last winter, was given the Beck International Award, USSA’s highest athletic honor, at the annual awards banquet.
Nearly 50 awards were announced, including coach and club of the year as well as a variety of officiating, volunteer and other recognitions. New York financier Pete Kellogg, a longtime trustee of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Foundation, the organization’s fundraising arm and a driving force in the endowment campaign, received the Julius Belgen Award, USSA’s highest non-athlete honor.
In recent years, USSA has had a goal for the 2006 Olympics of Best in the World. American skiers and snowboarders returned from Turin, Italy with 10 medals, five of them gold, and while there may have been disappointments, Marolt emphasized that those 10 medals – seven from snowboarding, alpine gold from Park City Winter Sports School alums Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso plus one in freestyle – still represented great success.
Now, the organization is "re-centering" as it starts to churn toward 2010.
After the season, Marolt said, USSA took its leadership and handpicked staff members to Vancouver last month for a strategic retreat. The group of 30 thrashed over all aspects of the company, on-snow and everywhere else. They returned and took part in a three-day team-building exercise involving every staff member.
One of the key elements, which emerged from the meetings, he said, is a realization of the ongoing need for leadership, not just from the management team but from everyone in USSA.
In a straight-forward, no-excuses keynote, Marolt said, "We didn’t perform as well as we should have. We had some behavioral problems…"
But that shouldn’t overshadow the excellence of those 10 medal-winners," he said. "We have to acknowledge that success," he said. But USSA also is taking steps to avoid more potential problems.
"We re-trenched … took a step back to re-center ourselves," he explained.
At the same time, USSA is holding to its vision, mission and goals, continuing to strive to be the world’s best.
"I think what we’ve done is we’ve really built and established a really solid, strong foundation," Marolt said. "We set our vision, mission and goals 10 years ago and we haven’t wavered. We’ve stayed the course and I think that’s been one of our real strengths, particularly the concept of Best in the World."
"That’s focused us, that’s been our banner, that’s been our cheer, and it’s kept everybody in the organization focused on where we were going."
While keeping the basic goal of international excellence, Marolt said USSA is implementing a list of six values, which it holds dear – team, loyalty, integrity, respect, accountability and perseverance. "They’re all big but this is a big one," he said of accountability.
Athletes on various teams will have to accept the values. Being named to one of the 14 teams in is a privilege, not a right," according to Marolt.
The Vancouver Olympics are less than four years off, and are the long-distance goal, he said, but the organization’s focus will have the immediate goal of success as it moves from year to year.
"It’s been a great ride for the last 10 years," Marolt concluded. "We have a great foundation, a great platform for the next four years, the next eight…but the next four [with the Olympics back in North America] will be very special."
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