An Interview with Dean Ekeren, National Events and Marketing Director, USA Swimming
29 Apr, 2011By: Juli Anne Patty
Years in industry
Years in current position
What is the mission of your organization?
USA Swimming is the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming. We administer competitive swimming in accordance with the Olympic & Amateur Sports Act. We provide programs and services for our members, supporters, affiliates and the interested public. We value these members of the swimming community, and the staff and volunteers who serve them. We are committed to excellence and the improvement of our sport. We are committed to providing a safe and positive environment for all members.
Nationally, how many participants do you have?
USA Swimming has about 290,000 athlete members and over 30,000 non-athlete members.
How many events are held each year?
USA Swimming sanctions about 4,600 events each year. Of these, our staff has direct involvement in managing our Olympic Trials, National Championships, Open Water Championships, Junior Nationals, Grand Prix Series Events, Zone and Sectional Championships. We also host international competitions such as World Cups, Pan Pacific Championships and Junior Pan Pacific Championships.
In what regions/locations are they held?
Events are held throughout the country.
As an organization, what do you look for in a location?
Unfortunately, there are very few venues capable of hosting our larger championship events, so appropriate competition pools are certainly crucial to our site selection. In 2004, we started using temporary construction for our Olympic Trials, utilizing pools that can be built within a few weeks and removed after the competition. Myrtha Pools has been a great partner in this regard. This has allowed us to use existing major indoor arenas like the Qwest Center in Omaha and other sites, which were not previously available to us. We are now able to bring the "pool to the people," versus having to bring the "people to the pool."
Aside from the venue, we look for strong local partners and prefer sites with a knowledgeable swimming community.
From an event management standpoint, what is the most challenging aspect of your job?
As swimming has gained in fan and participant popularity, the demands on our existing venues throughout the country have increased significantly. We are forced to utilize more temporary construction to meet the increasing demands of television, media and social technology. Also, our corporate partners have taken a more active role at our events (which is fantastic!), further increasing our need for facilities and infrastructure.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Developing and maintaining a network of aquatic professionals and event volunteers around the country. We bring many of these people together at various times each year to share ideas and strategies. Many of these people have become good friends over the years.
What is your biggest challenge in organizing your organization's events?
Maintaining a balance between the technical needs of our sport and the presentation of the "show." The various needs of the athletes/coaches, spectators and television viewers are often contradictory to each other.
Please describe how you feel your knowledge, skills and experience have contributed to the success of the sports events in which you are involved.
At USA Swimming, we're lucky to have some of the best people in sports working within our organization, and our staff and volunteers work as a team to create great events. I've learned to rely on the expertise of the people within our organization. In the Events Department, we serve as the communication liaison between our hosts, sponsors, participants and the various USA Swimming departments who all have specific needs at our events.