Twenty months ago, USA Canoe/Kayak embarked upon a professionally-led process that set five key strategic goals for the organizaiton. The goals we created were a balance of building a stronger enterprise and achieving better performances at the most important events. This past weekend, USA Canoe/Kayak Board Chairman, Bob Lally, and I had the privilege of attending the ICF Junior & U-23 Sprint World Championships in Welland, Canada where we witnessed progress in both of these areas.
A World Championships in any discipline represents a critcial performance benchmark - an opportunity to evaluate your work and results against the best in the world. Such events also bring together the key stakeholders in the sport - National Federations, Olympic Committees, event organizers and officials to name a few. With that here are three of my key take-aways from these World Championships and how they relate to our some of our specific goals:
1) Improving Performance
At first glance, you see a number a Team USA Athletes with B-Final performances. These results, which land between 10th and 18th place, are significant jump forward compared to past results. Add in a significant jump by the field around us - a point universally acknowledged by the top programs at these Worlds - and we see our program evolving in a very positive direction.
Here's what you don't see when you're scanning the results online - the response from our athletes to their B-Finals performances and the spirit they are carrying forward. A few short years ago, we had zero B-Finals performances at this level of competition. Today, the athletes who are moving closer to top performances are simply not satisified with narrowly missing out on the A-Finals. That moment when you see our athletes realize they can make this jump and re-commit themselves to the opportunity is simply awesome.
1A) Emergence of a Canoe Program
The work of our canoe athletes is inspiring. Our results in Men's and Women's Canoe categories reinforced terrific momentum in this previously underserved discipline. Claudiu Cuir has brought a wealth of high performance experience to canoe athletes based out of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. And our National Development Program now splits kayak and canoe training camps so canoe athletes (men's and women's) and canoe coaches are focusing on competitive and technical elements unique to this discipline.
Moving towards USA Canoe/Kayak's 3rd goal - to achieve sustained international competitive success - not only doing these improving results reflect well on our athletes but also on our Clubs and Club Coaches.
2) Fostering International Relationships
The more I attend international events, the more I am reminded of the sport's home-base in Europe. While it's great to see a number of events moving around the globe over the next few years, critical movements in the sport are largely orginating thousands of miles from the United States over in Europe.
Having said that, nothing can replace the person-to-person investment of time, energy and conversation exploring EVERYONE's top interest - the good of competitive paddlesports. There are millions of different ideas out there about how our sport should grow and progress. Regardless of which way is best, we won't advance any of our ideas without significant investment of person-to-person time with the ICF and our National Federation partners.
Finally, in my many years around the sport, I can say that our relationships are absolutely trending upward with Bob Lally at the helm of USA Canoe/Kayak. His extensive experience living and working abroad in military leadership and his eager enthusiasm to learn and offer assistance to our partners is driving the success of USA Canoe/Kayak's 5th goal to Expand Global Influence.
3) Alignment of Energies
Much of USA Canoe/Kayak's progress - on and off the water - connect to an alignment of energies but two elements in particular stand out relative to my Welland take-aways.
First, our partnership with the Canoe/Kayak Canada continues to be a fantastic growth initiative for competitive paddlesports in North America. From shared training camps to competitive opportunities to developing our strategic international initiatives, collaborative efforts at all levels are the sport are leveraging new opportunities and resources for more people. And we have room to extend this friendship even further in the near future.
Second, our partnership with Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation provided ourstanding coaching, equipment and logistical support that was critical to our performance in Welland and continues to build an operation capable of taking our elite programs to higher levels. Simply stated - our Oklahoma City partners are incredible partners.
Alignment of energies is at the heart of USA Canoe/Kayak's 4th goal - Empower Bold Leadership.
Sport teaches us well that our destination at USA Canoe/Kayk is one we never fully reach but moving our performances and organizational growth in the right direction is the true progress we are seeing today. We can't do it alone and we welcome your support.