The USOC has just released its final report on Olympic Day 2015. This year’s celebrations were the biggest yet, with 1,820 Olympic Day events reaching 630,000 Americans around the country. Four of those events were held by USA Dance chapters. The full USOC report may be found at: https://olympicday.fusesport.com/_uploads/res/2245_8582.PDF
From time to time I visit a variety of internet DanceSport sites. There is presently a debate taking place on some of these sites regarding whether or not international and national organizations may restrict athletes and officials from full participation in the events of their choice.
In the U.S. participation in sport by athletes as well as officials, including judges, is protected by the U.S. Amateur Sports Act. This is the piece of legislation that created the USOC and established the rules under which the USOC operates. Under those rules American athletes and officials must have the right to full participation in the athletic events of their choice, and USA Dance, as the National Governing Body of DanceSport recognized by the USOC, must adhere to those rules.
However, the USOC is not empowered to direct the actions of the sport organizations of other nations, nor is the IOC empowered to mandate that individual nations change their laws to conform to IOC standards. Conseqently, while American athletes and officials enjoy full rights to participate in sport, other nations may choose to abridge the rights of athletes and officials in a manner that is allowed under those nations’ laws.
For this reason, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), which is the international body recognized by the IOC to oversee DanceSport world-wide, leaves to each member federation the right to manage DanceSport according to the laws of that member’s nation. In fact, the WDSF can do nothing else but that, since it, just like the IOC, cannot mandate that individual countries change their laws to suit the WDSF.
Unfortunately, there are some misguided individuals in the dance community who do not understand this point, but continue to argue that the USOC, IOC, USA Dance and WDSF police the entire DanceSport world and make it one where all dancers the world over have complete freedom to participate in all DanceSport events. This is entirely unrealistic.
These same misguided individuals, while demanding full freedom for athletes, are quite happy to deny that same freedom to officials, including judges, and argue that judges, but not athletes, must adhere to whatever rules are in place in their national organization. The fact is that there may be some restrictions placed on the participation of athletes as well as officials based on their nation and its laws.
As stated previously, in America both athletes and officials have freedom to participate in the athletic events of their choice under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act. USA Dance adheres to the provisions of this Act. Unfortunately some other dance organizations in America do not, and limit judges from judging events organized by USA Dance and the WDSF contrary to the U.S. Amateur Sports Act. This is problematic and should be investigated.
USA Dance is supposed to be a national organization, representing and serving DanceSport athletes in all regions of the country. But during the last few years representation for athletes in the Western United States has disappeared.
The DanceSport Council has no DanceSport Delegates from the Western U.S. at all, nor any committee chair positions filled by athletes from western states. While a quarter of all athletes in the country are from California alone, there are no voting representatives from California or any other western state on the DSC whatsoever, while the East Coast, the Midwest and the South all have representation which meets or exceeds the percentage of athlete members residing in those regions of the country. It appears that USA Dance simply has given up representing athletes west of the Mississippi.
And this lack of regional representation is reflected in the recent policies promulgated by the DSC, which not only ignore Western U.S. concerns but even at times appear hostile to them.
For example, most American WDSF and USA Dance-registered judges live on the East Coast, yet the DSC mandates that National Qualifying Events (NQE’s) in the west have as many WDSF judges as those back east, being seemingly oblivious to the additional cost to organizers of flying these judges across the country. To make matters worse, rather than expediting the registration of new USA Dance judges in the West, the DSC person responsible for judge certification throws up roadblocks, requiring judges to submit their original credentials for this person’s review when the judges’ own examining organizations have already certified their credentials and their levels of certification, making this information publically available.
Too often it appears these days that the DSC fabricates rules without giving proper thought to the negative impact they will have on organizers, especially in the West. Such rules are often finalized and implemented without even a prior review and comment period for discussion with organizers or consideration of their legitimate concerns. While the Vice President of DanceSport has repeatedly encouraged DSC members to take these regional issues seriously, they appear to be ignoring his advice just as they have been ignoring the concerns which West Coast organizers have been bringing to them. Is it any wonder that while there used to be three NQE’s on the West Coast now there is only one? The reality is that staging competitions that meet all of the DSC’s growing list of mandates is simply becoming too expensive for West Coast organizers.
Most NQE’s are organized by USA Dance chapters on a non-profit volunteer basis, and these USA Dance chapters are forced to pay a hefty sanction fee to the DSC for the privilege of hosting a sanctioned event. The initial justification for that sanction fee was to cover the cost of the DSC sending an official to monitor each competition. Starting this year however, USA Dance chapter organizers must now assume the full travel and lodging cost of bringing an official of the DSC’s choice to the NQE, yet sanction fees have not been reduced accordingly. This is especially burdensome for the West Coast as there are no longer any DSC officials in the Western U.S. and therefore officials must be flown across the country at the USA Dance chapter’s expense.
Article VII B. 2. of the USA Dance bylaws states that there shall be four DanceSport Delegates and that they shall be “drawn from different areas of the country to the extent possible”. Two of the four Delegates presently reside in the New York area, with the other two coming from Florida and Indiana. Due to a recent resignation by one of the East Coast DanceSport Delegates, an opportunity existed to appoint a Delegate from the West Coast, yet this opportunity was ignored and another Delegate from the East Coast was appointed instead. The proper action in my opinion would have been to first make a public announcement to all athlete members that a Delegate position was open and that all qualified athletes, especially those in the Western U.S. were invited to apply. Then, if no qualified Western U.S. athletes came forward, an appointment of another East Coast Delegate would have been appropriate. But to my knowledge no such outreach took place.
While the DSC states that it is sensitive to Western U.S. concerns, this has not been evident by its actions, resulting in western athletes beginning to question the value of a USA Dance membership. This is a particularly serious problem for syllabus dancers who do not generally travel to East Coast NQE’s or to the USA Dance National Championships that are also held on the East Coast. With only one NQE remaining on the West Coast, the value of a USA Dance membership is shrinking rapidly for these dancers.
The situation is not much better on the Governing Council either. While the GC is supposed to represent the membership as a whole, the farthest west that any current GC member resides is in the South Central U.S., and the GC has become a body heavily dominated by East Coast concerns. The current geographic representation on the GC stands as follows:
Eastern U.S.: 12 GC Members
Central U.S.: 3 GC Members
Western U.S.: 0 GC Members
The only national council within USA Dance where true regional representation remains is the Social Dance Council, where area representatives are selected by geographic districts, thereby guaranteeing that the western region of the country has two representatives.
Geographic representation used to be the norm on all three national councils, where Regional Vice Presidents were elected by their regions to sit on the GC, and DanceSport Delegates were elected by the athletes in their regions to sit on the DSC and GC in order to insure athlete representation on these bodies.
USA Dance reorganized itself some years ago in order to go to what was perceived at the time as a more efficient structure of appointed national directors with specific duties for individual programs such as development, K-12 or college programs, rather than elected generalist Regional Vice Presidents. At that same time DanceSport Delegates began to be elected by athletes nationally rather than by athletes in each specific region. While there is no question that some benefits derived from this new structure, it has degenerated into a system that now largely ignores the Western U.S.
If USA Dance is to remain a viable national organization, consideration must be given to reinstituting a system that guarantees at least some minimum amount of representation from important geographic regions such as the Western U.S. on both the DanceSport Council and the Governing Council. Without representation, Western U.S. membership numbers, especially among athletes will slide further as these dancers see the reduction of USA Dance competitions in their area and view the national organization growing ever more remote and out of touch with their day-to-day dance concerns.
USA Dance will again be celebrating Olympic Day this year. So far four USA Dance chapters have registered with the USOC to host events – the Nor Cal and Orange County chapters in California, the Bremerton chapter in Washington state and the Orlando chapter in Florida. There is still time to register an event. Just go to: https://olympicday.fusesport.com/registration/205/May2/ and follow the instructions.
USA Dance chapters will be holding events at shopping malls and other facilities where the public will get a chance to see and experience the healthful benefits of ballroom dancing as a recreational activity and competitive sport. Chapters will also be celebrating USA Dance’s close relationship with the USOC and the Olympic Movement by welcoming Olympians to the events. So join in the fun by registering your event today.
On March 28, 2015 USA Dance released a financial report to its members. I have reviewed it and found it quite troubling, not only because of the information it reveals, but because of the necessary information that is inconsistent or missing.
The March 28th report indicates that membership revenues in 2014 amounted to $392,033. If this is accurate, it is the largest drop in membership monies year-to-year that I have seen in USA Dance in the seventeen years that I was on the Governing Council. Here are the collected membership dues amounts as they were reported in the annual outside audits for the years 2008-2013 versus the unaudited 2014 figure:
2008 – $579,660 – audited figure
2009 – $576,359 – audited figure
2010 – $545,842 – audited figure
2011 – $534,458 – audited figure
2012 – $524,999 – audited figure
2013 – $513,492 – audited figure
2014 – $392,033 – unaudited figure
These figures show that for the five year period encompassing the end of 2008 through the end of 2013 membership dollars declined by a total of $66,168, which is an average decline of $13,234 per year. But membership revenue during 2014 declined by an additional $121,459, which is over nine times that of the average decline of the previous five years. Such a one year drop in the 2014 collected membership dues requires an explanation to the members as well as an annual outside audit for 2014 to verify the accuracy of this figure. It would be useful to know if part of the dues monies collected in 2014 were deferred into 2015 and if so, were they balanced against dues collected in 2013 but deferred into 2014.
An organization may suffer a drop in membership dollars for a variety of reasons, only some of which may be under its direct control, but a sharp drop in any one year does require careful analysis to determine the cause. It should be noted that during the period 2009 to 2013 while memberships were gradually dropping, USA Dance succeeded in offsetting the drop in membership dollars with monies generated through several generous sponsorships.
The March 28th report states that: “During the last quarter of 2014, over 1,000 new members were added.” What is not discussed is how many members did not renew in 2014, and whether these non-renewals were among competitors, professionals or social dancers. These figures should be made available so that members truly know where USA Dance membership figures stand today across all categories of membership.
The March 28th report states that in 2014 the organization suffered a net loss of $231,888 in expenses over income. This is a staggering amount for an organization the size of USA Dance. In order to properly evaluate this number it is important to look at the actuals for 2013 and compare them to the actuals for 2014. According to the 2013 outside audit the organization had a net loss of $57,668. This loss can be largely attributed to the expensive staging of the 2013 Nationals in Los Angeles as well as the investment which USA Dance made in its youth via the Olympic Dance Camp held that year at Lake Placid. However, the Olympic Dance Camp was not held in 2014 and the Nationals returned to Baltimore where they are less expensive to stage than in Los Angeles. So where did the huge losses of 2014 come from?
Was there more Governing Council or other travel in 2014 than in 2013? Were there more administrative expenses in 2014 than in 2013 or more expenses for bookkeeping and accounting or for strategic planning that resulted in so much red ink for the organization? The members need comparative categorized figures year-to-year in order to be able to properly evaluate the net loss figure for 2014.
Another problem with the March 28th report is that actual numbers in the report are not stated consistently. For example, under Budget 2014 (p.5) the report lists “general and administrative expenses of $248,000”, yet in the Statement of Profit and Loss these figures are reported as $201,934. Does that $46,066 discrepancy mean USA Dance lost even more money in 2014? Such a discrepancy needs an explanation, and it is hard to tell whether there are further inconsistencies or discrepancies as the March 28th report lacks sufficient detail for a thorough analysis.
There needs to be a detailed budget available for the members’ review. Every year through 2013 such a detailed budget was prepared, encompassing multiple pages and detailing everything from travel and lodging for every individual Governing Council member to supplies, printing and postage, and every other national expense program by program. In order for members to be able to evaluate the 2015 budget discussed in the March 28th report, there needs to be a comparison to the 2014 budget, as well as a tie-in to the actuals for 2014, and these budget documents need to be in sufficient detail so that members may ascertain where money is being spent from year to year.
American Dancer Magazine
I am concerned by the implication in the March 28th report that the American Dancer magazine needs to be self-supporting. The magazine is a major benefit of membership in the organization, and I suspect that in fact many individuals who join USA Dance as social members do so solely for the purpose of receiving the magazine. A 48-page magazine that comes out only six times a year cannot generate enough advertising dollars to pay for itself without reducing the number of articles and dance photos to such a degree as to become of no practical value or interest to the members and subscribers. While attempting to grow advertising dollars via the magazine is a worthy effort, it is secondary to the role played by American Dancer as a necessary public relations vehicle for USA Dance, placing top athletes in the spotlight and enhancing USA Dance’s stature as a national sport organization.
Responsibilities of an NGB
USA Dance is both the National Governing Body of DanceSport as well as a service organization. It is not a for-profit organization. Monies obtained from membership dues, admission to events, donations and sponsorships are required to be plowed back into services for the members. And because USA Dance is an NGB, the main responsibility of USA Dance is to administer DanceSport and to ensure that DanceSport receives top priority in the allocation of resources for athlete training, development and travel to world championships. Therefore, comments in the March 28th report that “$157,000 of the overall loss (in 2014) can be attributed to DanceSport…” are not meaningful, because the monies collected by USA Dance from dues, admissions, etc. are to be used for the benefit of the athletes and their sport.
The National Championships should of course be a money-maker for the organization to the extent possible, and in many previous years they were just that. However, the major purpose of Nationals is to choose the best athletes who will represent our nation in world competition.
Electoral and Subsequent Promises
The current set of corporate officers of USA Dance promised the members during the 2013 election that if elected, they would improve the organization, bringing more transparency, improved communication and greater financial management to USA Dance.
In a membership-wide email on December 29, 2014, in response to requests for detailed expense information, corporate officers stated that: “Recently, a discussion began on the USA Dance, Inc. Facebook Group raising questions about the allocation of funds in the USA Dance budget for accounting expenses.”
The email went on to say that a “comprehensive year-end Financial Report To Members” was being prepared. Unfortunately the March 28th report is not comprehensive nor does it provide sufficient financial data to answer members’ questions so that members may be in a position to decide if electoral promises that were made are in fact being kept.
Additionally, the questions raised regarding the organization’s finances are substantive enough that an annual outside financial audit (as has been done in USA Dance for decades by previous administrations) is not only recommended but must be considered the minimum bar for current corporate officers to begin to establish a track record of responsible financial management.
The USOC has opened registration for Olympic Day 2015. USA Dance Chapters that would like to host an event should go to the following USOC site in order to register their event and receive a packet of materials from the USOC:
In 2014 three USA Dance chapters hosted an Olympic Day event with speeches by Olympians and dance demonstrations for the general public. This is an excellent way to show people the healthful benefits of ballroom dancing and DanceSport and to celebrate USA Dance’s relationship with the USOC and the Olympic Movement.
I have been following some of the commentary that has arisen on social media since USA Dance sent a cease and desist letter to the NDCA on January 7, 2015 regarding the NDCA’s disciplining/fining of officials who adjudicate or officiate at USA Dance competitions. It is not my intent today to comment on that action, but rather to discuss how the U.S. Amateur Sports Act came into being, as I believe this discussion may throw some light on the current dispute.
Prior to 1978, Olympic Trials in the U.S., in which athletes qualified for a place on the Olympic team, were conducted to a large degree by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Arbitrary eligibility rules in Track and Field resulted in the banning of athletes. The result was that athletes were being denied the opportunity to widely compete, which compromised their standing when they went abroad to represent the U.S. Things got so bad that finally Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) sponsored legislation entitled the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, that established the USOC and henceforth required that all Olympic Trials be held under the supervision of the USOC, with the AAU relegated to managing youth athletics. This legislation also provided for a grievance process for athletes and officials as outlined in the USOC Constitution. The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act passed both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by the President in 1978.
In 2011 and 2012, the WDSF was taking steps to suspend athletes and officials who competed outside the WDSF. At my request, the USOC provided me, as national president of USA Dance, with a letter to take to the 2012 WDSF Annual General Assembly in Berlin. In part the letter emphasized three main points:
“First, the USOC is a recognized National Olympic Committee (NOC) member of the International Olympic Committee (lOC). As such, the USOC and its member National Governing Bodies (NGBs), including USA Dance, are obliged to comply with the Olympic Charter. The Olympic Charter recognizes certain fundamental rights of athletes, one of which pertains to the opportunity of an athlete to participate in sport. As stated in the Charter, Fundamental Principles of Olympism, Paragraph 4, “[t]he practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport … which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Suspending athletes for competing in athletic competitions for no other reason than the competitions are sponsored by a competing organization, is in the view of the USOC, a violation of the Olympic Charter.”
“Second, the USOC, and its NGBs, including USA Dance, must abide by US law, which protects an athlete’s right to compete pursuant to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (the “Act”). This protection is specifically set forth in Sections 220503(8) and 220524(5) of the Act. Specifically, Section 220503(8) places an obligation on the USOC, and on NGBs, including USA Dance, to protect an athlete’ s opportunity to participate in athletic competition.”
“Third, as a matter of fair play, an athlete’s right to compete should not be abridged for non-athletic reasons. Athletes should be afforded with opportunities to compete so that they can develop their skills and have the benefit of measuring themselves against other athletes on the field of play. Rules that restrict athletes from competing run counter to that objective.”
Therefore, under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act and the USOC Constitution, USA Dance could not and would not engage in the banning of USA Dance member athletes and officials who participated in athletic events outside the WDSF family of competitions. I read this letter out loud to the assembled delegates at the WDSF Annual General Assembly and it, along with similar comments made from other delegates played a significant role in helping to overturn the WDSF’s banning provisions in 2012. As the U.S. Amateur Sports Act protects the rights of officials and coaches as well as athletes, I believe it is clear that the USOC would be ill disposed toward the types of actions presently engaged in by the NDCA to limit the officiating opportunities of its registrants.
A distinction must be made, however, between protections afforded to American athletes and officials under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act, and protections that may or may not exist for the athletes and officials in other countries. The national federations and Olympic Committies in other countries have their own provisions for athletes and officials, which may more tightly control their right to participate and allow for actions to be taken against them that would not be tolerated or allowed in the U.S.
For this reason, the current WDSF policy is to allow an individual national federation to establish its own internal provisions governing its athletes and officials that are in line with the laws in that country. This has resulted in some countries limiting athletic opportunities for their athletes and officials in a manner that could not be done in the U.S. In fact this is the only reasonable and legal position for the WDSF to take as a member of the IOC, since it is not empowered to overstep national laws that exist in the over 90 countries which have WDSF-member DanceSport Federations.
I have seen arguments that USA Dance and the USOC should be stepping in to protect the DanceSport athletes and officials in other nations where some form of banning is still taking place. This type of thinking is naïve and reflects an ignorance of the autonomy afforded by the IOC to each nation to manage its athletic programs under its own laws as long as they remain in compliance with the Olympic Charter. The USOC and by extension USA Dance, is charged with protecting the rights of American athletes and officials. Its charter’s scope does not extend beyond that.
I have also seen comments to the effect that the WDSF is seeking to control DanceSport in the U.S. via an increased number of WDSF competitions. Such competitions are in fact being provided in order to increase DanceSport opportunities in the U.S., and organizers voluntarily bid on the chance to host them. While the WDSF can mandate that international competitions run under a WDSF sanction must follow WDSF rules, it has no authority over member federation competitions run nationally such as those under the sanctioning authority of USA Dance (closed competitions), since USA Dance’s status as a USOC-recognized National Governing Body requires that USA Dance be autonomous in its governance of the sport.
Therefore, the current dispute between the NDCA and USA Dance concerning the limits being placed upon NDCA-registered officials can only be resolved in one way: here in America taking into consideration American laws including the right- to-participate framework of the U.S. Amateur Sports Act. Any international DanceSport disputes will need to be resolved taking into consideration the laws in place in the countries where such disputes arise and are adjudicated.
As we get ready to ring out the old year and welcome the new, I would like to thank all those who have visited this site in 2014. I started this site during the summer of 2013 initially as a place to raise issues regarding the USA Dance national election that would be taking place that fall. However, after the election passed I was asked to continue giving my viewpoints on a variety of DanceSport and ballroom dancing subjects and have been happy to do so. Needless to say, some of my articles have been received both positively and negatively.
The single most hotly debated article on this site during 2014 was the one I posted on October 7, 2014 entitled “A Commitment to DanceSport Athletes”. It obviously struck a chord with many people. Many have let me know that they share similar views or came to read my article with an open mind and a wish to constructively debate the issues. Of course there were the negative comments as well, from those who simply rejected outright what I had to say or who launched into personal criticisms for reasons of their own.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, because clearly people have a variety of deeply held opinions. I do always welcome respectful comments, and am happy to respond in kind.
There should be room in DanceSport for all who see competitive dance as both a sport and an art form, and who want to see DanceSport take its place with other artistic sports on the Olympic stage. In order for that to happen, a number of changes will have to occur in the way DanceSport is presented to the general public and in the role played by coaches and judges. These are topics that are worthy of discussion.
There will be lots here to talk about in 2015. I hope to cover issues dealing with DanceSport nationally, especially as they impact USA Dance, as well as internationally. There will also be continuing updates regarding Olympic Day and DanceSport’s growing role in the Olympic Movement. So stay tuned.
The 2014 Cal State DanceSport Championships and NQE took place in the recently renovated San Jose City National Civic. This 1930’s landmark building received a $15 million facelift several years ago, including a refurbished hardwood floor, all new fixed seating, improved lighting, and upgraded dressing rooms complete with make-up counters and lights as well as showers in both the mens’ and ladies’ dressing rooms.
Over the decades the City National Civic has hosted everything from revivals to basketball games and music performances by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Barbra Streisand. While music performances still take place regularly, these days the refurbished floor also hosts its share of dance events, including the 2014 Cal State.
Attendance was up from the 2013 Cal State, and especially strong among college age competitors, as UC Berkeley and Stanford brought their entire dance teams, and the San Jose State University formation team performed in the evening.
Over 150 couples competed in over 60 individual events, plus an additional 140 spectators came to cheer them on, using clappers and bringing signs to support their favorites. The arena was set up in a manner to allow for a generous competition floor measuring 75×48 feet plus a separate and spacious practice floor.
A number of individual Novice, Pre-Championship and Championship events had two rounds while several syllabus and newcomer events had anywhere between 40 and 55 couples, requiring multiple rounds to determine the ultimate winners.
There were many outstanding performances, especially notable being the Adult Championship Standard winning performance of Earle Williamson and Charlotte Christiansen, competing in their first USA Dance NQE. Runners up and dancing impressively in this event also were William Stansbury and Jenny Sokolsky.
As a member of the organizing team I was not in the ballroom during all the competitions. But during the times I was there I particularly enjoyed watching Winston and Lilly Chow, who were victorious in Senior IV Championship Standard, while Senior II Championship Latin was ably won by Edwin and Charlotte Bugarin. Senior III Championship American Smooth winners were Bill and Frances Manning, and the Junior I Championship Latin title was captured by Tyler Li and Anjelica Lowe.
Kinsley Lin and Michelle Yiu won both the Youth Standard and Latin Championship events. It should be noted that Kinsley and Michelle have represented the U.S. in several WDSF world championships this year, and were presented with a $500 scholarship by Nor Cal Chapter President James Kleinrath on behalf of the Nor Cal Chapter Board in order to help offset their expenses to these events.
To view the full results for all competitions as well as photos and video clips, simply go to the Nor Cal Chapter Website at www.usadance-norcal.org and click on the links.
A wonderful selection of music was provided by Music Director Dave Ingals, while MC duties were expertly handled by Karen Andersen. There was an excellent panel of judges, which was headed by Dan Calloway as Chairman.
I was pleased to hand out a number of awards during the afternoon and evening, and since Esther Freeman, who is a USA Dance National Past President as well as the Immediate National Past Treasurer was in attendance, I asked her to assist in award presentation as well.
The organizer of the event was the USA Dance Nor Cal Chapter Board, assisted by a group of experienced volunteers the day of the event.
The organizers would like to thank all those who came and participated in the 2014 Cal State and look forward to seeing them again next year.
I have debated whether to post this column, as it may offend some members of USA Dance, but feel it is necessary as it appears that USA Dance may be drifting away from its principle purpose and reason for being in existence.
USA Dance was approved by the United States Olympic Committee as the National Governing Body for DanceSport in the mid-1990’s. Achieving this goal was one of the organization’s founding pillars and put USA Dance firmly on the path as a recognized sport organization, and DanceSport as a participant in the World Games, future Pan American Games and possibly one day a program sport in the Olympic Games. As an NGB, USA Dance’s single most important activity is the administration of DanceSport, requiring that a majority of the organization’s funds and activities be applied toward the growth and development of the sport. Especially important is the training and development of elite athletes just entering their peak competition years, as they are the ones representing the U.S. in World DanceSport Federation top world championship events, the World Games and also the Pan American Games, perhaps as early as 2019.
USA Dance has many wonderful social dancers who enthusiastically attend dances and workshops regularly because of their love of ballroom dancing and also because of the physical and mental benefits which dance provides throughout life. USA Dance is also blessed with many motivated senior competitors for whom DanceSport is a much-loved hobby that is passionately pursued.
While social dancers and senior competitors are an important and valued component of the USA Dance membership, it must be remembered that it is the junior, youth and adult competitors who must take front and center when USA Dance allocates resources and plans activities for the membership.
Most social dancers and senior competitors instinctively understand this, and support USA Dance’s top athletes via USA Dance’s network of chapters that invite top athletes to perform at chapter functions and provide scholarship dollars and hold fundraisers for these athletes. Such social dancers, senior competitors and USA Dance chapters do not begrudge the time, energy and funds which USA Dance spends on its elite athletes.
Unfortunately however, there are some members in our organization who are resentful and complain that more organizational resources should flow to social dancers and senior competitors and less to our top and upcoming athletes. This is troubling, especially since a social dance membership is only a fraction of what competitors pay. With regard to senior competitors, while they pay full membership dues, it must be remembered that for most of them competitive dance is not their primary occupation from which they derive their income, but an athletic/artistic endeavor they pursue outside of their chosen career.
A review of other National Governing Bodies (NGBs), be they those which oversee gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized swimming or any number of other sports in the Olympic and Pan American programs, makes it clear that the vast majority of resources in these organizations go to supporting elite athletes during their peak performance years. Such athletes do not self-select into senior-age categories but actively compete in the open category from which Pan American and Olympic athletes are selected. In this category, a 40 year-old will compete against a 20 year-old and the best athlete, regardless of age, gets selected for the Pan American or Olympic team.
In 2013 USA Dance made the financial commitment to spend $25,000 on a junior and youth world team Olympic dance camp, which was held in May of 2013 at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. At the Olympic dance camp our young athletes were afforded excellent training from top overseas coaches as well as private training sessions with their own fine coaches who accompanied them to Lake Placid. There were also lectures from USOC staff on nutrition, injury prevention and sports psychology. This was a highly successful program, with athletes and their parents requesting that it be continued and expanded. The national officers of USA Dance at that time agreed and were determined to find the funds to continue this as a yearly program.
Having recently returned from the annual Governing Council meeting, I was disappointed that there was no Olympic dance camp in the planning stages for our elite athletes. Instead, the organization is seeing significant dollars being spent for other purposes, such as $30,000 per year for accounting and bookkeeping services that used to be performed on a volunteer basis by past national treasurers going back decades. While current national officers believe this is a good use of membership dollars I beg to differ. A significant portion of these dollars could and should be going to elite athlete development, including the Olympic dance camp for USA Dance’s top athletes.
As a USOC-recognized NGB, USA Dance must meet its commitment to its top elite athletes first and foremost, and I sincerely hope that the Governing Council of USA Dance will make the commitment and take future steps to do so.