Voting for USA Cycling’s Cyclocross Sport Committee is open through August 15. USAC license holders are eligible to vote for candidates depending on which type of license they hold. Cyclocross Magazine reached out to each of the candidates and offered them the opportunity to fill out a candidate questionnaire to give our readers a better understanding of what they want to do on the Cyclocross Committee.
Today, we will be hearing from Charlie Townsend of Minnesota, who is one of the candidates running for the Coach position.
Name: Charlie Townsend
Residence: Mendota Heights, MN
Years as a Cycling Coach: Over 10
Cyclocross Magazine: Why did you start your career as a cycling coach?
Charlie Townsend: I get a kick out of sharing my passion for competitive cycling with others. Really, that’s why I started coaching. Most coaches I know have a similar story.
But I also have a flexible mindset about what individuals are capable of. I think most of us are limited by our direction, discipline or motivation, not necessarily by innate characteristics. A good coach helps an athlete address these limitations.
CXM: Why are you running for the ‘Cross Sport Committee?
CT: U.S. cyclocross has seen increased participation, media attention and international credibility. I’d like to work with USA Cycling to make sure that we have lots of top quality regionally racing and offer templates that local programs can use to get adults and kids excited about participating in the sport. I’d like to make it easy to share our enthusiasm with the widest possible audience.
CXM: What makes you a strong candidate for this position?
CT: I’ve gained an appreciation of this sport through four decades of competing, promoting races and coaching. I’m now focused on attracting and developing young athletes. To do this we founded NorthStar Development as a regional, grassroots-to-elite, junior program. We had to build a structure, develop programming and cultivate sponsor-partners to support our 50 young athletes.
I also have experience assisting the governance of mission-driven organizations like USA Cycling. I spent most of my career with an international consulting firm where I had responsibility for health care management and board consulting.
CXM: We have seen your bio, but what’s your vision for the sport?
CT: Yes, vision is important. Ten years ago, someone (Brook Watts? John Meehan?) probably had the crazy vision that U.S. cyclocross would have enough credibility to host two UCI World Cups. It wouldn’t have happened if someone didn’t think it was possible.
I’d like to imagine that U.S. cyclocross includes world class events drawing the best athletes in the sport. I’d like to see quality, easily replicated beginner’s programs feeding the sport and strong regional racing developing young riders and creating the excitement that sustains life-long fans and competitors.
CXM: What are the most important issues USA Cycling needs to address right now?
CT: I think growing the sport and producing top level athletes are always at the top of the list. If these aren’t happening the future looks pretty bleak.
CXM: What changes would you like to help make as a member of the Cyclocross Committee?
CT: I’d like to see the committee reach a common understanding of the issues that U.S. cyclocross faces. The representative sport committee structure (coaches, promotors, local associations, masters etc.) should encourage us to canvas our constituent groups for input. I’m not sure this is happening in a formal way.
And once we do have a common understanding of the issues, we’d be most effective if we can settle on a few key initiatives to work on through the USA Cycling board and management. For example, I can see the value in leveraging credentialed USAC coaches and the Cyclocross Skills certification course curriculum to develop a template for quality, cyclocross-specific, new rider programs.
CXM: Limited resources force tough choices between elite talent development and grassroots growth. What are your opinions on how USA Cycling currently splits resources between these two priorities?
CT: I hope it’s a bit of a false dichotomy. The sport needs both and they definitely reinforce one another. Big culturally established sports like baseball or hockey can support a professional organization and a separate web of youth, scholastic and masters organizations. Competitive cycling is not big enough to divide its mission. We rely on a single structure to both grow the base and make sure our talent gets opportunities to flourish.
It’s a pretty common question though. NorthStar Development races teams internationally, supports members residing at the OTC or racing in Europe, and still provides lots of weekly programming for kids just getting into the sport. The resources needed to support elite athletes and to get new racers into the sport are different enough to make it work.
CXM: What are the success and failures of the current Cyclocross Committee?
CT: I’m not running because I believe the current Cyclocross Committee has failed in some way. Going forward the Committee is successful if it helps USA Cycling access a renewing base and provide an effective development pipeline with lots and lots of quality regional and national racing. I’d like to help with this important work.
See all of our candidate questionnaires:
cover photo: flickr user Democracy Chronicles