job one. But there’s certainly a growth
opportunity in my mind beyond the
athletes, and that’s parents, alumni and
folks like myself who swam their entire
lives. I would love to support USA Swimming, so what are the opportunities?
One of those areas that comes to the
top is that I grew up predominantly as
a summer rec swimmer. I got to swim
in high school and realized I needed to
swim year-round to fulfill my dream of
swimming in college, which occurred.
Now I’m the parent of six, but my three
little guys are also all on summer rec
teams. There are more than 2 million
registered summer rec swimmers across
our country, none of which have a relationship with USA Swimming so far. Is
there something where we can create a
bridge to support USA Swimming?
There are a number of new NGB
leaders like yourself who were
not previously in the Olympic
movement. How do you plan to
incorporate your experience in the
commercial end of professional
sports into your new role?
That’s a good question. One of the
key things is we’ve started building a
proper CRM. We have a phenomenal
data warehouse for the athletes and their
times. But we don’t have a dashboard
that tells us Tim Hinchey has these parents, they have this income, they live in
this area, they drive these kinds of cars.
There’s a huge opportunity for us to
learn more about our existing membership and then add to that through an
intelligence-based business opportunity.
That’s an area that we’ve seen over the
last years in professional sports that has
been paramount to our success—to be
able to reach and market and communicate to our season-ticket base and ticket
holders in general. We need to be sophisticated in that area as an NGB.
At the Colorado Rapids, you spent
a lot of time investing in the fan
experience at the stadium. Do you
see areas where USA Swimming
can improve the fan experience?
I do. USA Swimming has executed
What is it like to succeed Chuck
the most professional standards in its
meets, from Junior Nationals to the U.S.
Open to Nationals, and of course the
Olympic Trials, which are the pinnacle.
That’s the best amateur event globally,
hands-down, with the enthusiasm, the
fan experience and the arena experience.
The folks here have done a phenomenal
job. Having said that, one of our objec-
tives in the next few years is to “trialize”
all of our events—and I give Mike Ung-
er, our COO, who has been responsible
for all these events, the credit for this
because he threw out the term. The way
I’ve challenged our group very early on
is, what are our home games? How do
we trialize these events from the athletes’
perspective to give them the best chance
to win prize money and to work hard
and give them a chance to be success-
ful? And at the same time, to your point,
what about the fan experience? How do
we get people to love swimming and to
come out and support swimming?
Wielgus, who had such an impact
on the growth of the organization
over his 20 years there?
Before I got here, it was certainly an
intimidating prospect. He did so much
for the sport at all levels, not just the national team and that success. I’d say his
No. 1 legacy is the staff here. The folks
that I’ve inherited—not just at the executive team level, but people all over the
staff that have dedicated tremendous
tenure in this organization—it’s obviously respectful. I’m very humbled to be
in this position.
Chuck Wielgus was not without
his detractors, particularly when
it came to his initial handling of
allegations of sexual abuse by
USA Swimming coaches. Where
is the Safe Sport program on your
priority list right now?
It’s at the top of the list. Giving credit to Chuck, though, whatever difficult
time he went through, he instead drove,
in my opinion, to build the best, most
successful Safe Sport program. Whatever mistake came out of it has been good.
And Susan Woessner, who runs this for
us, is a tremendous executive in this
organization. It’s been great to see the
USOC dedicate itself to its U.S. Center
for SafeSport endeavor, and we’ll continue to be on the forefront of ensuring
there’s a safe environment that’s involved in swimming at all levels.
You competed in an open-water
swim in Ireland in July. What was
that experience like?
It was great. I still swim masters in
south Denver and enjoy it tremendously. I have not had a pool race since 1999,
but I love doing open-water relays. Last
year we did Trans Tahoe. This year I
convinced three of my club teammates
to raise some money for Cancer Care
West in Ireland, and we swam a relay
from County Clare to County Galway
across Galway Bay. It was about 13K,
and we were the first to cross the line.
It was a tremendous experience.
What was your introduction to the
sport of swimming as a child?
My parents forced me to join a rec
swimming team in Walnut Creek, California, and that was it. My dad had
taken a new job with Pacific Telephone
in San Francisco. His boss said we’re
all part of this swim club, you need to
get your kids involved. I’ll never forget
my first day—it was a cloudy day in
May of 1977. I’ve never looked back. It
was one of the best decisions my parents ever made. n
“ONE OF OUR OBJECTIVES IN THE
NEXT FEW YEARS IS TO ‘TRIALIZE’
ALL OF OUR EVENTS.”