Tracking ISU and U.S. Figure Skating Events, Issues and Governance
Here’s my reply to Janet Lynn’s “Open Inquiry to Those Wanting to Become President of USFS”.
I do not believe I have enough time to respond adquately to each of your valid concerns. I do very much want to thank you for putting together such a clear and concise list of issues to help guide US Figure Skating’s leadership as they attempt to rebuild the sport. For now I will share with you a paper I prepared last December, pointing out my ‘Vision for US Figure Skating’. Should I be elected I will certainly address those areas you have pointed out and I have not addressed in my paper below. Your many contributions to our sport are greatly appreciated. – Ron Pfenning
Dec 6, 2013
Ron Pfennning’s VISION for US Figure Skating
I welcome the opportunity to share with you my vision for U.S. Figure Skating. As we now close one Olympic quadrennial and will soon be entering another, it is the opportune time to discuss current key areas and challenges facing our Association. I have chosen to comment on several different areas, listed alphabetically and not in priority order.
Athletes are essential to the governance of their sport. I have always been, and will continue to be, an advocate for our athletes. We must encourage and welcome their full participation in U.S. Figure Skating. We must continue to budget adequate funding for Team USA competing internationally and continue to fund our qualifying competitions.
We often speak about strengthening the bridge from Basic Skills to full U.S. Figure Skating membership. We must also strengthen the transition from competitor to being an official of U.S. Figure Skating. After ten years, our athletes lose their USOC-granted spots in our governance structure. U.S. Figure Skating should use those 10 years to train, retain, and transition the athletes into our governance structure beyond the mandated 20%.
The re-evaluation of our qualifying competition structure must be an ongoing evaluation within the Competitions Committee or by an appointed ad hoc task force should the need exist. My vision would be to ensure that we are maximizing the value of our expenditures, and should there be excessive spending, make the necessary corrections.
My vision is to have U.S. Figure Skating welcome and encourage our retired World, Olympic, and Team USA athletes’ participation in our Association. These athletes are the ‘icons’ of figure skating and should be ‘icons’ of our Association.
Having been the first chair of the Precision Committee and Referee at their first Nationals, I am a strong supporter of synchronized skating. I believe it should be an Olympic sport and would work with other ISU members to try and influence the IOC in this endeavor. This will give more of our athletes the ability to participate in the sport at an elite level.
Another area needing our attention is the loss of figure skating’s fan base and television viewership. Trying to figure out why it happened can be an unproductive use of time; instead our efforts and energy should be used to rebuild what was lost. I visualize a symposium hosted by U.S. Figure Skating with invitations extended to those impacted by the decline, including the ISU, other ISU federations especially in North America and the media — including print, TV (networks and cable), IMG, etc. Additional participants would include Internet bloggers, figure skating icons, representatives of STAR and the PSA, and others impacted by the loss of figure skating fan support.
My vision for our Association would include updating today’s governance of U.S. Figure Skating. In an effort to be more efficient and reduce our costs we have downsized the Board of Directors, and in so doing we have increased the communication gap between our members and their governance. My vision is to have U.S. Figure Skating members and member clubs feel more included in the workings of U.S. Figure Skating. They need to know they are an important part of our team and need to realize their input is encouraged and desired. We have an obligation to make this happen and I’ve outlined some ways to do this below:
I envision electronically streaming our Governing Council meeting, via the Internet, to member clubs and members unable to attend in person. This would provide our members a better and more cost-effective experience and encourage participation in and understanding of U.S. Figure Skating’s governance.
My vision is to encouraging greater participation by our members, including all our athletes. Electronic voting needs to be adopted for all elected positions. Our elections should be conducted one week prior to the Governing Council meeting. This would achieve one of my goals to have greater participation.
I believe it’s time to increase the size of the Board of Directors, by adding 1 additional voting member. Currently we have 15 voting members. The board has four athletes representing singles, pairs, ice dance and synchronized skating; however, only three of the four skating disciplines have a vote. This should be corrected. With 16 voting members on the Board of Directors the athletes are entitled to 20% representation and that would mean four votes. No additional athletes are needed since we currently have four athletes on the Board of Directors and this would ensure all our disciplines would be equally represented with full voting rights.
Following the lead of the IOC and USOC it is now time to amend the by-laws to reflect “without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin.”
U.S. Figure Skating at times shows signs of suffering from an identity crisis: are we a figure skating association, a multi-million dollar business or a volunteer/non-profit organization? To keep us focused and in balance, my vision is to pay appropriate attention to each without neglecting the others and to communicate this identity throughout the organization and beyond. We are all three.
Leadership and Volunteerism
The goal of our Association to develop a volunteer skills database to identify talent within U.S. Figure Skating membership to support the variety of activities necessary to meet our organizational needs has been an ongoing goal for decades that I am aware of. It is now time to fulfill this goal and utilize the data. The new membership software can be used to enable the creation of a skills database. My vision would be to ensure that it happens.
U.S. Figure Skating currently has a successful recognition program for volunteers, especially for skating officials. My vision would be to expand the program to include member clubs and inter-clubs. With any volunteer organization, recognition to those who do the day-to-day work should always be a very important goal. Athletes and volunteers are essential for our Association to survive and flourish. My vision is to show them our deep appreciation for their many contributions.
Better communication between the ISU and U.S. Figure Skating can always be strengthened. Our federation is most fortunate to have representation on each of the three figure skating technical committees and also have a member on the ISU Council. No other federation has this much representation. My vision is to maintain what we currently have and strive to get one of our U.S. Figure Skating members elected ISU Vice President for Figure Skating or even ISU President in the future.
We should maintain a healthy working relationship with the USOC, ISU and other federations. In addition we should continue to build strong bonds with the PSA, STAR, ISI and Special Olympics.
Marketing & Communications
My vision includes the goal to improve the visibility and positive awareness of U.S. Figure Skating, its athletes and programs. This must be a high priority going forward.
Historically there has always been a membership growth spurt following an Olympic Winter Games. Once again we have an opportunity and obligation to take advantage of the media coverage of the Olympic Winter Games to continue to build our membership base.
We cannot overlook the needs of our member clubs and the grassroots programs. We must continue to promote Basic Skills and strengthen the bridge to full club membership. This will not only benefit our member clubs, but our overall membership count.
IJS is a complex scoring system and my goal/vision would be to continue to inform our membership on how it works, so they can explain it to their friends and neighbors. We should also communicate with the media covering our sport so they recognize their own obligation to communicate to their audience the workings of IJS. We should be there to provide the support system the media needs.
In marketing our sport it is important to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We should provide as many press/media credentials to our events as possible to expand our audience. We must not overlook the growth and influence of Internet sites which are devoted to our sport and are building up a following who love skating. My vision is to see all forms of media granted accreditation to our competitions.
Our membership categories continue to grow and diversify as the sport expands. My vision is to be sure we continue to meet the changing membership needs of a growing sport.
It goes without saying there should be an annual assessment of the success/weaknesses of all skating programs by those not directly involved. New programs should be recommended when needed so as to maintain an increasing membership. Existing programs must be monitored with modifications enacted when necessary to maintain a healthy sport with vibrant and meaningful programs for our members.
My vision is for membership retention to be one of the top priorities of our Association. Annual evaluation of areas with growth and those with declining membership are essential. Following an analysis of the data by committees concerned or an Ad Hoc task force, recommendations should be shared with the general membership, Board of Directors and Headquarters staff. Our membership will be fully informed and allowed to provide feedback before any actions are taken.
Without question, we must continue to improve those grassroots programs that are successful and an important part of U.S. Figure Skating such as Basic Skills, Test Track, State Games, School Programs, and Special Olympics.
Revenue & Expense Control
My vision is to continue to work with TV networks to broaden our sport’s exposure while also building our commercial sponsorships. The use of an outside agent or agency should only be considered when needed talent or accessibility is not available at headquarters, and funding is available within the budget, being mindful that an agent may work on a percentage of contracts negotiated. We must clearly know our priorities and where we wish to spend our valuable funds. We, like other non-profit organizations, do need to spend money to generate income; however, it needs to be done prudently, and not at the expense of our athletes and/or member clubs.
I clearly see the need to establish a spending policy for U.S. Figure Skating Foundation Funds, establishing a separate accounting category to track how the funds are being used. My vision would include gradually reducing U.S. Figure Skating’s dependence on Foundation Funds to support the general fund expenditures. Foundation Funds should only be used in case of an emergency or for a special required project, with specific approval by our Governing Council.
Without question there must be general cost control measures put in place to control spending. I am prepared to make difficult decisions when it means living within the budget approved at Governing Council. Should we spend too much in one area we must cut back in another so as to maintain a balanced budget. In my administration, sound financial planning will be the foundation to enable us to build financial stability for U.S. Figure Skating. Should I be elected I would request a forensic audit of USFSA.
Last, but certainly not least, I pledge to maintain a healthy working relationship with the USOC and ISU. From my first steps on the ice as a test skater, my love, devotion and dedication to figure skating exploded within me and has never wavered. I will stay the course in my belief that INTEGRITY, COMMITMENT, EXPERIENCE, TRANSPARENCY AND HONESTY are essential prerequisites for the protection of U.S. Figure Skating and its athletes at all levels. These characteristics speak to who I am as a person.