Highlighting the work of leadership organizations in the youth sports industry is important for several reasons. We want to ensure there is a collaborative experience between organizations so that athletes and families get the best possible experience. We also understand the value of sharing ideas—we’re learning from these organizations every day and want to extend those lessons to everyone.
Does your organization have a new initiative or project that helps grow your membership, keep your athletes safe, or makes a positive impact on your community? Share your story with other leaders in youth sports:
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Let's learn more about USA Artistic Swimming and the work Adam Andrasko and the team are doing to keep athletes and their safety at the forefront of their organization.
1. Could you tell us more about the focus you put on safety, risk management, and membership growth?
USA Artistic Swimming, like most NGBs, is a membership organization. We need to provide an attractive product and services that our members can trust in. We have a great insurance offering as many NGBs do, but that is not necessarily enticing. What attracts people is our premier events and unique member opportunities like Olympian and national team engagement, contests, and education programs. Those offerings—coupled with a safe environment to train and compete in—form the foundation of USAAS.
Over the last two and half years, we have made athlete safety our top priority. We’ve increased background screening in partnership with SportsEngine/NCSI and teamed up with the U.S. Center for SafeSport to improve those training requirements. Our grievance reporting structure has become streamlined, consistent, and transparent. Our Board of Directors and all advisory committees (national and local level) are composed of at least 33.3% athlete representatives.
The USAAS Athlete Executive Committee and the USAAS Board of Directors recently approved our Athlete Bill of Rights. Of all the things that we have done, the most important item for me is the creation of the Athlete Safety & Membership Coordinator staff position. I am very excited to share that we recently hired Monica Velazquez-Stiak, a former collegiate and national team artistic swimmer, in that role.
As it pertains to COVID-19 mitigation, the national team and event staff have been incredible. Our national team has trained together six days a week since June 16 without any positive tests. This is a testament to the athletes and the processes we’ve implemented to train safely. We have applied this information and learning to inform our clubs of how to safely return to training and competitions.
2. What is the Athlete Bill of Rights and why is it important to not only your sport but the entire youth sports ecosystem?
The Athlete Bill of Rights was created by our Athlete Executive Council and approved by the Board of Directors. It clearly defines the standards required by USA Artistic Swimming. It is more than a governance document. It transparently illustrates the expectations of USAAS to our members. We are not the first NGB to develop a bill of rights, but I do feel that we have furthered the support for all athletes by developing it.
3. Can you tell us more about your Athlete Executive Committee and DEI Committee?
The Athlete Executive Committee (AEC) is a long-standing committee that is composed of athlete representatives from across the country. They are voted into their positions by their peers. The AEC is led by the President (currently, retired national team member and current Stanford athlete Emma Tchakmakjian) and Athlete At Large (currently, retired national team member and former Stanford athlete, Megan Robins). The work of the AEC is supported by the Athlete Advisory Council representative (currently, retired national team member and former Stanford athlete, Morgan Fuller-Kolsrud).
The DEI Committee was developed in 2020 when the Board of Directors made the decision to create a Vice President, DEI position on the Board of Directors (currently, USAAS Coach and Judge member and Coral Springs Aquacades head coach, Ashley Johnson). Under the leadership of that position, we developed multiple DEI committees that were dedicated to addressing current issues within our sport.
4. What projects are they currently working on to help further their respective areas within your sport and the greater community?
Both committees have actively engaged our membership. The goal has been to listen, learn, support, acknowledge, and develop an improvement plan. This process has increased membership engagement to a new level. That engagement has created more trust in the organization. With that trust comes a responsibility to do better and these committees have helped USAAS do exactly that.
Rule and policy changes don’t regularly grab headlines but these two groups have worked with our Governance Committee to improve every aspect of our bylaws. DEI and AEC representatives are positions on every committee and task force of the organization. DEI is working with Athletes With Disabilities to increase participation and competitive opportunities. We are also developing organizational and city partnerships to introduce underserved populations to artistic swimming.
5. What is one thing you want to share with other governing bodies that you have learned through your work on the Athlete Bill of Rights initiative?
Provide the athletes with the opportunity to share and lead. Discuss, educate, and support all levels of athletes. They are the reason that we exist and when offered good information and an opportunity they will lead us to a better future.