Recently the conversation has resurfaced regarding the CEO position at USATF – specifically the fact that the position is STILL unfilled, and the difficulty that the organization has had with respect to the process.
As I read the various comments that have been made, I wonder what has happened to the leadership of this sport over the years? Because when I look at traditional track powers like Britain, Russia and Cuba, I see the legends of the sport from their countries actively involved to help move the sport forward with Sebastian Coe, Sergei Bubka and Alberto Juantorena all in major roles within the sport.
Coe was appointed President of the British AAA in 1998, and is currently serving as Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Bubka is a Council Member of the Ukrainian Federation, and has been an IAAF Council Member since 2001, currently serving in a Vice President’s role. And Juantorena is Vice Minister of Sport in Cuba and a member of the IAAF Council as well as Senior Vice President of the Cuban Olympic Committee. And while not in quite the same category star quality wise, Frank Fredericks, Nawal El Moutawakel, and Irina Szewinska – all serve on the IAAF Council.
In contrast none of the U.S.’s former track and field “legends” have a presence within the sport – either via USATF or the IAAF. The closest has been Edwin Moses who has done extensive work with the Laureus World Sports Academy, as its inaugural Chairman, as well as serving as a member of the IOC Ethics Commission since 2000. So while he has had tremendous global involvement in sport, we here in the U.S. have not had the benefit of his abilities here at home.
Yes, I know that USATF hired former hurdler Benita Fitgerald Mosely as Chief of Sport Performance. However, and no disrespect to Ms. Mosely, I’m talking about star quality, clout – someone that could become a mover and shaker within the sport. I’m talking about an Edwin Moses, Evelyn Ashford, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson type “legend” – someone whose name and accomplishments are on par with Bubka, Coe and Juantorena. In short an athlete whose name alone would give them instant respect.
I often wonder why other nations find their top athletes coming back to help build the sport but our top level athletes don’t – at least not organizationally or politically. We have athletes that come back to impart knowledge on other athletes as coaches – Jon Drummond, Leroy Burrell, Harvey Glance, Alberto Salazar, Johnny Gray and Mike Powell come to mid – but I’m talking about top level leadership positions within the sport. Because right now when leadership seems to be sorely lacking, we could use the star power that a “legend” could bring to USATF. Not just in terms of name recognition, though that might help, but in terms of networking, coalition building, and bringing respect to the organization from our peers. We could use someone like an Edwin Moses interfacing with the Coe’s, Bubkas, and Juantorena’s that are becoming the global face of track and field. We too could use that sort of global presence.
Personally, I see that as the first step in restoring track and field in this country – bringing a “legend” back into the fold. I say first step because in one respect USATF got it right with their outrageous job description for the CEO position. All that is mentioned within it is necessary to bring to the table to restore the sport to glory in this country. The problem is that “Superman” doesn’t exist – there is no single person that would ever fit that job description. So looking for “The One” based upon that is a failed process before it begins. However, broken up into a set of parts, it could be actualized – the first step being to secure a “legend” and adding just the right “parts” to the equation.
That’s the key in my humble opinion, legendary leadership – which is proving to work for others – with a dash of additional leadership gained not from the track or field, but from having worked in the trenches. And I think I know just the right combination that would work, because we do have some great leaders out there that possess the right mix of skills and qualities.
To be continued …..