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Letter from USA Fencing President Donald K. Anthony Jr.

07/19/2016, 3:15pm CDT
By Donald K. Anthony Jr.

FOC Reorganization and Candidates Put Forward

I would like to take a moment to provide context around the FOC reorganization and the process that was utilized to select the candidates. Further, I am writing to provide transparency to the process and address any misconceptions regarding the rationale concerning how the candidates I put forward to the board where determined.

The FOC reorganization has been one of the most contentious and difficult undertakings of the last quadrennium. I believe it is also one of the most important initiatives undertaken and getting it right is critical to the future growth, stability and success of USA Fencing.

I have a great appreciation the great job our referee corps does ensuring the success of our competitions. As a competitive saber fencer who competed in the bad old days of dry saber I know how important a skilled and unbiased referee is to the quality of a bout’s outcome. That is one of the reasons why I am so committed to creating an environment where our referees can develop to their full capacity and feel appreciated for the challenging job that they do for us.

Within the first year of the quad we were faced with the challenge of referees not having been paid in a timely manner and in some cases not having been paid at all in past years. At a NAC in Louisville when the frustration of the referees came to a head, I attended a meeting where the referee corps shared its grievances with the FOC and I made a commitment to address the long history of what appeared to be a significant disconnect.

The outcome of the meeting was that we spent one year trying to get individuals on the FOC and from the referee corps to work together under the consultative direction of an independent outside consultant, provided my Daugherty Business Solutions, Retired Admiral Lee Metcalf. After a year of little to no progress due to political infighting, historical baggage and deep distrust, we took a different approach. This time, the officers of the FOC decided to reorganize the Commission, had the entire FOC approve the plan and presented the plan for the reorganization to the board of directors. The plan was approved and the board put a process in place to fill the new roles required for the reorganization to be effective and to create an environment where our officials can flourish into the best referee corps in the world.

The process for selection was modified a number of times by the board to ensure as much integrity and input from the Referee Corp and those familiar with managing the roles of the FOC functions as possible. The final agreed upon process was for panels to be convened and interview prospective candidates for the new positions. The panel would then provide the President with independent comments of each panel member along with their individual prioritization of the candidates. The President would take those reports and do further investigation of the candidates so that he could nominate the best individuals to the Board for confirmation.

The process was not as smooth as it could have been; however, the input gathered from the panel members regarding the interviews was quite useful.

The next step was to determine who I would put forward to the board and I would like to share my thought process to correct any misunderstandings that may exist regarding how those determinations where made.

I look at the FOC reorganization as a critical component to the success of USA Fencing as a National Governing Body in the International world of Fencing and as a $7.1 million business. In my mind, the most important factor in the success of this reorganization is the leadership team put in place and how those individuals will work as a team for the greater good for the growth and development of our referees in the United States.

I looked for individuals that had experience in the functional areas required and who also had the right disposition and temperament to get the job done. I took into consideration the input from the panels and then did additional research on my own. I sought input from coaches, other referees and from members of our international relations group. Finally, I spoke with some of the candidates directly to get a sense of what their motivations were for wanting to serve in these new roles. I wanted to understand if their desire was based on what I perceived as the old FOC paradigm of wanting to be important and above the rest of the referee corps or did they want to serve and be a team player even if they didn’t become the chair of a committee. That was a critical factor in my decision making.

I made my recommendations to the board on what I ultimately thought was required for this newly restructured part of our business to be successful.  This is a totally new structure and it is critical that the individuals put in place perform for it to be successful. It took almost four years to get to this point. My decisions weren’t based on popularity, politics or any other factors beyond what made good business sense in my mind.

In all roles, it was critical that the candidate have experience in the areas that individual would be leading. Additionally, I looked at whether the candidates were involved in other areas of the organization where their skills would be better utilized or if their absence in another area would create a significant loss within the organization. Finally, I took in the complete body of work of the candidates and any personal observations I made.

Based on these factors, I put forward to the board three of the candidates the panels recommended unanimously. They were all very solid candidates and I agreed with the panel’s assessments based on the options considered. Selecting the other three candidates to be put forward was a lot more difficult and not as clear cut. We had a great candidate for one of the positions recommended as a first choice. However, based on input I received from additional members of our fencing family as well as and other factors, I selected an individual that was equally qualified, has important strategic relationships in the international community and I considered to be the best person for the leadership role for the next two years.

Two of the panels came back with mixed recommendations regarding a slate of candidates that included past or present FOC members. One of those positions remains unfilled and the other position was filled with a candidate that has a higher level of expertise and experience than the other highly rated candidate for that position. All of the candidates I recommended to the board were in the top four of the panel’s evaluation results.

It became very obvious from this process that we will have to work on succession planning throughout the entire USA Fencing organization. One of the top priorities for all of the newly selected chairs will be to build a pipeline of future leaders. That will be a significant criteria for their annual evaluations in my mind.

The board had a simple task which they executed admirably. It was an up or down vote on the candidates I put forth. Five of the candidates were confirmed and one was not.

I hope this clarifies the process and how the nominees were selected. I appreciate the work that the panels put into interviewing the candidates and those opinions were significantly considered when I was assessing the nominees. I also would like to thank everyone who applied for the chair and vice chair roles. While only a limited number could be approved to lead the new FOC, each of these individuals will be reaching out to our referee corps to build their committees. As we continue to seek new opinions and encourage all voices to be heard, I am looking forward to working with both those selected for these new roles as well as all members of the committees over the next four years.  

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