As DanceSport Prepares to Become a Pan American Sport – Some Thoughts for USA Dance

Participation in the Pan American Games is moving ever closer for DanceSport as more Latin American countries are added to the roster of nations whose national Olympic Committees accept their DanceSport federations as members.  In the next few years USA Dance will need to make some important changes to its bylaws in order to fully comply with the requirements set forth in the U.S. Amateur Sports Act and the USOC Constitution for National Governing Bodies (NGB’s) in order to prepare for DanceSport’s entry into the Pan American Games.  I would like to discuss in this column one of the major changes to the bylaws that will need to be made as well as some related issues that need attention.

In 1996 USA Dance made application to the USOC for recognition as an NGB. The USOC allowed some flexibility in certain provisions of the USA Dance bylaws because USA Dance was initially approved as an affiliate member of the USOC rather than as a full member, and had very few World Team athletes at that time. This affiliate status allowed USA Dance to select athlete representatives from a larger pool. This pool included not only world team or elite-level adult international style competitors, but also championship level athletes in open or age-protected senior age categories.

This flexibility, however, would no longer be afforded at such time as DanceSport becomes a Pan American sport, at which time all NGB provisions of the USOC Constitution would need to be satisfied.  That document defines athlete representatives as individuals who “must have represented the United States in the Olympic, Pan American or Paralympic Games, (or) World Championships…within the ten (10) years preceding election.”

At that time any individuals serving on the DanceSport Council not satisfying that eligibility requirement would need to resign from their positions as DanceSport Delegates and be replaced with elite competitors who are currently representing or had represented USA Dance in the last ten years in World DanceSport Federation world championships.  If an election for DanceSport Delegates were held today, two of the four Delegates presently serving on the DanceSport Council would not be eligible to run in that election and would need to step down from their positions.

At such time as DanceSport becomes a Pan American sport, USA Dance will be moved from the Multi-Sport Organizations Council of the USOC on which it currently serves into the NGB Council, and an athlete will be selected to represent USA Dance athletes on the USOC Athletes Advisory Council, with the rights, privileges and responsibilities associated with full membership as a Pan American sport. In the run up to this recognition, USA Dance will be subjected to ever closer scrutiny by the USOC to ensure that the sport is being properly managed in a fair, ethical and responsible manner. Even today as an affiliate member of the USOC, USA Dance is required to afford member athletes, officials and organizers all due process rights in the event USA Dance takes disciplinary or other action against them or they file a grievance against USA Dance for alleged denial or restriction of their rights.

USA Dance athletes, officials and organizers who claim unfair treatment are afforded the right to have their grievance reviewed by the USOC ombudsman and/or assigned to a panel of three individuals chosen from other Olympic or Pan American NGB’s to hear and adjudicate the grievance. NGB’s that are shown to be noncompliant in affording their members the necessary due process face disciplinary action themselves from the USOC.

The USOC also looks askance at individuals who may be financially profiting from their position of oversight of the sport in any capacity. As such, individuals should not be serving in administrative or governance positions where they are a party to the formulation or approval of rules or regulations that may financially benefit them.

USA Dance now needs to start grappling with and addressing issues of this nature in order to be well-positioned to apply for Pan American sport status when DanceSport becomes eligible in the near term.