(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing brought together the National Office staff, board of directors and members of the fencing community over the weekend during a strategic planning retreat that was held in Colorado Springs prior to the annual meeting on Sunday.
Held on Friday and Saturday, the meeting was led by USA Fencing President Don Anthony Jr. (Columbus, Ohio) and CEO Val Belmonte (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and included presentations by Sam Cheris (Denver, Colo.), USA Fencing treasurer; Kae Rader (Colorado Springs, Colo.), strategic planning consultant; Mary Medley (Denver, Colo.), CEO of the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants; and Eddie Moore (Columbus, Ohio), strategic planning consultant.
“We made a major investment as an organization in this meeting. I think we’re going to get a great return on our investment in bringing everyone together and I’m honored to be able to be a part of this,” Anthony said. “I’m also honored the organization chose me to be a leader at this time. The situation we face is challenging and It’s not going to be easy, but I know that, with the support of all of you, we’re going to be successful.”
In addition to board and staff members, participants included committee chairs, past U.S. Olympic Team captains, and representatives of the domestic and international fencing community.
“It was important for us as an organization that we have viewpoints from different areas within the USA Fencing community so that, ultimately, this plan is the result of a wide breadth of voices and opinions,” Anthony said. “We know we have a tough road ahead of us. We know we’ve inherited some things that are not easy to overcome – and it’s not just the financials. The financials are a symptom of the problems we have. The most important thing for me was to create an environment of openness and honesty and trust and I feel like I was able to watch the dynamic change between people this weekend. We had to heal and we had to create a team to be able to move forward.”
Throughout the weekend, the group discussed the state or the organization’s finances and priorities and set strategic priorities for the next quadrennium.
“We’re all excited now because I think we’ve got a good start, but it’s a living process. It’s a process that’s going to continue to keep on going on. I’ve got my coach’s mentality on right now. My wife used to tell me after a victory ‘How come you can’t savor the victory? Why do you have to think of the next game right away?’ And because that’s how I think. The game is over. You won your bout or you won your tournament, but you’re worried about the next one right away. You’re starting to plan right away,” Belmonte said.
During the coming weeks, the USA Fencing staff will work to establish a written plan and key objectives.
“There’s going to be a lot of challenges, but I’m confident that we have the start of a good plan. We’re going to put objectives together that meet these goals and these challenges. We’re going to give the board a plan that makes sense for the organization and that it makes sense from a financial standpoint,” Belmonte said. “We have to be accountable to each other; we have to be accountable to ourselves; and we have to help one another out. It’s going to be an exciting journey. There’s going to be a lot of positive things that this organization is going to do.”
Among the retreat participants were all three athlete representatives to the board of directors – 2012 Senior World Champions Soren Thompson (San Diego, Calif.) and Cody Mattern (Colorado Springs, Colo.) as well as two-time Senior World medalist Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
“I wasn’t sure what to expect. I really thought several key things were done on the transparency level with the new leadership – in particular, letting the staff come and making sure they were heard. I think it’s very important that the staff has 100% buy-in on the plan and that they understand the plan. Not that they were told the minutes of the plan and then they try to interpret it one way or the other, but they actually know the plan, they were part of the plan and they helped build the plan,” Mattern said. “As a leader in the Army and in the community, I think that it’s always easier to follow a plan that you helped create and I think that’s going to be part of the success of the plan going forward is that there’s complete buy-in from the board and the volunteers and the staff. I think that side of it was very refreshing.”
Following the retreat, the annual meeting was held at the Colorado Springs DoubleTree. In addition to being open to the public, the meeting was also streamed live on the Internet.
“I think that shows our openness to be accessible to our public and the people we serve and that’s why we’re here – to do what we think and feel is in the greater good of the organization. I do believe that everybody has that goal at their heart, Mattern said. “They may have different views as to what are the priorities and that’s going to be the trick is kind of knowing those priorities, selecting those priorities and really getting behind them.”
First-time board member Jeff Salmon (Long Island, N.Y.) also said he came away from the weekend’s meetings with a positive outlook towards the organization’s future.
“The weekend's sessions were productive and informative. The wealth of experience and various perspectives in the room were invaluable in informing our new President and CEO as they look towards the future of USA Fencing,” Salmon said. “The inclusion of the National Office staff in the discussions will be key to create a clear a team-work oriented approach between the professional and volunteer staff of our organization.”