Winter State of the Sport

Dear ABC Members,

As the New Year has come and gone I felt as if it was a good time to recap where the sport is as we head into the spring of 2015. Barefooting is undergoing a very dramatic shift in its leadership and organization. This had led to some very promising developments in the past few months.

The ABC board has undergone its most dramatic age demographic shift that it has seen in decades. The median age of the board has dropped significantly. What this does is it adds a new outlook, new energy, and most of all new ideas to the sport. Among these new ideas, the youth has brought to the table a broad understanding of new technological advancements, marketing, and social networking.

This is a very exciting time for the sport as it has brought with it a new influence on the rules and organization of the sport. At the end of December there were two very important votes put before the ABC Board. The first ballot was to allow Men 6 skiers to be allow to jump and the score be counted for the overall score. This ballot passed resoundingly. So congratulations to all you Men’s 6 skiers whom aspire to continue to jump.

The second ballot put before the board was a reorganization of the age divisions. This would have combined some age categories and created 10-year steps between age divisions. This was meant to increase the competition within these age groups. This ballot was defeated by one vote.  This would have been a rule change so it required 66% of the vote to change. The majority voted to change it but it wasn’t enough to meet the 66% required for the rule change. What this means is that we need to continue to look at ways to make the divisions more competitive as the majority of the board wants some sort of change but cannot come to a conclusion on what the change should be. We will continue to revisit this throughout the summer.

During the fall there was the organization of a new barefoot driven group called the IBA (International Barefoot Association). This group was created for a multitude of reasons. The group has been very frustrated at the administration of the WBC and the lack of effort that has been put into making the World Championships better for skiers and spectators. That group is headed up by Lee Stone and has a board that includes myself and many other leaders in the barefoot community from around the world.

The creation of the IBA has been a huge positive for not only the ABC, but for all barefooters across the world. The IBA is a group that will work to market the sport and host barefoot tournaments across the globe in the near future. This group is very early in its development but is strongly supported by the members of the ABC board. I encourage everyone to look up the IBA in the future and put your support behind them as well. They are designed to not overthrow the ABC or WBC, but to work hand in hand together as a team.

The ABC has elected new members to the Pan-Am council as well. This group is much different than it has in the past. The team of Betsy Gilman, Dale Stevens, Brain Heeney, and Cody Heller are working very hard to evolve the leadership of this council and ultimately have a profound effect on the leadership of the WBC.

We as a group feel that the leadership that has been in place for a long period of time should change regularly as this is the healthiest way to conduct business in the non-profit structure that we are in. For example, I will be president of the ABC until my term ends and then we will shift leadership again. This creates a situation where we don’t become complacent and experience drift in leadership and motivation. It also prevents the creation of cliques in the group and committees. Cliques in organizations such as this will in effect bog down production and create levels of bureaucracy that are unnecessary.

As you all know with politics as you have all lived in this country and watched the political machine, bureaucracy takes time. When making a major leadership change and a directional change, there are many challenges that we as a group have faced and will continue to be challenged with. We have meet resistance many times individually and as a group and this will continue for a long time. Resistance is very healthy as well, as it is a chance for discussion, debate, and reflection. The major downside is that it slows change and progress down.

With this being stated I ask the ABC members and leadership for continued patience and support. Keep in mind that with great success comes great challenge. I adamantly believe that the leadership teams that are put together on the ABC, Pan-Am, and the IBA are a great blend of personalities and mentalities that will take us as a group through these issues. The progress and change we have made already is unbelievable and exciting.

I still personally feel that there is much work to be done with the WBC and the Americans that are able to affect this group have been working hard and will continue to work diligently every week to overcome these challenges and make this sport better for everyone. These individuals have an undying dedication to this sport and their drive and motivation inspires me personally everyday.

I want to express with the membership, where the Minnesota Barefooters and I am with the development of the World Championships scheduled in August of 2016. The Heller family and myself personally are working with the WBC to get a contract signed with the World Barefoot Council and the IWWF. I have met many challenges in doing this. There are two major challenges that we have faced. The first challenge is that of changing the rules to create a World Championships that is not only fun and competitive for the skiers while still being very spectator friendly. The second major issue is working to create an agreement with the WBC and IWWF that ensures that the host of the World Championships has more control over costs and overall less cost risk in hosting the Championships.

These two challenges take time to resolve as well. It is important to me as a host and president of the ABC to ensure that before we host the 2016 Championships we have these two major issues worked out so no future host has to deal with the same issues. It is very important to me personally that the future hosts of the Championships are protected financially and are able to feel confident in signing the agreement. Once again I ask for patience with us as we work through these challenges so we don’t have to do this again in the future.

I personally guarantee everyone that reads this that in August of 2016 there will be a World Class Barefoot tournament here in Wisconsin with the best skiers in the world participating. I can say that this will happen with either the support of the WBC and/or the full support of the IBA. I have great respect for the IBA and the type of group they have become, and mutually with the ABC, MBA, and the Heller Family we will move forward together to produce a phenomenal tournament here in Wisconsin.

With this all being stated I wish you all a Happy New Year and safe winter training. Lastly, I would like to personally thank the board members for not only their continued hard work but for voting me the Male Athlete of the Year. I truly appreciate this honor and will continue to work hard to support this sport.

Cody Heller

ABC President

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