COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After a global search and multilayered interview process that yielded a host of talented candidates, USA Fencing’s Board of Directors has selected Phil Andrews to serve as the organization’s chief executive officer.
Andrews will start on Aug. 16, 2022, taking the helm from Jack Gierhart, whose successful tenure as interim CEO began in December 2021.
Andrews will join USA Fencing after nearly a decade of service at USA Weightlifting, including more than six years as that organization’s CEO. He also served in an interim leadership role with the International Weightlifting Federation, skillfully steering that organization through an especially tumultuous period.
This experience at the national and international level — coupled with his creativity and collaborative spirit — made Andrews stand out, says David Arias, chair of USA Fencing’s Board of Directors.
Under Gierhart’s tenure in the interim role, USA Fencing made considerable strides. More than a caretaker, Gierhart located and hired new staff members, laid out a new vision for fundraising, and helped membership numbers rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
Gierhart’s confident leadership in the interim role gave USA Fencing time to find a permanent CEO. The organization hired a global search firm that specializes in identifying quality executive leaders for sports organizations. The search committee included at-large, independent and athlete members of USA Fencing’s Board of Directors as well as senior members of USA Fencing’s national staff.
A dozen talented candidates were considered during the later stages of the search, which took place over the course of several months.
“Even among this impressive group of leaders, Phil Andrews clearly stood out,” Arias says. “Phil impressed us with the experience he brings as a successful executive director of another national governing body. What set him apart was the insightful questions he asked, his approach to problem-solving, his desire to build relationships at all levels of our sport, the importance he places on inclusiveness and athlete safety, and the specific ideas he shared related to the growth of USA Fencing.”
Arias says he was pleased to hear that Andrews wished to spend his first months with USA Fencing visiting clubs of all sizes throughout the fencing community.
“He felt that a phone call, or just visiting with people at NACs, could not provide a full understanding of the needs and opportunities for USA Fencing as a whole,” Arias says.
Andrews says he’ll spend those visits and other interactions doing as much listening as he can. And that means his door, virtual or otherwise, will be open.
“I'd like to encourage members and stakeholders to reach out and have a conversation about their experience of the sport, of USA Fencing and what they would like to see,” Andrews says. “As a CEO, the job is really to listen to and understand what the membership and stakeholders bring to the table. I know from experience that the strongest solutions to how to move a sport forward come from those who know the sport the best — the members. That’s the reason to be so interactive with the leadership.”
With that in mind, Andrews invites anyone within the fencing community to email him, beginning Aug. 16, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrews’ listening journey will begin even before he officially starts as CEO in mid-August. He plans to visit Summer Nationals, USA Fencing’s largest event, this July in Minneapolis to meet with members and better understand how he can best support their journey.
“I want to build on the good work going on already among the staff and move USA Fencing to a place where we are seen as really valuable to each member, each club, each official, each coach,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s about putting this movement and our members in a place to succeed.
Inspiring success in others has been a common theme throughout Andrews’ career — whether as an ice hockey player growing up in England (he holds citizenship in the U.S., U.K. and Canada) or as CEO of the national governing body for the sport of weightlifting.
Andrews was a smart and strategic leader for USA Weightlifting, serving the organization and its members through 15 world championships and two Olympic Games. At the Tokyo Olympics last summer, USA Weightlifting had its strongest showing in decades, including Team USA’s first ever Olympic silver in women's weightlifting.
Andrews is quick to point out that he didn’t do any of this alone. He worked shoulder to shoulder with a dedicated group of staff professionals, board members and volunteers.
Beyond the Games, Andrews and his team introduced younger generations to the sport, increased athlete funding and launched initiatives to improve education for coaches. They also improved USA Weightlifting’s standing on the international stage, helping lead global efforts to increase athlete safety, improve DEIB efforts and create a new constitution for the International Weightlifting Federation.
In recognition of the respect he earned among his peers on the world stage, Andrews was named to an interim leadership role with IWF in 2020. During his seven months with the federation, Andrews helped lead the IWF through a period of significant operational, governance and leadership challenges.
Andrews says he was attracted both to fencing’s rich history (it’s one of just five sports contested at every Olympics since the first one in 1896) and its promising future.
“Fencing is one of the cornerstone Olympic and Paralympic sports,” he says. “And USA Fencing is clearly on an upward trajectory.”
Working with USA Fencing’s staff, its Board of Directors and its tens of thousands of members at clubs across the country, Andrews plans to continue building that momentum. That will prove especially important as the sport plans to make a big splash at the first Summer Olympics in the United States in more than 30 years.
“Being able to come in and build on that is important,” he says, “especially as we work toward encouraging more people to pick up a fencing weapon — utilizing the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Games as a great opportunity for growth.
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