U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Association (USSA) president and CEO Bill Marolt addressed a room full of the organization’s staff, officials, coaches and volunteers on Friday (May 11) at the midway point of the American snow sports national governing body’s annual congress meetings in Park City, Utah.
Marolt, who has been at the helm of the USSA for the last 16 years, opened his address by looking back at one of the organization’s most successful seasons to date.
“The 2011/12 season was a magical year, it was an amazing week-to-week experience that started in Soelden when Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety won at the World Cup opener and it put us on roll like we have never been on before,” said Marolt. “We won a World Cup or a major event in every sport, we had 10 athletes win 14 World Cup titles, 11 athletes win 12 Junior World titles and you could go on and on.”
Marolt said a looking back at past success is key to fueling the future. “Our success is something that we should reflect on because that is what this organization is all about – providing a positive environment for young men and women to chase their Olympic dreams and they are chasing and catching those dreams. But, none of that would happen without the people in this room.”
After taking time to recognize recent success, Marolt turned his comments to the challenges facing the USSA. Among the hurdles facing the organization are financial limitations brought on by the current economic climate.
“This was a difficult year from a financial standpoint,” said Marolt. “When we closed the budget we had some significant challenges and we faced potential cuts and I’m happy to report that we had a great effort from our sales and marketing team.”
Marolt credited the organization’s foundation branch for building what he called a small operating surplus for the 15th time in the last 16 years. “I am proud of that because it demonstrates our ability to manage resources effectively,” he said.
Marolt focused a large portion of his comments on the need for improvement in the development of the sports overseen by USSA.
“Development is and has always been one of our bigger challenges. We have never really put into place a development program that we can say is best in the world,” admitted Marolt. “We are at a critical time right now as we looking forward past 2014 out to 2018 and we have to have the discipline to not only have a great development plan but we need to have the discipline to fund it. That means that we have to make some really hard decisions on resource allocation. I am determined that we are going to put into place a development program that is going to be the foundation for continued success as we go into the future.”
A key feature to Marolt’s plan to build the organization’s development program is the opening of the USSA Academy, an academic and athletic training program for high school juniors and seniors based at the USSA’s Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah.
“We are in the process of finalizing and preparing to open the USSA Academy this fall,” said Marolt. “This September we will enroll our first class. I am really excited about this part of our program and our infrastructure. What it is going to allow us to do is bring the best kids together and put them in an academic situation.
We believe that academics will enhance our athletic performance,” continued Marolt. “We are excited because we have an athletic development pipeline and now we are going to have an academic pipeline that lays right over the top of the athletic pipeline. At the end of the day a young person that gets into our program is going to have a great athletic experience and at the same time, when they are finished with their skiing careers they are going to have a degree and a great future.”
With the record medal haul the USSA made at the Vancouver Games and the broad success American skiers and snowboarders have at the highest levels of nearly every discipline, Marolt says his organization and its future athletes have large shoes to fill.
“The expectation is going to be Olympic success,” said Marolt, who plans to strengthen competition schedules by bringing the best athletes together for head-to-head competition more regularly. “We have the talent, what we have to do is make sure we are identifying the right talent, that we are leading and managing that talent so they can ultimately reach their full potential.”
But, it’s not all about the youth. With names like Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, Shaun White and Hannah Kearmey currently at the top of their sports, Marolt said the maintenance of today’s elite athletes is paramount. “We need to meet the needs of our individual athletes and we need to make sure they have everything they need,” he said. “Winning at the World Cup level or the Olympic level takes an unbelievable commitment and resources and we have to deliver.”