COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 24, 2019) – The USA Volleyball Board of Directors met in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, June 21-22 alongside the FIVB’s Volleyball Nations League men’s competition featuring the United States, Canada, China and 2020 Olympic host country Japan.
The Board recognized the services of outgoing members: Sue Mailhot (Officials), Mitch Stemm (Regional Volleyball Association), Tayyiba Haneef-Park OLY (Indoor Female Athlete Representative), Ken Shropshire (Independent) and Lori Okimura (Beach At-Large, Board Chair). The Board also welcomed two new Independent Directors, David Eldridge and Elizabeth King.
The Board held a moment of silence for Mike Hulett, Scotty Bailess and Eric Zaun, as well as those lost this year in our volleyball community.
As the major item on the Board agenda, Dr. Cecile Reynaud was named the next Board chair of USA Volleyball on the second day of meetings. She replaces Okimura, who is term limited.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic qualification process is in progress for all the U.S. National Teams. The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team was the first to qualify for Tokyo with a silver medal at the 2018 World ParaVolley World Championships and will seek to defend its Paralympic gold-medal performance in Tokyo next year. The U.S. Men’s Sitting Team resumes its Paralympic qualification journey at the 2019 ParaPan American Games in Lima, Peru. Both the U.S. Men’s and Women’s teams will participate in the FIVB Intercontinental Olympic Qualification Tournaments in August with the U.S. Women hosting its four-team tournament Aug. 2-4 in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana. The U.S. Beach National Teams journey to the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, includes an Olympic bid at stake for each gender.
Okimura shared an important athlete initiative in association with the World Olympians Association (WOA) to support the ‘OLY’ designation for U.S. Olympians. Haneef-Park OLY first shared this initiative with the Board in 2018. The project seeks to create a worldwide database of Olympians in all sports as the athletes receive a special designation to denote their status as Olympians. Most recently, University of Southern California Men’s Volleyball Head Coach Jeff Nygaard received his OLY designation in a special ceremony on campus. Nygaard was only one of four USA Volleyball Olympians to have represented the United States in both volleyball (1996, 2000) and beach volleyball (2004). Australian Olympic gold medalist Natalie Cook is leading the initiative and has gained the attention of fellow volleyball and beach volleyball Olympians from around the world to receive their ‘OLY’ designation.
Okimura gave a final report from the past five years of the Board’s work under her leadership. Key accomplishments were made in the following areas:
- Since 2014, the Board has engaged its focus on establishing practices to support transparency and open communication. Simultaneously, the Board has also focused on the need to protect the corporation against new challenges, and to preserve corporate documents and records for future reference.
- The Board initiated an important strategic planning process, which included participation from past and present executive management over the course of several years. The USA Volleyball staff have managed the daily implementation of the strategic plan.
- The Board identified and addressed several employment-related issues, including the introduction of USA Volleyball’s first human resources department. A new CEO evaluation process was established, as well as a Personnel Committee of the Board. Additional reorganization will be managed by the incoming Board chair and staff.
- USA Volleyball’s commitment to the SafeSport initiative has remained steadfast. Before the opening of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, USA Volleyball and its 40 Regional Volleyball Associations were already engaged in proactive background screening and disciplinary policies to protect members. The Board and staff have been 100% SafeSport certified since 2015, before the U.S. Center for SafeSport was established.
- A CEO search and transition process were established and documented in its entirety as the Board recognized the need for a change in focus towards a new business model for USA Volleyball.
- International competitions in the U.S. have increased, including the first-ever hosting of the FIVB’s Volleyball Nations League men’s volleyball championship, and women’s FIVB Intercontinental Olympic Qualification Tournament.
- Athlete support has increased, including both financial and services support. The Board supported a focus on shared resources for all U.S. National Teams across all disciplines, making USA Volleyball the official national governing body of beach, indoor, sitting, snow and Beach ParaVolley in the USA.
- The Board worked to improve international relations, particularly with the FIVB, NORCECA, and World ParaVolley. This included the identification of additional persons to serve on committees and supporting the appointment of individuals from the USA to FIVB and NORCECA commissions. Individuals serving on international commissions representing the USA include:
- FIVB: Peter Diamond (President, Communications), Karch Kiraly (Technical & Coaching), Lori Okimura (Beach Commission), Pat Powers (Rules of the Game & Refereeing), Jordan Larson (Athlete Commission).
- NORCECA: Jamie Davis and Melissa Weymouth (Sport Organizing), John Kessel (Development), Cecile Reynaud and Bill Hamiter (Technical & Coaches), Sue Mailhot and Doug Wilson (Refereeing), Sean Scott and Steve Owen (Beach), Lori Okimura (Board of Administration and President of Marketing), Dr. William Briner and Dr. Andrew Gregory (Medical), BJ Evans and Bill Kauffman (Press & Mass Media), Monica Paul and Nate Ngo (Technical & Statistic VIS).
- WORLD PARAVOLLEY: Joe Campbell (Board Member and ParaVolley Pan Am President), Chris Seilkop (President, Beach ParaVolley Commission), John Kessel (Board Member and Development Director), Lori Okimura (Beach ParaVolley Commission and President of Beach ParaVolley Rules of the Game), Nicky Nieves (Athlete Commission), Bill Hamiter (Coaching), Jim Leask (Marketing Director), Lazaro Beltran (Coaching), Elliot Blake (Technical Commission), Dr. Jonathan Reeser (Medical).
- The out-going Board chair prioritized the on-boarding process of USAV CEO Jamie Davis to the international volleyball community, providing an introduction to the FIVB and NORCECA in the first weeks of his tenure.
- In 2017, the President of the FIVB, Dr. Ary Graca, was invited to attend his first USA Volleyball Board Meeting by the outgoing Board chair, with a productive two-day working meeting with key staff and Board members of USA Volleyball. This marked the first time the FIVB President attended a USA Volleyball Annual Board Meeting. He was joined by the president of NORCECA, Cristobal Marte Hoffiz, signaling a positive shift in the relationship between the parties.
- In the area of governance, although a great deal of work has been done, more improvements are necessary. The Board established new committees in the past five years, including a separate Governance Committee and Nominating Committee (once combined), and a Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Organizational changes were also made to the Corporate Ethics & Eligibility Committee.
- The Board has begun the lengthy process of addressing internal conflicts of interest among its governance leadership. This is seen to be a major threat area to the corporation and will be carefully and closely examined in the future.
- Another area of emphasis moving forward will be on Board succession and selection of new members, which has been an area of weakness recently as many term-limited members exit the Board and vacancies are created. New Board positions in the RVA and Paralympic areas of representation were established in the past five years, and the Board approved a new definition of “Independence” when evaluating potential new members.
USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis reported growth in many areas, and a continued commitment to investing resources in programs, athlete support and other areas of education and region services. Among new initiatives will be a focus on athlete mental wellness, at all levels of the organization. Davis reported on upcoming major international events, including the FIVB’s VNL Men’s Finals to be held in Chicago, Ill. and the FIVB Intercontinental Olympic Qualifier to be held in Shreveport, La. USA Volleyball will also host a NORCECA event at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where men and women will compete simultaneously, providing a unique opportunity for fans to engage with both teams.
Board Treasurer George Thompson, who is also the chair of the Audit, Finance & Budget (AFB) Committee, reported the results of the internal audit. USA Volleyball received a clean audit, and the AFB Committee will focus some attention to areas of recommended improvements. The annual report is available online, and the audit will be made available to the public on the USA Volleyball website as well. Thompson was elected USA Volleyball Treasurer in Fall 2018 and was a member of the U.S. National Team in the 1990s.
Athlete Board representatives in attendance included Todd Rogers (Beach Male Athlete Representative), Kawika Shoji (Indoor Male Athlete Representative), Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Indoor Female Athlete Representative) and Brent Rasmussen (Sitting Athlete Representative). Each representative reported successful results for recent national team competition. A serious issue of concern among indoor volleyball athletes is the length of the competitive pro league season in relation to the FIVB national team schedule. The current and future schedule for pro leagues, particularly in Europe, compared to the start of the national team calendar for FIVB events allows little or no rest period for top athletes returning to their national team programs directly from playoff or championship competitions overseas. The issue has been discussed with the FIVB by top athletes, including USA’s Jordan Larson who was recently appointed to the FIVB’s Athlete Commission.
The Board will also appoint replacements for two vacant positions in upcoming months, in order to maintain its quorum. The first is the Beach Development Director position (currently vacant) and the second is the Beach At-Large director position filled by Okimura, whose second term ends June 30, 2019, and is term limited.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person whom I have served alongside on the USA Volleyball Board of Directors,” Okimura said. “I have enjoyed working in the volleyball community over the past 30 years, and I wish you all the best moving forward into an exciting period of growth for USA Volleyball as well as the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
“I especially want to thank the athletes of our U.S. National Teams for your unwavering support, and the staff of USA Volleyball for your dedication and hard work.”