The USA Swimming annual convention is fast approaching. Taking place in Atlanta, GA, the convention will kick off next week on Monday, September 19th. At the convention new Board of Directors members will be chosen, or perhaps some will be re-elected. Among those up for re-election is Robert Broyles of Moscow, ID, and the Inland Empire LSC. The current Administration Vice President, Mr. Broyles is running for re-election. Last week Mr. Broyles was kind enough to give SwimSwam some of his time and answer some questions we had about his accomplishments in his first term as Administration Vice President, what he would like to improve moving forward, and what he thinks USA Swimming needs to do to ensure the success of its members.
SS: What do you view as the most important roles of the Administration Vice President?
R. Broyles: “The Administration Vice President is in charge of six different committees. We have the Registration Membership Committee, the Rules Committee, Convention Education, Operational Risk, Awards Committee, and Credentials/Elections Committee, so it’s the duty of the Administration Vice President to kind of shepherd those committees. And then also sitting on the board of directors is no small task. Also, the Administration Vice President would be first in line to become Acting President until the next convention or the next election if the current president couldn’t serve for any reason.”
SS: What do you think some of your accomplishments as Administration Vice President have been?
R. Broyles: “Some of the major things: I’ve been a real supporter of re-examining the Zone and LSC boundaries. These boundaries were set way back in the AAU days, and I think it’s important to continually review and monitor those and be sure that they fit our current ways of doing business. I was one of the ones that right from the start got all the Zone Directors together and got them thinking, and now they have regular meetings. And then I was also a proponent of moving forward with the Zone/LSC study that we’ve done with the outside consultant to further review that topic, and hopefully we’ll have a formal report available at convention this year, something that we can really take some action on. I’ve also been a big fan of Shared Services, even prior to being on the board, so I’m interested in seeing that move forward as appropriate.”
“And then, even though we may think some of our LSCs may be under-performing and are maybe not as good as they should be… well, we haven’t done the best job that we can do nationally as far as education and training and getting people up to speed on things goes–we can’t just expect people, once they’re elected to a position, to know what they’re doing. For example, this year I was pretty involved in getting the General Chairs Conference together in April where we had the General Chairs meet in Denver and got them in front of a bunch of our speakers and got them information on diversity; got them information from board sources on training; how to make their board meetings more effective, and those sort of things. I’m interested in keeping that going, and hopefully after convention and elections are done, we can move forward and make that more of an annual type of event as well, and work with LSC Development [to make] those programs better for our new General Chairs, because our training has not been as good as it could be in that area.”
“I was a big proponent and I think one of the leaders in getting the sale of our private insurance company done here recently and I feel pretty good about that. I helped bring several million dollars back into USA Swimming’s control. Not that it wasn’t our money; but we didn’t have control of it. And once the sale is complete we’ll be using private insurance. We were able to get several million dollars that we had invested in our [former] insurance company back into our control that we [can now] use for the benefit of our membership.”
“And then to finally kind of wrap this up, I’ve always kind of been a big proponent of coach and athlete support. I think we’ve been very fortunate over the past two years to have two coaches as vice presidents; John Bitter (Program Development VP) and Tim Bauer (Technical VP), and I’ve worked really well and really closely with those two guys to make sure that we’re doing the right things for the athletes and for the coaches, and we get their voice and their opinions out there in front of everybody, and also working with the athlete group. Kelley Otto, who is the athlete’s [chair], and Michael Klueh, the vice [chair], and Van (Donkersgoed), and Mark (Weber), and Chip (Peterson), and Garret (Weber-Gale), and Peter (Vanderkaay), and all those guys to be sure that the athletes’ voice is heard as well, and I’m always very interested and very vocal in what those guys want and what I could be supporting what they feel their interests are. I learned a long time ago in this sport that as an administrator you can go nowhere without coach and athlete support, no matter how great you think your idea is, or how great your program might be. If you don’t have their support, you’ve got nothing.”
SS: Do you see any areas about the organization that, in the role of Administration Vice President, you would like to improve going forward?
R. Broyles: “Well, again, the education and training of the LSC’s, the General Chairs, and elected LSC leaders, I think is critical going forward. The models that we had set up from the 1980’s when USA Swimming was first started, even back to the AAU days, where a lot of the framework that we have [was established], is not quite as relevant now as it used to be, and so we need to adapt, we need to change, we also need to bring people up to speed. Right along with that, the role of the volunteer; we have great volunteers, but in a lot of ways we don’t have as many volunteers as we used to, and we certainly don’t have the pool of people available out there, so we need to make sure that the people we do have in these roles are well-educated and well-trained and have every opportunity to succeed.”
SS: How do you believe your various roles throughout swimming have shaped your perspective when it comes to overseeing the sport at this level? Were you a swimmer?
R. Broyles: “Yes, back in the 70’s I was a club AAU swimmer. I was out of the sport by the time USA Swimming came around in the 80’s, but I was there for the AAU days.”
“I got back into the sport as my kids became swimmers in the mid-90’s. From there I became an official, and now I’m a National Championship meet referee and a FINA International referee. I recently also finished a four-year term as the Chair of the Northwest Section and for our Sectional Meets. I think I may have been the first and possibly only non-coach that has ever served as the Chair of that sectional committee, though I’m not certain.”
“So again, I got the opportunity to work with coaches, to understand their ideas and their thoughts, and I think that has really helped me to shape myself to be a better all-around administrator for the sport.
SS: As Administration Vice President, 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).
R. Broyles: “Well I think communicating with them is probably the main thing. Kelley Otto and I communicate regularly, and I’m in touch with Michael (Klueh), Mark (Weber), and Chip (Peterson) on a regular basis, trying to understand what their thoughts and interests are. A lot of the things we’ve got in place right now came as the result of meetings that I’ve had personally with that group, bringing their ideas forward. I know at the board-level sometimes it’s uncomfortable and it’s a challenge for the athletes to bring their ideas forward, but I have no issue if and when they want to involve me in their processes, which they have very well for the past few years. I’m happy to be a champion for their ideas and to bring their thoughts forward, and make the things that they need happen.”
SS: What do you think USA Swimming’s biggest goals moving forward over these next two to four years should be?
R. Broyles: “Now that we’ve gone through this quad we need to start focusing on the quad leading up to 2020 and Tokyo, and again, our primary goal: ‘build, promote, and achieve.’ We typically see a post-Olympic bump in membership, and assuming that’s still going to be relevant for this upcoming quad, we need to be sure that we take care of the new members and give everybody the opportunity and the chance to succeed, whatever that may be. So, build and promote right there. Continuing to work hand-in-hand with coaches and athletes to ‘achieve (sustained competitive success)’ to be sure we’re setting ourselves up well for 2020 in Tokyo. And we are almost to the point where we have to replace some key staff as term limits expire for certain board members, so it is going to be critical that the board do the right thing there, that we follow procedures, and get the right people in place going forward, even past 2020.”
SS: You mentioned the typical post-Olympic bump in membership—do you think that certain swimmers such as Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Katie Ledecky—now that they’ve become more sort of “household names” are maybe driving a little bit more continued interest in the sport and youth enrollment?
R. Broyles: “I would think so. I think it’s done incredible things for retention, if nothing else. Having those “super-stars” out there [has] really helped us retain [older swimmers and older boys]. [At meets] you used to see the girl’s events with maybe one-third more heats in the older age groups than the boys. Now it’s starting to even out. But I’ve also seen email communication from parents where they’re communicating with the LSC’s and registrars, and have shown some interest in getting involved, or getting more involved, with swimming.”
SS: Do you have any thoughts on the precipitous drop on 10 & under enrollment? I’ve heard it’s as high as 10 percent.
R. Broyles: “Well, I think it depends on how you look at that drop. We have had a drop in 10 & under registrations—I don’t know the exact number, but 10 percent is close. But are those athletes really out of the sport? There are a lot of things that we’ve done in studying this. No, they’re not all truly out of the sport; some have found different ways of registering, or different ways to get the insurance coverage they need without having to join USA Swimming and pay a higher membership fee, so there are several options out there for younger swimmers to be involved in the sport without being a registered member of USA Swimming. It’s something that we’re aware of, and something that we’ve worked with Pat Hogan and his group on staff, and there are proposals in regard to that moving forward at convention as far as a pre-team membership, some revisions in seasonal membership, and these sort of things to make that entry cost into swimming not as great as simply just becoming a USA Swimming registered member. We’re hoping some of those things we can address [those numbers]. And again, I’m not convinced that we have an overall [10 percent] drop, necessarily, but I think a lot of that drop is that coaches and teams are finding alternative ways of registering their kids and getting the insurance coverage that they need without having to become members of USA Swimming.”
SS: Is there anything else about yourself or about the role that you would like to add?
R. Broyles: “Again, just thank you for this opportunity, and I hope it get the opportunity to serve for another couple years. I don’t know if I’m the longest-standing member in terms of experience on the board right now, but I’m certainly right up there, and I would just like to continue, and I think there’s more things that need to get done for the membership that I’m really anxious to do.”
Further information about the USA Swimming annual convention can be found here. For Mr. Broyles’ 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 Administration Vice President will be elected next month 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.