2016 U.S. Figure Skating Governing Council – Annual Presidential Report
REPORT OF THE PRESIDENT
2016 Board of Directors and Governing Council Meetings
Samuel Auxier, President
Heading into Governing Council after an exciting year of great events, I find it hard to contain my enthusiasm over where we are headed with U.S. Figure Skating. The skating and competition has been amazing across all of our disciplines. At the same time, we are about to launch both the Learn to Skate USA and Brand/Image initiatives, realizing the results of many, many months of meetings, planning and decision-making. 2016 is shaping up to be a milestone year in our association’s history!
The initiatives I talked about at last year’s Governing Council as concepts are in various phases of implementation and will start to have a big impact on our organization. Headquarters staff led by Executive Director David Raith, have been pushing forward on all three initiatives, in addition to managing day-to-day operations — once again demonstrating their great commitment to the success of U.S. Figure Skating. You will certainly hear much more during the meeting but briefly:
First phases of the Event Management System (EMS) were successfully rolled out prior to regionals. Opportunities for enhancements along with early version ‘bugs’ were identified and repaired. The next phases of the development will support the Learn to Skate program and will provide the necessary data to track and support our athlete development.
Brand/Image Development — after many meetings and calls, the strategy presented last year is being turned into the campaign to be rolled out. Tea & Water, our Brand/Image consultants, are working closely with senior director of marketing and communications, Ramsey Baker, and David Raith; and you will get a flavor for the campaign during this meeting.
Learn to Skate USA — the update to the highly successful Basic Skills Program is ready to go, and you will hear much more about it. This isn’t just an update but a completely new way of approaching the skating directors, rink owners and the public. Driven by senior director of membership, Susi Wehrli-McLaughlin, you will learn at this meeting why we are so excited about it.
These three programs are highly integrated to promote U.S. Figure Skating, attract new members, improve our ability to track and manage our early stage memberships and improve the operations of our events. These initiatives are being funded by the U.S. Figure Skating Foundation, and I want to thank Paul George and the Foundation trustees for their support of these initiatives.
2016 kicked off with the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minn., where we saw new standards set at almost every level in each discipline. The level of competition bodes well for a strong Olympics in 2018. Just a few weeks later, we saw a similar level of competition at the U.S. Synchronized Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich. Both the St. Paul and Kalamazoo organizing committees easily overcame severe winter weather to put on great events widely praised by participants, audience and the press alike.
Worlds in Boston is about to kick off as I write this, and the anticipation across the world is amazing with sold-out events adding to the anticipation of one of the greatest World Championships ever. With a home ice advantage and a local audience, I am confident our skaters will continue the momentum built during U.S. Championships. The Skating Club of Boston and all the volunteers are gearing up to put on a memorable event.
International Skating Union
This June in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the ISU will hold elections to replace the president, the vice president of figure skating, many of the ISU Council members and members of key committees. Why is this important? The ISU sets the rules and direction of the sport, and we have not had a significant leadership change in many years. The ISU desperately needs a fresh perspective and awareness of where figure skating, and speed skating, not just fit in today’s world but how they can survive in the eyes of the worldwide public as something more than an Olympic year activity.
We will have submitted our candidates by the time of this meeting and will provide you with an update on who has been proposed. We have been working hard to gather support for our candidates but there is no guarantee we will get everything we propose.
The Technical State of Our Sport
At both this year’s Grand Prix Final and the World Junior Championships, it was clear that figure skating has made a huge leap technically. At the Grand Prix Final, the top six senior men had at least one, many of them two, three and even four quads in their programs and at the World Junior Championships, many of the top junior men landed at least one quad (the winner had three!).
The top ladies also had at least one and most had three triple/triple combination jumps — and most of the programs were also of a very high quality. Junior and senior pairs also have shown huge technical leaps from just a couple of years ago.
Of course, our ice dancers continue to do very well in international competition with our junior teams taking three of the top four positions at the World Junior Championships and our senior teams all being right at or near the top. The ice dance coaches, skaters and officials have done a tremendous job getting us to the top and keeping us there!
It is very clear that there has been a huge shift technically, and we need to continue to look at our development programs, from the early levels on, to adapt and compete at this level. Our success at the championship levels is driven by how our skaters develop at the very early stages, and that is where we need to focus much more attention.
The need to stay competitive across all disciplines is critical to realizing the benefits of the strategic initiatives — the U.S. public will not pay attention if we cannot consistently reach the podium. We will continue to look at how we can improve our high performance programs and International Committee decision-making, including how we measure our progress and adjust our programs. For example, bonus rules for juvenile and intermediates, led and proposed by Ann Barr, has had an immediate impact, and rules to expand this strategy will be proposed again this year — that is an important piece of the larger puzzle.
We also need to look at our test structure and early development programs (post Learn to Skate) to align them with our competitive programs and scoring. We are one of the last hold-outs of the 6.0 system for testing. Many of our younger coaches and skaters have almost no concept of what 6.0 even represents, and we must address this issue.
We will look to engage our coaches, skaters and officials to propose replacement of that ancient system next year with an alternative Grade of Execution system (not the full IJS system) that will be simpler to administer and judge. We are the stewards of this sport, and we need to make sure we are making the right decisions for its future.
Strategic Planning Review
Strategic Planning has initiated a look at how our committees work, a review of whether responsibilities overlap and conflict, and even how the board is structured. A number of issues around the technical and development groups have been identified that need to be addressed and changed. You will hear much more about their ideas and possible proposals over the coming year, but I do anticipate bylaw and rule changes for next year’s Governing Council.
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to judge across the country, including Glacier Falls, Philadelphia, SC of New York, Broadmoor SC and Milwaukee, among others, and have had the chance to connect and discuss your view and ideas on the state of the association. I appreciate the incredible hospitality you have shown to me and your willingness to listen and share your ideas. We haven’t always agreed, but one consistent theme is how passionate everyone is about figure skating. Thank you for all of your time and support and what you do for our sport.
Governing Council Events Schedule
2016 USFS Governing Council Seminar Synopsis