Our columnist believes you can make a difference to your sport by knocking on the door.
I was always taught that the best way to create changes in an organization was to work from within rather than to grumble about problems and point fingers from the outside.
Over time I found this to be good advice, but when it came to my own sport, about which I’m very passionate, I couldn’t figure out how to get “in” to be able to put this advice to work!
Even though I had my U.S. Equestrian Federation judge’s card, had been to the fall indoor shows with a client and her horses and had coached national championship college riding teams, I couldn’t seem to get involved in the governance structure of USEF. I eventually got frustrated, stopped attending the USEF Annual Meetings and joined the ranks of an often-disgruntled membership.
As with most things in life, it takes a combination of luck, timing, desire and work to make things happen. Those things came together for me with the initial founding of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association.
In 2004, I received an e-mail from Beth Miner, a member of the founding USHJA Steering Committee, asking me to join the organization and support its mission of pulling the hunters and jumpers together on a national level, providing education for all levels of our sport and including representatives of all levels of our sport in the governance process.
This sounded to me like an organization that we desperately needed, so I joined. I also made sure that Sweet Briar College (Va.) and the American National Riding Commission joined as affiliate organizations and made me their representative. I don’t know that I consciously thought about this as being my way “in,” but I sure wanted the USHJA Steering Committee members to know that I supported what they were doing and thought that it was important.
This past March I was at dinner with a group of the USHJA Affiliates Council members during a retreat, and we were talking about how exciting it is to be involved in the governance of our sport. USHJA President Bill Moroney was at dinner with us, and he laughed and told the group about seeing me at the first USHJA Annual Meeting wandering around looking a little lost and certainly uncomfortable about participating.
His description was quite accurate. While I knew quite a few people, I still felt awkward and out of place. Then, because I represented two affiliate organizations and had participated in the Affiliates Council, I was lucky enough to be elected as one of the two Affiliates Council representatives to the USHJA Board of Directors, and things changed for me.
Bill continued his story saying that after my election to the Board of Directors there had been no holding me back. He commented that I had taken to governance like the proverbial “duck to water” and that he thought they would have to drag me out of the “water” at this point. I think once again his description is accurate.
Work And Produce
So, enough about me. I just wanted to show you through my example that getting involved is really possible even if it seems daunting.
This column is really about how to get you involved and create changes that you feel are important.
First, you should all know that the luck and timing that helped me get through the governance doorway are all still there waiting to work for you. The USHJA just celebrated its fifth birthday on July 6, 2009, so it’s still in its infancy, and as with any young organism it’s more easily adaptable to change during its early growth period.
The officers, Board of Directors and committee members want and need your input, ideas and energy. Now is your time to step up and voice your interest, and many of you did that by attending the Annual Meeting this year in Florida.
The USHJA has a yearly committee attendance review to ensure that committee members are meeting their participation and attendance commitments. Those who do not are replaced, opening the door for new people to get involved.
It was exciting to see three full pages of people who signed up at the Annual Meeting expressing their interest in serving on a USHJA committee. I urge you to send a follow-up e-mail to the staff liaison for
that committee to reconfirm your interest and to give them all of your contact information.
Remember that not everyone can serve on a committee, but there are many other ways that you can get involved. Send the USHJA staff member liaison an e-mail to connect, and let her know that you are interested in a particular program and would like to volunteer. Offer to help with a USHJA event that’s being held in your area, host a USHJA clinic or outreach horse show, or help an organization in your area get involved in the affiliate programs.
Once you get through the doorway, then work, work, work. Believe me, you will get noticed and have an impact.
If you’re on a committee make every conference call and meeting and voice your opinions. I have to say that in all the USHJA committees on which I serve, every single person is comfortable speaking his or her mind and fighting for his or her point of view, so don’t be shy. If your committee finds there’s something that needs to be done, volunteer to do it and then complete the project or the report or find the information and get this back to the group in a timely fashion.
Becoming known as someone who produces will allow you to have more opportunities to actively make a difference in the direction and programs of the organization.