News from the Board, May 2013

It has been an extremely busy time at NOVA since our last update in January. We welcomed new members to the Board of Directors, are approaching the end of the fiscal year, finished out the short course season, and have continued to work toward our long-term plans. We also shared exciting news about a potential competitive alliance with VACS and Quest. Read on for more information...

 

New Officers Installed

The Board of Directors elected new officers at the annual meeting in February. In addition to my role as President, officers include Bridget Cuthbert, Vice President; Joy Woolard, Treasurer; and Louise Bowles, Secretary. We thank former officers Andrea Erard, our Immediate Past President, and Marty Malloy, Secretary, for their contributions. Marty, Tom Houghtaling and Vance Berry moved off the board at the end of their terms; we appreciate their years of service to NOVA and look forward to their continued involvement. We welcomed new directors Greg Cope and Bill Ripol, each of whom brings their talents to the board.

 

Strategic Plan Update

We continue to act on the strategic planning directives defined last December to develop NOVA's future vision, programs and facility plan. One initial outcome was to revamp our committee structure. A short- and long-term action plan is guiding these committees to:

 

  • Finalize the facility expansion plan to meet NOVA's primary mission and extend community outreach for recreation, fitness, or therapy,
  • Define the financial forecast and a sound business plan to support expanded facilities, staff and operations, as well as identify financing strategies,
  • Explore key partner options, and
  • Further engage the NOVA family and greater community by strengthening communications and awareness.

 

As we head into the organization's fourth quarter, NOVA programs remain at record or near record levels. Expenses continue to be well-managed while revenues are projected to produce another annual budget surplus. The Finance Committee is currently determining the best strategic use of these funds; including, adding to our maintenance reserves and earmarking funds toward the expansion plan.

 

Alliance a Good Move for NOVA

Recently, you received an email about a potential strategic alliance that NOVA is exploring with two other area swim teams, Quest and VACS. It is important to the NOVA board and coaches that our swimmers, families and alumni are kept abreast of important discussions and decisions that may impact the program. Since we sent the initial email, we have heard from some of you with questions and concerns about this move, and, as President of the board, I want to more fully explain the rationale and detail the potential benefits for NOVA and its members.

The first thing to note is that any change of this nature that NOVA may make will be taken from a position of strength. Our numbers across all swim groups remain at a very healthy level. Competitively, we continue to stand out as the preeminent club in the state – our swimmers recently swept the men’s, women’s and combined team titles at senior state champs for the 6th consecutive year, and at age group state champs for the 14th consecutive year. NOVA finished the 2012-2013 short course season ranked 5th in USA Swimming’s national Virtual Club Championship.

As a swim club, NOVA remains unique. We are the only program ranked in the Top 10 nationally to swim out of a single facility. No other team currently ranked in the top five has fewer than five locations. The height this team has reached operating out of a single humble building in western Henrico County is truly amazing – and frankly, there is no pressing need for us to change anything. However, we know that the move to multi-facility clubs is a national trend that will likely accelerate, and, as an organization, we would be remiss if we did not analyze what the potential implications might be for NOVA.

With this in mind, we believe Quest and VACS fit the bill of great partners. Both teams have strong ties to NOVA. VACS, located in the Tri-Cities, is led by Coach Jamie Greenwood, a former NOVA swimmer whose brother, Bo Greenwood, is a former NOVA coach. Located in Midlothian, Quest is coached by Dudley Duncan. In previous head coaching stints, Dudley has led coaching staffs including our own current NOVA coaches Geoff, Diane, Mark and David. Both of these teams have had great success under their respective coaches. Jamie has doubled the size of the VACS program in his tenure at the helm of the program. Dudley has won nearly every team event and individual award a Virginia swim coach can win, and this year he coached Quest to a second place finish at senior state champs, despite being one of the smaller clubs at the meet.

Most of all, Quest and VACS both share NOVA’s core philosophies. Each of our programs emphasize stroke mechanics over yardage among younger swimmers – and underscores that importance by having their head coaches spend significant time with the newest swimmers. All work hard to develop not only great swimmers, but great kids. Finally, all three clubs emphasize winning the right way – with good sportsmanship, integrity and humility as hallmark behaviors.

The benefits to NOVA of an alliance with VACS and Quest are clear. Competing under a unified banner, an expanded NOVA will immediately grow by 20% and become an even more formidable competitor. Had we operated in that manner at this year’s short course championship meets, NOVA’s margin of victory in age group state champs would have nearly doubled, and our cushion would have almost tripled at senior states. At NCSA Junior Nationals, the scenario would have changed NOVA’s combined team results from finishing well outside the top ten, to placing 9th.

The upside of being a team with such national significance is not limited to elite level swimmers and positive meet results. The reputational benefits lift the entire program. One example includes recognition through USA Swimming’s Club Excellence program, where qualified programs become eligible for grants and receive rights to use Club Excellence trademarks in marketing materials. A stronger reputation also helps us recruit more coaching talent, which is critical even now, as we look to replace Coach Brent. Not only does success ensure that great candidates will answer our phone calls, but that many will actively seek us out for the chance to coach with our elite program. Finally, an alliance will also allow for increased options and opportunities with the swim meet schedule. An expanded NOVA coaching staff will be able to attend more meets, providing more choices that fit swimmers’ abilities and families’ schedules - at all levels.

The last thing the NOVA board and coaching staff have evaluated is the opportunity cost of not making a move. Given the trend of teams combining to form multi-facility entities, we must consider the possibility that other area teams are considering similar moves. Quest and VACS represent two of the most attractive clubs in the state for a partnership. We believe it is essential that NOVA maintain our status as the elite local and state swim club in order to continue delivering the quality of programs and service our families have come to expect – including providing the highest level of coaching and the opportunity for swimmers to train and compete at every level from novice to national.

Despite all the potential benefits, nothing has been finalized. We will move forward only if it means not compromising NOVA’s ideals or current programs. That is why the notion of an alliance – in which the teams continue to operate independently but compete collectively – is critical to our vision.  An alliance means that almost nothing will change from the perspective of a current NOVA family. We do not expect coaches, swim groups, practice schedules, fundraising and volunteer obligations, or cost structure to be impacted by this potential move. Meet entries will not change; in fact, swimmers will likely have more options. The larger team will have more elite-level swimmers, as well as more depth, which will translate into more competitive teams at the regional and national levels. It may also mean that top relay spots will be more competitive; however, the coaches all agree that a little friendly competition will be good all around!

As President of the NOVA board, I am personally excited about the potential of this idea for our club, our prospective partners, and indeed for competitive swimming in central Virginia. I hope this explanation clarifies the thinking behind these plans and helps each of you see the benefits. Please know that we will continue to keep you informed as things progress. The NOVA coaches will be scheduling group-specific meetings as needed to provide additional information and answer any questions you may have. As always, should you have any concerns, reach out to Head Coach Geoff Brown or a member of the board.

Jeff Bender

President, NOVA Board of Directors