Next week in Atlanta, USA Swimming’s top officials, coaches both seasoned and new, swimmers, some retired but still involved and some active competitors, will convene for the USA Swimming annual convention. Board of Directors elections will also be held at the convention. Amy Hoppenrath, Central Zone Non-Coach Director, will be running for re-election in the hopes of serving the Central Zone and USA Swimming for a second-consecutive two-year term. Earlier this week Ms. Hoppenrath took some time and spoke to SwimSwam about her first term and what she would hope to accomplish if re-elected (she is currently running unopposed). Below is some of our conversation.
SS: What do you view as the most important roles of the Central Zone Non-Coach Director?
A. Hoppenrath: “If you look at the Central Zone one of our goals is to make sure that we have great programs. We are the first stepping-stone outside of the LSC—not just for athletes, but for our non-athlete members, and coaches. Whether a Zone meet, an open water meet, a diversity camp, or a disability meet — We want to get them excited and motivated to reach higher.”
“An extremely important component is representing our LSC’s at board of directors meetings. When I say LSC’s, I don’t mean just the governing body, but the athletes, the officials, and the coaches. It’s important that national understands the issues facing our membership at the grass roots level.”
SS: Ok, now I was going to save this question for later, but you mentioned diversity camps and diversity meets already, it stood out to me that you are the only woman running for a seat on the board of directors. Do you think USA Swimming needs to do more to empower women to achieve positions of high leadership and administration within the organization?
A. Hoppenrath: “In 2010-11 I was the Chair of the Women in Officiating Task Force. The Task Force found that approximately 40 percent of all non-member officials are women. What we learned was that as it relates to women, we need to be aware of the diversity issue, but that none of us want to have special privileges because of our gender. There were many women ahead of us who opened doors for us today and we need to take advantage of it.”
SS: What personal qualities do you think make you a good Central Zone Non-Coach Director?
A. Hoppenrath: “By trade I am a marketing director for an accounting firm. I develop a yearly strategic marketing program to help the organization accomplish its growth goals. Thinking creatively and engaging our professionals is a key to the program’s success.”
“In some ways, what I do for swimming is no different. It is looking at the big picture, putting strategies in place, and developing an actionable implementation plan. Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity to think outside of the box. It’s equally important to get everyone on board and engaged. Last year in the Central Zone had a strategic planning session before convention, and we identified three initiatives for the Zone. #1. Re-vision the Zone meet. The meet was getting very large, timelines were too long – We needed to look at ways to create an environment that better supported athlete performance. #2. Communication. How can we, as a Zone further enhance communication between national and LSC’s? #3. Performance. John Bradley, our coach director, is leading the initiative to improve the performance of our athletes in the Central Zone”
SS: You have held the Central Zone Non-Coach Director role for two years already–what have some of your biggest accomplishments been thus far?
A. Hoppenrath: “As the junior director, I lead the initiative to get the Zone B.O.R. (Board of Review) and the Sanction Appeal Panel up and running. I worked with our B.O.R. Chair and all the LSC’s to get nominations in place and develop the implementation plan.”
“This past year, was the development and implementation of the strategic initiatives. This meant appointing Task Forces and working with them in an advisory role to facilitate research, develop goals and strategies and begin the implementation process.”
“Most importantly, John and I have worked diligently to open up the lines of communication. We communicate with our General Chairs before and after every board meeting to facilitate communication between the LSC’s and national.”
SS: As Central Zone Non-Coach Director, how do you keep athletes in mind first and foremost, per USA Swimming’s core objectives? (Building the base; Promoting the sport; and Achieving sustained competitive success).
A. Hoppenrath: “We’re the first step for the athletes outside of the Zone, and it’s interesting because we have really tried to engage our athlete reps. For example, this past April there was a General Chair meeting in Denver. We brought our Athlete Rep, Amy Schultz, to talk about how to get athletes more engaged in governance. Not only did she share some great strategies for getting the athletes more engaged, she also had the opportunity to learn more about LSC governance and had the chance to build relationships with LSC leadership. We are always looking for ways to support and promote her.”
“As the Central Zone looks to revision the Championship meet we are working with Amy to have a special meeting at convention with our athletes to get their feedback on the proposed recommendations.”
SS: What do you think the biggest challenges facing USA Swimming and its membership are right now, and how would you address those issues as Central Zone Non-Coach Director?
A. Hoppenrath: “We have a lot of opportunities ahead of us — a key focus needs to be on building the base and retaining our athletes at the grassroots level. We have so much competition from other sports and activities that don’t have the time or financial commitment of swimming. Our membership numbers in the younger age categories are decreasing. We need to think outside of the box and look at how to engage and retain kids at the grassroots level and build programs that bridge the seasonal athlete to the year-round athlete while finding ways to keep our athletes at all levels excited about the sport. That’s exactly what the Zones are about; ‘how do we help build that foundation, and continue to promote grassroots age-group swimming?’ And we do that in conjunction with the LSC’s.”
SS: How do you believe your various roles throughout swimming have shaped your perspective when it comes to overseeing the sport at this level?
A. Hoppenrath: “I believe in this sport. It’s a tough sport that takes a lot of passion. Throughout the years, and my many roles – Parent, LSC Governance, Official, Committee Member, Zone Director…. I’ve been able to truly understand the perspectives and the passion and begin to see the casual relationships that may be the foundation to success or the spark to greatness. Sometimes it’s hard to see that how small differences can make a bit impact. We have to have continuous faith and keep moving forward. There are a lot of people who give a lot to the sport and it takes all of us working together to really make this thing happen.”
Further information about the USA Swimming annual convention can be found here. For Ms. Hoppenrath’s bio, per USA Swimming, click here. The full list of current committees and committee members is also available for reference on USA Swimming’s website.
The Central Zone Non-Coach Direct will be elected next week at USA Swimming’s Annual Convention, taking place in Atlanta, Georgia. Nominations can no longer be made by mail, though nomination forms may be hand-delivered at the convention until 12:00 noon on Thursday, September 22nd. Nominees must be non-athlete members of USA Swimming and must have completed a background check and undergone the Athlete Protection Online Training Course before September 19th, 2016.