Jamie Davis Selected as New CEO of USA Water Polo

USA Water Polo (USAWP), the sport’s national governing body in the United States, has selected Jamie Davis as its new chief executive officer. Davis comes to USAWP after serving as the top executive at USA Volleyball for seven years.

Davis will replace Chris Ramsey, who was USAWP’s CEO for 18 years, the longest tenure of any national governing body in the country.

“We are excited to welcome Jamie Davis to the USA Water Polo team,” said Bill Smith, Chair of the USA Water Polo Board of Directors, in the official announcement. “Jamie’s vision and leadership will be instrumental in guiding the organization into its next chapter. We are confident that his contribution will drive USA Water Polo to new heights.”

Davis expressed his enthusiasm to begin working with the organization.

“I am honored to join USA Water Polo and look forward to working with the talented athletes, coaches, staff, and the wider water polo community,” Davis said. “Together, we will continue to promote the growth and excellence of this sport.”

Davis has no prior experience with water polo, making his selection for the role a slight surprise. Before working with USA Volleyball, he worked as a sports marketer and promoter, with career highlights including stints at NBC Sports, ESPN and Fanatics.

Given his lack of water polo expertise, Davis appears to have been selected for his experience leading a sporting national governing body.

Lee Feinswog, editor of Volleyball Magazine, commented on how Davis’s lack of water polo experience may not be a negative.

“The thing about running an NGB is that the skill set you need isn’t necessarily about the sport,” Feinswog said. “Jamie, for example, wasn’t a volleyball person when he went to USA Volleyball. In the case of USA Water Polo, it would be getting someone who is used to running a much bigger organization who knows the [United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee], [International Olympic Committee], and how to navigate the layers of politics that smother international sports.”

Certain members of the water polo community have expressed concerns about Davis’s ability to effectively lead the organization from the get-go, especially as planning for the 2028 Olympics gets underway.

“In conversations I’ve had with former Olympians who’ve been involved with water polo, it’s important for US Water Polo to understand that their clients are the water polo folks interested in having [as CEO] someone they can relate to, [who] understands what’s going on,” said Ryan Bailey, a four-time Olympian and USAWP board member, in a conversation with Swimming World Magazine.

“You don’t need someone starting on day one who can’t take off running because they don’t know [key] players—who are the most vocal and most involved. Get someone who already has that information and who can pick up the ball and run with it.”

Although unfamiliar with the sport of water polo, Davis is no stranger to strengthening a sport’s national governing body.

While heading up USA Volleyball, Davis significantly expanded the organization’s revenue and membership; in 2022 organization had a total revenue of $38.3 million, up from $29.7 million in 2017, and 435,000 members, up 30% from when he joined the organization.

Conversely, USAWP’s total revenue in 2022 was $16 million with a membership of around 50,000.

United States volleyball also saw great success in the Olympics during Davis’s tenure with USA Volleyball, bringing home three gold medals in Tokyo.

Despite his success in growing the governing body’s assets, Davis is leaving USA Volleyball to mixed reviews, as certain volleyball coaches remain unimpressed with the direction that he took the organization, particularly in relation to an apparent emphasis on income over quality of the sport. Some members of the coaching community suggested a lack of support for boys’ volleyball from USA Volleyball during the time that Davis was at the helm.

Davis also started at USA Volleyball with no prior experience with or knowledge about the sport.

Exiting CEO Ramsey did not have prior water polo experience when he came to the organization either; he came to the organization from the New York City Ballet. Under his leadership, USAWP increased its membership to 50,000 and the annual revenue rose from $4 million to $16 million, while the women’s national team dominated the international stage, winning gold at three straight Olympic Games.

USA Water Polo announced Ramsey’s plan to retire following the Paris Olympics back in December; Davis will take over from him effective October 1, 2024.

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9 days ago

Seems like this is a step down? Volleyball is much higher profile with many more participants than water polo

Reply to  JimSwim22
9 days ago

I had the same thought. USA WP would certainly be a much more chill job.

Reply to  Braden Keith
9 days ago

Maybe he likes the challenge of building something more than the challenge of running something, if he thinks there’s untapped potential in WP.

Reply to  Daaaave
9 days ago

Yes that’s a great observation.

I, personally, think there’s untapped potential in WP. I also think, as big as it is, there’s a ton of untapped potential in volleyball. But definitely understand the appeal of building.

Could also be as simple as wanting to get out of Colorado Springs and to Irvine. Lots of folks who work for USA Swimming live in Denver these days (including I believe Tim Hinchey). I’ve never actually been to Colorado Springs, but if people don’t want to live there…

James Beam
10 days ago

I’ve often wondered if USA Swimming, USA Diving, USA Waterpolo, and US Masters Swimming should be one giant governing body so the economies of scale could kick in….

Steve Nolan
Reply to  James Beam
10 days ago

What would that help?

Reply to  James Beam
9 days ago

I think that would be a terrible outcome for three of those four organizations that didn’t run a $10 million operational deficit in 2022.

It makes zero sense for USMS, because it would take an organization with virtually no exposure to child sexual abuse lawsuits and merge it with an organization that has among the largest liability in the US NGB world. USA Diving and USA Water Polo also tend to have many, many fewer lawsuits of these kind, so their members would probably not be very happy with taking on those liabilities, though it would probably help USA Swimming spread out some of its costs over a larger membership base.

But yeah, beyond all that…I just don’t think that… Read more »

cynthia curran
Reply to  Braden Keith
9 days ago

Plus, Masters also works Senior Olympics which are 50 plus your old swimmers. Now, the summer league adult program Grown Up swimming which you can join but the times don’t count for Masters.