Vision is lonely but leads to success |

Vision is lonely but leads to success

Tom Kelly

Park Record columnist

During the inaugural graduation ceremony for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s TEAM Academy last weekend, it was easy to reflect on the great athletic and academic success of the four seniors. It was a lot harder a year ago to look forward and visualize the role the unique new school would play in the "Best in the World" success of America’s future skiers and snowboarders.

Vision can be a lonely feeling looking ahead on how to impact the lives of boys and girls who have an Olympic dream. Twenty-five years ago the USSA pushed for Olympic venues that would carry on a legacy long past the Games. Today, thousands of kids a year have the opportunity to follow their dreams through USSA club programs at the 2002 Olympic sites with the support of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.

Over the past decade the USSA’s dream of a national training and education facility the Center of Excellence came into reality, along with facilities like the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain. Each of them required a sizeable investment. But each has paid dividends.

"Americans believe in being the best they don’t want to be second best that’s our society and our culture," USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt told the graduates. "We’re making a cultural change in our organization. Young people never let you down if you give them the right goals and challenge them."

While it may have been a lonely feeling a year ago to think about USSA TEAM Academy and would it really work, the four graduates from a school of 27 proved the point both academically and athletically. Together, they accumulated a 4.15 GPA. Meanwhile, each of them turned in career-best performances with top-10 international results. And all four have already started school at Westminster College through the USSA’s partnership.

The program itself was borne out of an increasingly large elite talent pool of high-school-age athletes across all sports. But it also came from an innovative philosophy that bringing academics and athletics together helps both.

Vision and risk go hand in hand. While the USSA took a big risk in creating TEAM Academy, parents and student athletes took an even greater risk in being the guinea pigs. But with risk comes reward. It’s the hallmark of vision.

"With the vision of being best in the world we’ve dreamed big," said Marolt. "We’ve never let anything constrain our imagination or hold us back. Isn’t that what leadership is all about being willing to take a risk, put it out there and see if you can make it work."

The graduates came from four different states across America, including Park City’s own Maddy Olsen. With a small graduating class, each parent had a turn at the podium to address the audience. Maddy’s father, Tom, a lifelong Park City resident, reminisced about the days before the Center of Excellence was built at Quinn’s Junction but, more so, what it has represented to his daughter and all of the athletes.

"I wonder how many people make an effort to get into this building?" he said to the athletes and parents. "This is an elite place a special place to have access to for coaches, athletes and parents. It’s allowed our daughter to surround herself with greatness."

Greatness is what makes champions!

One of the most experienced communications professionals in skiing, Tom Kelly is a veteran of eight Olympics and serves as vice president, Communications, for the Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. A Wisconsin native, he and his wife Carole Duh have lived in Park City since 1988 when he’s not traveling the world with the team.

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