Board Reform - Letter from the USA Canoe/Kayak President

Oct. 21, 2008, 5:36 p.m. (ET)

Dear Members of USA Canoe/Kayak,

Throughout my term as President of the Board of Directors of USA Canoe/Kayak, my fellow Board members and I have expressed a concern over the structure of our Board and the committees that govern our organization. We have determined that our current Board structure is not consistent with today’s best practices for non-profit boards and is not optimally structured to serve our members.

During these deliberations we have conferred with our partners at the US Olympic Committee. The USOC itself underwent a sweeping review and reform of its own governance structure only a few years ago. During this reform process, they developed governance standards that should be met by the national governing bodies of the Olympic sports. In addition to providing standards, USOC has a staff that works with national governing bodies to assist them in adopting more effective governance policies and structures and in complying with the increasingly demanding requirements set by USOC for its member NGB’s.

At its most recent meeting, the Board of Directors of the USOC decided that from this point forward adherence by NGB’s to its governance standards and requirements would be a factor in USOC decisions regarding funding of NGB’s. More than two thirds of the NGB’s have already reformed or are in the process of reforming their governance to comply with the new USOC requirements. Due to the criticality of maintaining the high level of support provided to USA Canoe/Kayak by USOC, our Board decided at our most recent meeting to proceed with a process to review and reform our board structure and to form a task force to accomplish this on a fast track timetable.

While this is a very substantial undertaking, the goals are simple:

  • To create a Board with more independent directors rather than directors ties to a specific constituent group within USA Canoe/Kayak
  • To assure that the Board that governs USA Canoe/Kayak has all the diverse skills and experiences necessary to provide the best governance possible
  • To accomplish this while continuing to comply with the athlete participation requirements of the Amateur Sports Act.
  • To assure that the Board also contains the specific sports knowledge necessary to provide the best governance possible
  • To create a visionary Board that sets policy, supervises the management, enforces ethics and expands the resources of USA Canoe/Kayak.

These are lofty goals. Our partner in the restructuring process, Eric Parthen, Director of NGB Organizational Development at the US Olympic Committee, has a great deal of experience in this area. He has shared with us his advice on the most appropriate process and timetable. He believes that this can be accomplished within 90 days or less.

With the beginning of a new Olympic Quadrenium immediately before us and the consideration of funding levels to support our two Olympic Sports now underway at USOC, our Board felt that it was imperative to move swiftly to effect this change. Since the central feature of the restructuring will be the composition of the Board itself, the Board determined that it was not reasonable to proceed with its previously scheduled election of directors to the current Board while this process is moving forward.

It is our intention to present restated By-laws to the full membership for your thoughtful review and comment so that this change can be voted on by our Board at or prior to our Annual Meeting. We strongly believe these efforts are in the best interests of USA Canoe/Kayak and its athlete members. Success will yield a stronger Board, a stronger bond with USOC and a stronger USA Canoe/Kayak.


Gina Sanchez, President
USA Canoe/Kayak Board of Directors

To download a copy of this letter, click here>>

Update: An update to this letter has since been posted. Please click here to read Gina Sanchez's letter dated November 11, 2008.