SBJ/December 4 - 10, 2006/This Weeks News

New USOC division to work with national sports groups

The U.S. Olympic Committee hopes to enhance its service to national governing bodies by creating a new division devoted to working with athletes and coaches in the areas of sports medicine, sports science and training.

The newly named Performance Services Team will have four sports experts who service specific portfolios of sports that share a common thread. As a result, endurance-based sports such as triathlon and cross country skiing will work with the same representative to meet common physical, technical, tactical and competitive needs.

“Over the years we’ve used more of a shotgun approach,” said Doug Ingram, managing director of Performance Services. “By grouping the sports, we can provide better science initiatives, medical support and coaching projects.”

The 2006 budget for performance services was $5.5 million, a total likely to increase when the 2007 budget is approved later this year, according to a USOC spokesman.

The USOC has named three leaders for the team, and the fourth is expected to be named in the coming weeks. A director of operations also will be hired.

Each leader possesses some background in the Olympic movement. Wes Barnett and Jay Kearney are both former Olympians, and Alan Ashley was a longtime U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association executive.

Barnett, a two-time Olympic weightlifter and former executive director for USA Weightlifting, will focus on strength training; Kearney, a member of the 1980 canoe-kayak team who has a doctorate in sports physiology, will work on endurance; and Ashley will work with acrobatics.

The creation of the Performance Services Team is part of an effort to be better partners with national governing bodies and better prepare athletes for a changing competitive landscape, according to the USOC.

“The challenges out there are growing with our ongoing competitors putting large resources, both financial and human, into competing,” Ingram said. “For us to stay on top of the medal count we have to start doing things better and smarter than we have in the past.”

Ron Radigonda, USA Softball’s executive director, said his group has used the science and medical support provided by the USOC in the past and seen improved performance as a result. He thinks the new system will provide a change in delivery — not in service.

“I see that as a big positive for us,” Radigonda said. “When they created the sports partnership division in 2001, it helped us set our competitive goals, and I think this will do the same by streamlining the science and medical services they provide.”

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