When Myriam Glez became the CEO of USA Synchronized Swimming in 2015, she was tasked with restructuring an organization that had been struggling financially.
In 2014 the US Olympic Committee, which provides funding for Olympic sports teams, notified USA Synchro that its funding was going to be reduced in 2015--and completely eliminated in 2016. “This was a big loss for us,” says Glez, a former synchronized swimmer who competed on the French and Australian Olympic teams. She joined USA Synchro in 2013 as a high performance director, a title she still holds along with CEO.
The Committee pulled its support because of less-than-stellar Olympics performance. The team saw two gold medals at the 1996 Games and a bronze medal in 2004. They have yet to earn a medal since.
In taking the helm, Glez focused USA Synchro’s efforts toward becoming self-funded. Since 2014 the organization has held its annual Sequins, Glitter & Gold fundraising dinner and auction as well as the US Annual Campaign—a social media outreach campaign that runs from November-December to raise funds. Both efforts have been very successful and Glez plans to do even more outreach and larger campaigns in the future.
In an effort to rank higher on the podium, coaching strategies have been updated and upgraded as well. “We stepped outside of the water,” says Glez. Rather than keeping athletic training in the pool, athletes now perform strength and conditioning exercise on land. Gymnastic- and dance-based training have also been brought into the mix. The result is stronger athletes who experience fewer injuries and are able to perform routines that are more physically demanding, says Glez.
Glez has also worked to expand athletic outreach. Athletes who are heavily involved in any given sport typically participate through regional clubs. And in the past most of the synchronized swimming athletes on the national team came from clubs in Northern California. The area is known for having exceptional clubs and coaches, and perhaps more resources than other clubs, said Glez. But USA Synchro has begun sending coaches to observe athletes at various competitions and clinics around the country. In fact, next year USA Synchro will be running clinics in all of its 16 regions across the country to observe and evaluate potential athletes and to further develop and evaluate its coaches. Glez’s goal is to “give every single athlete a chance to either get to the highest level [of competition] or to develop to their full potential.”
All of her efforts have resulted in a slow but steady rise in the ranking. After several years of placing 11th and 12th in major competitions the US team placed 8th and 9th in the 2016 Olympics.
Noting that synchronized swimmers must present themselves at the highest level for several years before they can expect to receive higher ranking from judges, Glez is definitely playing the long game. “We’re not trying to fix things for this year or next year,” she says. “We’re really trying to [create] an organization that is based on long-term success.”