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  • Freddy Ramirez

USA Racquetball Board Elections, Leaders Should Lead And Leave The Entitlement At The Door

There are currently some real leadership issues at play with USA Racquetball's elections for their board of directors. Those who wish to be on the board, should be wary of how their own sense of entitlement may sometimes cloud true leadership.

USA Racquetball has an initial open submission process, whereas anyone can submit a document briefly outlining why they would like to run for the board election and provide their qualifications. They then process those letters by reading and vetting them and comparing them to one another in order to find the top submissions based on qualifications presented by each potential candidate. Of the thirteen submissions received this year, the committee has chosen six candidates to run for the board. (The number of seats being voted on is dependent on bylaws governing possible transitions on and off the board.) Notifications were then sent out to those who submitted.

Notifications to those submissions that weren't chosen went as follows:

"Thank you for applying for a position on the 2016 USA Racquetball Board of Directors election slate. There were numerous applicants for the Board of Directors and unfortunately, after careful consideration, the Election Committee and the USA Racquetball Board did not select you for one of the limited positions on the election slate."

I will state something at this point. USA Racquetball solicits these written submissions. There is also a Petition Procedure that allows ANY member in good standing to run for a board seat. USA Racquetball does not make a clear solicitation for people to submit these forms to run. So, in effect, without properly interpreting the process, it is vague at best that someone would know they could continue their quest to be on the board with the petition process, even if they were turned down after the letter submission process. It's clearly stated on their website. There is just no, "and if you are not selected, you can still get on the ballot this way", type statement.

There were three names (names who I know well and have respect for,) cited on an

Official Fanpage statement that read:

"Breaking News: Jonathan Clay, Meridith Gilbert, and the IRT Network's John Scott have all been declined by the USAR and will not allowed to be allowed to seek election on the board.

"There was no reason given." There was a quote with the non-select communication (above) along with another quote that read, "What a sad state of affairs. -JS"

What proceeded was a long thread that basically was a call to unite against the current board of USA Racquetball and talk that was just short of extreme misinformation and divisiveness. But this points to an aspect of today's racquetball culture that is very much a part of the problem. That is, sense of entitlement. Anyone familiar with racquetball culture for any amount of time, will know that sponsorship programs have facilitated the justifications like I am a good player. People like to watch me play. Leading to the belief of deserving free gear. And that type of thinking permeates many other aspects of the culture. Much of what came out in the main thread in response to comments was very familiar in that tone.

Quotes pulled from the thread:

"I said I was denied to be allowed to run, but I could jump through their hoops for a chance, if I give them 100 signatures. I find it highly offensive that they ask me or Clay to do that, and the manner in which they communicated is beyond poor. That's basically all I'm saying here. If you think they are doing a great job, then that's your opinion. The simple fact is though, that they aren't, and I've just decided to speak up about it. –JS"

"Have (we) not already proven what we do and who we are in the sport? Now you, the board, says that you don't think we are qualified and are in fact unfit, but if we want to bug 125 people to get signatures then you "may" consider us. I refuse to show you or anyone else on the board what I've done in this sport, if you can't already see it, and I will not beg you and bother another 125 people to get a chance to fix the consistent malfunction that is USA Racquetball. (Also-JS)"

Leaders make assessments first. They create communication and attain facts before action. Passion is great, but stirring passions in anything other than a progressive positive manner is not leadership. At least not the kind of leadership this sport needs.

Leaders do not put themselves above the process. ("I could jump through their hoops for a chance. I find it highly offensive...") Doing so, stems from pride.

Look at the first sentence in the second statement. "Have we not proven..." "...WHO we are in the sport." Notoriety and entrepreneurial participation do not in and of themselves make for qualifying leaders. In fact, entreprenuerial engagement directly with USA Racquetball and professional tours is a HUGE conflict of interest that can lead things to getting worse in terms of politics, money and vendor engagement.

Something also is happening with this type of response is those, as aspiring leaders, effectively marginalize candidates who are just as passionate as you are. Candidates who don't have the notoriety that you do, yet, on paper, may be in some aspects way more qualified than you might be. A leader wouldn't stiffen the process in their own efforts to galvanize sentiment. Remember, we are talking about desired outcome of having the best people for the roles to effect change. Many factors are taken into account during these committee decisions. (Including past business experiences directly with board members and with the organization itself.)

USA Racquetball is a rather comprehensive non-profit organization with a significant mandate and budget that requires serious non-profit fundraising experience. This kind of experience is sorely needed, as well as some other significant hard facilitation experience.

Let's randomly look at some of the qualifying experience of the chosen six:

(Not in any particular order)

- Comprehensive state association experience

- Project development

- Project coordination and cross-functional team management

- Engineering operations management and logistics

- Marketing sales

- Legal

- Vendor contracting

- 26 years hard fundraising experience for non-profits

- CPA experience Fortune 500s, non-profits

- Successful, continual small business funding and incubation

- Locally elected to government position

- Development of extensive high school racquetball programming

Based on what was written, how it was written and the vetting of these qualifications, the committee chose six candidates to endorse. They didn't deem the others unfit. The chose based on the needs of the organization and the qualifications in front of them.

Passion for the sport does not guarantee the ability to progressively work on a board of directors. The mandate is to participate in decision making and then facilitate the direction the board as a whole chooses to go towards. You have to demonstrate an ability to do this, even when you don't necessarily agree with direction. Soliciting negative sentiment towards an organization you "want" to be an influencer within is not the mark of a leader. Helping to build the sport also requires a ton of doing what the sport needs, not what, I, You, think it needs. Be very careful with any phrases or sentences that begin with I or point to your accomplishments. When working within a board of directors, the emphasis should always be on empowering others.

A current board member stated, "In the time I have spent on the board I have not seen a bigger or stronger group of people willing to give the countless hours required of this 'volunteer' position." That should be read as a good sign.

Last year, less than 1000 members voted. One new board member won with only 128 votes, a hair over the recently amended petition requirement. A serious question would be, did those who submitted themselves to the election process even vote last year? If they did, good for them. The work continues.

People may think it's all politics. Maybe. Do I agree with all the decisions USA Racquetball has made or there position on some things? Definitely not. But change is hard work and it's work that needs to be done.

I guess the slant behind this entry is maybe a hard call to those who received denial notices to take a step back and think critically about what you specifically want to accomplish and why. If it really is about the sport and not what you desire to be in the sport or what you could do for your business in the sport, then work to bring everyone together without lifting yourselves up and bringing the current board down. It means having a full (and correct) understanding of things before calling them out. If not, the slope gets slippery with misleading statements in the defense of viewpoints. That only facilitates more and more types of mis-informed viewpoints.

Those who weren't selected submitted a letter. Those who weren't selected now have options. And if you choose to go forward with those options, and choose to get yourselves put on the ballot, there may be two questions put to you. Can you work effectively in a team, even if the chosen direction, is not the direction you advocate for? The other question may very well be, will you be able to lead in this sport even if you aren't voted in.

First rule of leadership: Everything is your fault.

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