End-of-Year Message from USAAS Board of Directors President
by Denise Shively
We Move As One—During an Inspiring Year in Our History
Just as a well-choreographed routine contains elements of creativity, difficulty, effective highlights and pool coverage, 2020 tested our abilities to adjust to the changing tempos brought on by a virus, social issues and a relentless need to shift with the current.
Through all the uncertainty, athletes, coaches and members of USA Artistic Swimming (USAAS) used the sport they love to keep them challenged athletically, engaged virtually and focused on addressing an “athlete first” philosophy.
As 2020 began, we were all on deck and prepared to witness a year of amazing opportunities:
• fun with teammates and making new friends as we introduced them to artistic swimming
• local, regional, zone and national competitions that showcased our dedication and abilities
• cheering on our national team as they represented the USA at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In lap one, teams competed at early local meets and the four zone meets hosted around the country. Our national team was taking the first step towards Olympic team qualification as their free routine performance in the French World Series event set the tone for the year ahead. We officially changed the name of the organization to USA Artistic Swimming and launched the We Move As One campaign. A slogan, originally crafted to excite our membership and attract new members to the sport, quickly turned into a phrase that we could rally around as the music stopped suddenly when the country began to shut down due to COVID-19.
Our national team and club coaches around the country shifted their training plans as the second lap began. Days turned to weeks and then months. For 76 days the junior and senior national teams quarantined and trained virtually. As part of the change in plan, they collaborated, shared and inspired athletes throughout the country and the world. The Olympic Games were postponed, but new competitions led by the USA introduced events focused on land skills and later modified routine competitions for those who were able to jump back into the pool.
Choreography then required a new approach as trends shifted. The Board of Directors made a monumental statement creating a Vice President of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. This new role serves as a clear indication of the important work to be done. The new position and initial programs have made an immediate impact making our sport better for everyone to participate.
In a very similar manner, the Board of Directors in collaboration with the Athlete Executive Council and Board of Governors took athletes first to a new level. USAAS become one of the first National Governing Bodies to require 33.3% athlete representation on the Board of Directors and governing committees. While this was an important legislative move, it isn’t the most important move in the athlete-first initiative. We fully listened to our athletes and embraced their voices. In 2020, it became evident at every level of the organization that athletes would be heard and their message would be taken seriously.
A successful routine finishes as strongly or even more dramatically than it begins. Every athlete, coach, official and supporting member played an integral role in the history of our 2020 successes. While 2020 was filled with difficulties and for many, some of the saddest days of their lives, the sport of artistic swimming remained a positive. We learned new ways to stay connected to our teammates, met people from around the world, showed our passion for our sport and most of all we cared about and for each other. USAAS is a family. While we look ahead to the brighter days of 2021, we reflect on how we set the stage for future accomplishments. We look forward to seeing you at events and celebrating everything that is great about our sport in the year ahead.
We Move As One.