How Much Time Does it Take to Serve as President of USA Dance?

I’ve been asked how much time I devote to serving as the current National President of USA Dance, which after all is a volunteer position.  My response is that while the hours may vary somewhat from week to week, the job of National President of USA Dance is a full time occupation.  Archie Hazelwood used to say that for him the presidency of USA Dance was a full time job, and that he regretted he couldn’t spend even more time doing it because there was always something that needed doing.  I suspect that it wasn’t that different for the two presidents who came after him – Esther Freeman and Peter Pover.  I too view this position as requiring a full time commitment to overseeing the affairs of the organization.

But what does the National President really do?  Here’s a partial list:  Answering e-mail inquiries from members, chapters and national officials on a variety of topics; making and returning numerous phone calls; reviewing and signing documents including a variety of contracts; participating in frequent conference calls; consulting and reviewing recommendations on complaints, grievances and other actions that may be pending at any time; drafting or revising policies; preparing correspondence on behalf of the organization, including regular thank you letters to donors; working with a management team on the preparation of press releases and other announcements; overseeing the budgetary process; chairing committee and council meetings, including meetings of the Governing Council, the Executive Committee and the Annual Membership Meeting and preparing reports and recommendations as necessary for those meetings; representing USA Dance in front of national and international organizations such as the USOC and the WDSF; and traveling on USA Dance business as necessary.

Some of the above work can be assigned to other national officials, but all too frequently it ends up on the president’s desk because that’s where the buck stops.  Many of our members or officials within and outside our organization simply want to speak with the person at the top and need to be accommodated because the issues they wish to discuss with the National President are important ones that require immediate attention.

Anyone aspiring to the presidency of this organization must be prepared to devote the necessary time because our members expect and deserve that from the president and there are no short cuts in this job.  While we work for the day when an executive director can be hired to help take the workload off national volunteers, that day has not yet arrived and may not arrive for several more years.  In the meantime, the workload of national volunteers will remain heavy.

Before I became National President of USA Dance I used to think that by being extremely well organized and relying on the other national volunteers around me I could reduce the workload.  I was wrong.    The job of National President simply cannot be parceled out to others.  But I have also found that in spite of the many hours it takes to do the job, the work has been extremely satisfying and I have never regretted the time I am spending to do it.

It continues to be a great honor to lead an organization made up of so many fine volunteers at all levels, who are also working long hours to make USA Dance the preeminent Ballroom Dance and DanceSport organization in the country.  Let’s all continue our work to make  USA Dance better still!

Senior Age DanceSport Categories – They’re Changing

As the USA Dance Delegates to the WDSF Annual General Meeting in Shanghai this past June, Senior Vice President, Bill Rose and I were tasked to vote on the Presidium’s motion to drop the age categories for senior age DanceSport athletes by five years for one member of the couple.  For instance, Senior I would be dropped to 30 from 35 for one member of the couple so that this age category would become 35/30, Senior II would become 45/40; Senior III would become 55/50 and Senior IV would become 65/60.  The Presidium motion was introduced at the request of organizers of WDSF events who believed this would provide for greater participation in the WDSF’s Senior competitions.

A USA Dance survey of our senior age competitors found that they were split on this issue, with couples who were of disparate ages  tending to support the motion while couples who were closer in age tending to oppose it.

The concern I faced with regard to this motion is that many Olympic athletes who are 30 years of age are still going to the Olympic Games and a number are still winning medals for their respective nations.  I am not sure it is appropriate to label a 30 year-old in peak physical condition as a senior age athlete.

I expressed my concern to the General Assembly in Shanghai but it was not shared by other national federations to a degree that they were willing to oppose the Presidium’s motion.  The result was that while the delegates from USA Dance voted against the motion and there were several abstentions, the motion nevertheless passed.

Now the DanceSport Council is tasked with implementing the new age categories and will be notifying senior athletes of the implementation of this new WDSF provision and its time frame.

USA Dance delegates attempt to provide the best representation possible for athletes at  the WDSF.  Sometimes the motions being presented there do not impact all athletes in the same way, as evidenced in this instance.  However, we do try to solicit input from our members so that we are prepared to vote in a knowledgeable way when we get to the WDSF AGM.


Remembering Archie Hazelwood

USA Dance’s longest serving National President was Archie Hazelwood, who served from 1993 until his death in December, 2004, and left an indelible mark upon our organization.

Archie was a retired military officer and an avid social dancer. I first met Archie when he was serving as Senior Vice President of USA Dance and I was president of the Nor Cal Chapter #4004, and I remember thinking what a goal-oriented individual he was, and so intent on growing USA Dance by bringing social dancers into USA Dance in large numbers.  In fact, that was Archie’s primary goal from the very beginning – to double and triple the membership by creating social dance chapters all over the country.  And he did just that.

Our organization grew by leaps and bounds, and states that had never had a USA Dance chapter all of a sudden had several.  This process was repeated in all regions of the country.

But as much as Archie loved social dancing, he was also acutely aware of USA Dance’s responsibilities to competitors, and it was under his administration that USA Dance was awarded National Governing Body status by the USOC, and he always guarded that status very carefully, serving as USA Dance’s representative to a variety of organizations including the USOC and the WDSF.

It was Archie who appointed me to my first position on the Governing Council, that of Regional Vice President for the Southwest Region.  After becoming a member of the GC  I did not always agree with Archie on all the issues, and remember thinking that if I ever became National President I would do things differently.  But a funny thing happened when I finally did become National President – I found myself wondering quite often how Archie would have handled a particular problem, and more often than not it would force me to think things through more thoroughly and consider all the ramifications before making a decision affecting USA Dance.  Shooting from the hip may be fun, but it does not make for good policy development.

USA Dance was indeed fortunate to have had such a steady and deliberative National President as Archie during a very important period in its development and growth.  As president, he was both highly experienced and knowledgeable in all areas of our organization, judicious in his application of management principles and passionate in his desire to see USA Dance become the premier dance organization in the nation.

Archie worked tirelessly year after year on behalf of our organization, and considered the presidency of USA Dance to be his full time volunteer job.  He set a wonderful example of public service for all of us who were privileged to work beside him.

The Value of Geographic Diversity on the Governing Council of USA Dance

USA Dance came into being many decades ago initially as an East Coast organization and then grew over time into a national organization well represented in different regions of our country.  The Governing Council is also well represented geographically.  At present, this is the make up of the GC by state:  Florida – 3; California – 2; Oregon – 2;  Colorado – 1; New York – 1; New Jersey – 1; Delaware – 1; Rhode Island – 1; Pennsylvania – 1; North Carolina – 1; Indiana – 1; Minnesota – 1.

Put another way, we have  five GC members from the eastern seaboard, four from the southeast, four from the west coast and three from the middle of the country.

This geographic diversity gives USA Dance strength in that all sections of the country are represented, and GC members are able to speak knowledgeably about regional differences and consider differing geographic perceptions when determining national policies and programs and their effect on different parts of the country.

It would not be healthy in my opinion if any one region ever attempted to become preeminent within USA Dance at the expense of other areas of the country.  As an entity made up of volunteers, USA Dance accepts all willing volunteers who want to give their time to their chapter, district or to the national organization.  But USA Dance must also keep in mind that if parts of the country feel excluded, programs will not grow and flourish there as they would if members from those areas feel engaged and involved.

Our goal is always to ensure that all sections of the country feel equally welcome and involved in USA Dance.

Why the Youth College Network is now the College Network

Those who have been members of USA Dance for more than five years may remember that USA Dance used to have a Vice President of Youth College Network (YCN) who headed the YCN Division.  That division was responsible for managing the growth and development of college dance clubs and for fostering collegiate competitions and bringing them within USA Dance.  The founder of the program, Bill Bennet, was the first Vice President of YCN, and he was a dynamic national volunteer of great energy and vision who established more than 100 college dance clubs around the country and fostered dance competitions for college students, which included trips to Great Britain to compete against English students and opportunities for English dancers to come to the U.S. to compete against their American counterparts. After Bill’s death, Kay Teague became the next Vice President of YCN and she continued active involvement with college dance clubs and college competitions around the country, which continued to grow.

However, after Kay left the position, USA Dance’s direct involvement with college clubs and competitions declined.  Additionally, even though the division was named the Youth College Network, the emphasis was always on colleges, not on youth in K-12 schools.

The Governing Council of USA Dance determined that the K-12 youth program should have its own champion and so, in 2009 the GC approved the elimination of the YCN Division and the position of Vice President of YCN, and in its place created two director positions – The Director of K-12 Programs and the Director of College Network.  This split has allowed for concentration to be placed on the development of a K-12 ballroom dance program headed by its own director.  As a result, USA Dance now has a resource packet available for all schools that want to start after school dance clubs, and a dedicated national volunteer who is available to consult with USA Dance chapters around the country that want to help their local school districts start dance programs and hold fund raisers for the students in those programs.

The Director of College Network position on the Governing Council is vacant at this time, although we hope to have it filled in the not too distant future with a national volunteer whose job it will be to communicate with existing college dance clubs around the country, help establish new ones and encourage all the clubs to become affiliated with USA Dance, so that the USA Dance collegiate program may begin to grow and flourish once again.

In the meantime, the USA Dance National Collegiate DanceSport Championships, a long running competition which USA Dance holds each year in collaboration with Sam Sodano at the Ohio Star Ball has been placed under the managerial oversight of the Vice President of DanceSport and the DanceSport Division.


How USA Dance Bylaw Changes are Approved

A question has been raised about how changes to the USA Dance bylaws are approved, and the answer is that revisions may be approved upon either a vote of the membership or a vote of the Governing Council.  In 1996 during the presidency of Archie Hazelwood, USA Dance petitioned the USOC for approval to become the National Governing Body of DanceSport, and members of the Executive Committee of the Governing Council together with the help of an outside consultant took on the task of completely re-writing the bylaws in order to make sure they complied with the USOC Constitution and the U.S. Amateur Sports Act.  The bylaws were then submitted by the GC to a vote of the membership, and the membership approved the new bylaws.  These bylaws were subsequently accepted by the USOC, and USA Dance was awarded NGB status.

Since that time and continuing first under Archie Hazelwood and then under the next three presidents, changes to the bylaws have been made yearly upon a 3/4 approval vote of the Governing Council.  Sometimes the changes have been small, such as correcting typographical errors or making minor word modifications to clarify provisions.  At other times, primarily during the late 1990’s through mid 2000’s, changes were more extensive, including the approval of a number of provisions primarily in the DanceSport area as well as the creation of the Social Dance Division and the Vice President of Social Dance. Throughout this time the core provisions satisfying the requirements placed on National Governing Bodies by the USOC have remained intact.

In 2009 the GC approved a re-organization plan, eliminating the regional structure and substituting it with a more targeted district structure, and creating Director positions in place of Regional Vice Presidents.  This was done to facilitate better national and chapter communications and utilize the specific skills of national volunteers.  Also at that time, the chapter bylaws were incorporated into the national bylaws, and Area Coordinators were added to the Social Dance Council.  These changes were reported to the membership in early 2010 and while a few concerns were received, they were positively dealt with by the GC in a manner acceptable to the chapters.  More recently, to better address the needs of our young athletes, the Junior Athletes Parents Committee and the Collegiate Competition Committee were added to the DanceSport Council in the same manner.

Some may prefer that changes to the bylaws be made only upon a vote of the membership, but I, along with our past presidents have found this to be unrealistic given that the USA Dance bylaws not only cover organizational structure and responsibilities but many provisions which have been continuously evolving over time in the national and international dance community.  However, the Governing Council has decided that periodically taking the bylaws to the membership for a vote is a positive step both for the sake of transparency and in order to raise awareness of the bylaws.  Consequently, at the 2012 annual Governing Council meeting, the GC decided to submit the bylaws to the membership for a vote during the 2013 national election in order to ratify the prior GC approved changes that have been made over the years.

The Governing Council is tasked with making important national decisions regarding USA Dance.  Members can be assured that as bylaw changes require a significantly higher level of consensus and votes, they are only undertaken as required and remain in compliance with the USOC responsibilities of a National Governing Body.

Is an Executive Director in USA Dance’s Future?

The topic of whether USA Dance needs an executive director and staff is raised frequently within the Governing Council.   As a national volunteer who spends many hours running the day-to-day operations of USA Dance, I personally know how much easier it would be to rely on staff to do many of the tasks I find it necessary to do on behalf of the organization.  What a luxury to leave the  day-to-day administration to an executive director – all of us at the national level have wished for this to some degree or another.

But the reality is that being able to hire an executive director and staff takes funds, and in an organization like USA Dance, which relies primarily on membership dollars for its income, finding the necessary funds is not easy.  Established Olympic program sports like figure skating or gymnastics have major sponsors and television rights for their national competitions to support their programs.  Even smaller Olympic program sports are able to secure a level of funding from the USOC which significantly helps their bottom line and provides the financial stability necessary to employ an executive director and staff.

At such time as USA Dance becomes a Pan American Sport, some funding will become available from the USOC, but that is five or more years into the future.  At this time the avenues available to us for finding the funds to hire an executive and administrative staff would be to raise dues, consolidate or reduce programs or find regular sponsors or another source of steady income.  Some of these means would not be popular with our members, who want and expect services to be increased, not decreased, and may not necessarily be prepared to pay higher dues to get those services.  Our entire organization will need to have a frank discussion on what we want USA Dance to look like in the future and how we want to get there.

The GC has initiated ways to increase revenue through sponsorships and  fund raising campaigns, and some of these methods do hold promise for us.   What is clear is that we cannot continue forever to rely on national volunteers to contribute all the hours they are presently contributing, especially as the complexity of USA Dance is growing.

My hope is that before USA Dance becomes a Pan American Sport (which can happen as early as 2019) we will have found the right formula to attract additional regular funding so that an executive and administrative staff becomes a reality for our organization.

My Greatest Sense of Achievement During My Volunteer Service in USA Dance

Here is a response to the question concerning my successes at the chapter, regional and national levels.

During my years as president of the Nor Cal Chapter, what I was most proud of was my chapter being chosen by then National President Peter Pover to organize the first USA Dance regional competition in the country in 1992.  I believe we were given that honor because of the chapter’s strong record of organizing several competitions each year since the 1980’s.  This was followed three years later by my chapter, still during my chapter presidency, being awarded National Chapter of the Year by Peter’s successor, Archie Hazelwood during the 1995 National Championships in San Francisco which were hosted by the Nor Cal Chapter.

While I served on the Governing Council as Regional Vice President, I was proud of the vibrant meetings we held in my region each year chaired by me and attended by chapters throughout the Southwest Region.

During my years as the National Senior Vice President and finally as National President, probably what has given me greatest satisfaction has been the growing positive relationship USA Dance has developed with the USOC.  I began attending the USOC Annual Assembly while I was still the Senior Vice President of USA Dance in 2007 and have continued to do so every year.  This has earned dividends for USA Dance in a number of ways.  Getting to know the administrative and legal staff as well as a number of the other representatives on the Multi Sport Organizations Council  and the NGB Council via service on various committees has proven most useful to USA Dance.

This was  particularly so last year when I asked for and obtained a strong letter from the USOC in support of the freedom for athletes and officials to participate in competitions outside the events of their international federation.  The USOC team included me in their discussions and drafting of the letter to ensure its usefulness to USA Dance in our efforts to overturn the ban placed by the WDSF on some of our athletes and officials who had participated in events outside the WDSF family of competitions.   I believe that this letter, which we took to the WDSF General Assembly in 2012 and which I read out loud to the gathered delegates of many nations and the Presidium, was one key factor in getting the WDSF to rescind the ban.

On another front, several of our chapters have come forward and answered my call to start hosting Olympic Day celebrations.  The Orlando Chapter, for example, has held celebrations honoring Olympic Day last year and again this year, which is helping our relationship with the USOC even further, as the USOC now sees us as a partner that is  putting Olympic athletes front and center in our celebration of Olympic Day, which is an event that takes place in many countries around the world.

Early this year the USOC staff asked me if USA Dance would be interested in suggesting the name of a choreographer who could work with them to develop an easy dance routine that could be taught to Olympic athletes as they go out to speak at Olympic Day celebrations and which they in turn could teach to other Olympic Day participants and members of the general public including children.  The USOC staff even suggested developing a video for the USOC website and other social media sites.  Of course I said yes, and while the USOC has not allocated a budget for this program as of yet, we are hopeful that for 2014 this project will become a reality.

The USOC now prominently displays a photo of USA Dance athletes in its literature on   Multi Sport Organizations, and this description and photo appears on the USOC website and in a variety of USOC publications and promotions.

This growing relationship has also helped us in our efforts to organize the first Junior and Youth World Team Dance Camp, which we ran this past May at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, and which I have described in detail both in the July/August issue of the American Dancer Magazine as well as in an earlier entry on this blog.

DanceSport is growing ever closer to inclusion in the Pan American Games, and the positive relationship we have developed with the USOC can only help us in that effort.  Therefore, the time and energy spent in furthering our activities with the USOC has been well worth while and something that has given me great satisfaction.



National Senior Vice President – Bill Rose

The Governing Council position of National Senior Vice President of USA Dance is an extremely important one, because the individual in this position must be able and willing to take over the presidency in the event of the National President’s inability to complete that term of office for any reason.  This national volunteer must have substantial experience at all levels of our organization, and USA Dance is fortunate to have Bill Rose as our Senior Vice President.

Bill has held this position for four years, and previous to that he was a Regional Vice President on the GC.  Bill, in addition to taking on varying assignments as requested by the National President and the GC, saw that his skills were needed by our organization in the field of website development and membership information systems, and agreed to chair the USA Dance technology committee as it reviewed and made recommendations on the technological needs of our organization.  Bill has spent many hundreds of hours volunteering his time to consult with and assist chapters as well as the DanceSport Council on a variety of technological issues.

Bill makes his home in California, and in addition to his volunteer work at the national level, he still finds time to serve as the president of the Orange County Chapter of USA Dance and also serves on the organizing committee for the annual Southwest Regional Championships and NQE.  USA Dance is indeed fortunate to have someone with Bill’s proven track record in the key position of  National Senior Vice President.

National Treasurer – Esther Freeman

Today I would like to highlight the Governing Council volunteer service of Esther Freeman.  Esther is the only individual in USA Dance to have ever served in all four corporate officer positions – Secretary, Senior Vice President, National President and now National Treasurer.  This gives her a historical perspective on our organization that few can match.  Esther’s service on the Governing Council commenced in 1997 and has not stopped.   Esther has also served as president of her USA Dance chapter in Oregon.

In addition to her current duties as National Treasurer, in which, among other things, Esther prepares the national budget, compiles necessary documents for the annual audit and oversees accounting for the entire organization, she also interacts with all 170 of our chapters around the country on a regular basis and advises and assists them on financial matters large and small.  Esther also volunteers each year to develop and oversee the budgets for the National Collegiate Championships and the National Championships.  And if that weren’t enough, Esther also staffs the ticket desk from morning until night at the National Championships, which as many of you may know, is an intense 3-day event.

All of our members owe a debt of gratitude to Esther for her unwavering dedication  to USA Dance over so many years.