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The Athlete Project

The Athlete Project

About The Athlete Project

The Athlete Project represents an opportunity for U.S. Ski & Snowboard to improve the athlete experience. It was born out of an initiative to take an introspective look at how the organization engages with athletes. The findings are detailed in the Athlete Project Report. The Athlete Project will define the initiation of a new culture of communications, engagement and support. The objectives of The Athlete Project are to provide a more athlete-centric environment and to achieve the Best in the World organizational vision through a holistic approach to serving athletes at every level.

The Athlete Project - July 2019

This is an important time in our history as we pivot our focus and emphasis to seize a major opportunity. 

In the past, we have been myopically focused on results and, frankly, not great partners with our athletes. Athletic results are critical, of course, since ultimately that’s what we hope to achieve. We are judged externally by them and they drive commercial, donor and USOPC support. However, too much emphasis on outcomes has caused a perceived, and actual, lack of focus on and sensitivity to the critical steps and processes necessary to achieve these goals. A culture of continuous improvement is the key to creating an athlete experience and an environment on par with our “best in the world” vision.

Through a just completed deep introspective look known as The Athlete Project, we realize and acknowledge this miss and are taking the necessary steps to change. We are shifting the greater emphasis on the processes of getting “there”. 

Interaction this spring with athletes and key stakeholders has provided valuable information for this plan. During these conversations, I communicated the initiatives underway to drive the changes needed to pivot our organization which includes among other things:

Onboarding - improving this critical stage for new athletes started this spring, both at training camps and through our very successful June Rookie Camp. Athlete mentors are now being connected to rookies to provide them with advice and guidance.

National Team Coach Education – initiated in April, a robust USOPC provided training program called Apollo will run throughout the year. Additional training activities are planned.

Feedback – we now have athlete liaisons on each team, athlete mentors, an anonymous feedback tool and a soon to be launched app for direct athlete camp ratings and feedback.

Communication Changes – efforts are underway to change the ways in which we communicate, understanding that improvement here is vital. This includes better communications with injured athletes, complementing our established return to snow protocols already in place.

I am excited that we are taking fast action to improve and to put into place programs and processes that will drive change and ensure continuous improvement.

Please take a moment to consider the above as you read the Athlete Project Report. We will follow up with additional conversations, meetings and phone calls.

Tiger Shaw
President and CEO
U.S. Ski & Snowboard

Athlete Project: A Big Step for Athletes

The initiation of the Athlete Project by U.S. Ski & Snowboard is a big step for athletes! 

Our Athletes’ Advisory Council was very involved in the Athlete Project throughout the process. Many of us were part of the 30 athlete interviews conducted from across disciplines, which provided the organization with a picture of key pain points of the athlete experience. The Athlete Project targets specific, measurable ways U.S. Ski & Snowboard can address these pain points and support each athlete in reaching their goals.

Already this past season, we’ve seen a great level of priority put towards these initiatives. As athletes, we are energized that the organization is working towards an even greater level of support and engagement. The integration of athlete liaisons at camps and competitions to provide feedback to leadership has already begun. The addition of mentors to help the onboarding of young athletes will start their careers off more smoothly.

As athlete representatives, we plan to continue to play an active role in this process. We will do our best to support these efforts and to assist athletes in understanding the genuine desire by the organization to support every athlete in reaching their individual goals and peak potential both on and off the hill.  

The Athletes’ Advisory Council is excited about this inflection point with the team. We feel optimistic that athletes will feel the benefits of these initiatives in an ongoing way throughout the entire organization. We’re also optimistic that the athletes see this as a major opportunity to be heard and to assist in driving this effort by actively engaging and providing open and honest communication.

We welcome additional feedback from athletes and look forward to continuing to work with U.S. Ski & Snowboard to further integrate the recommendations of the Athlete Project Report to provide a better experience for all.

Heather Watanabe
Chair, Athletes’ Advisory Council 

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