By Michael Pavitt |
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has announced Sarah Hirshland as the organization’s new chief executive.
Hirshland currently serves as the chief commercial officer for the United States Golf Association (USGA) and is set to take up her new role at the end of August.
The decision to appoint Hirshland brings an end to USOC’s search for a replacement for Scott Blackmun, who resigned in February after eight years in the role.
Blackmun informed USOC staff in January that he was battling prostate cancer, while he had also received criticism in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Susanne Lyons has served as acting chief executive in recent months, with the organisation since announcing several measures aimed at enhancing athlete safety and engagement.
USOC chairman Larry Probst said that Hirshland has a unique and proven set of skills and experiences which would help to transform the organisation.
“The USOC is at a critical time in its history and requires an energetic, creative and inspiring leader who is capable of building on past success while making sure that the athletes we serve are protected, supported and empowered in every possible way,” he said.
“I’m thrilled that Sarah has accepted the position and thankful to the diverse slate of candidates who participated in our process to hire the very best person for this important responsibility.
“I’d also like to acknowledge Susanne Lyons for her superb leadership of the USOC for the last several months, while ensuring that America’s athletes continue to receive the support they need during our period of transition.”
In her current role, Hirshland is responsible for the USGA’s global media and content distribution, corporate partnerships, merchandise and licensing, marketing, communications, community outreach and golfer handicap information network.
USOC credited Hirshland with establishing a “centralised marketing function” and with transforming relationships and service offerings with the Allied Golf Associations.
She is also said to have overseen media rights negotiations, secured and managed global corporate partnerships and guided the transformation of tournament management services.
Hirshland admitted the organization faces challenges and said she would look to ensure athletes are protected.
“I recognize the challenges ahead as we navigate this critical moment in the USOC’s history,” she said.
“We must protect, support and empower athletes, young and old, elite and beginner.
“Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United States must be a shining example, able to provide athletes with the benefits of participation in an environment free from abuse of any kind.
“The USOC has made great strides in this area and I look forward to carrying on that critically important work.”
Under acting chief executive Lyons, USOC have announced Wendy Guthrie as their senior director of athlete safety, and have doubled the funding of the US Center for SafeSport.
They have also appointed Lisa Borders as chair of an Athlete and National Governing Body Engagement Commission.
Further funding and resources are also set to be given to athletes impacted by sexual abuse, while USOC added that they are reviewing their safety policies and procedures to add further safeguards.
Lyons has represented USOC in a Congressional hearing held in response to various abuse scandals.
Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was jailed for up to 175 years after more than 300 people accused him of abuse earlier this year.
Hirshland joined the USGA in 2011 but previously was the senior vice president for strategic business development at Wasserman Media Group, now known as Wasserman.
The organization’s chairman and chief executive is Casey Wasserman, who is the chair of the Los Angeles 2028 Organising Committee.
Hirshland worked in Wasserman’s consulting division, leading the development of sports marketing strategies for clients such as American Express, Nationwide, Nokia, Scotts and Wachovia.
In addition, Hirshland has served in key executive positions with sports and entertainment firm OnSport, and sports news and technology company Total Sports.
“The Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the movements they help advance, are a source of inspiration and admiration on every continent on earth, and one of the few things in history that can bring the world together in celebration,” Hirshland added.
“To be invited to lead the Olympic and Paralympic community in the United States, to be associated with Team USA, and to have the honor and privilege of serving America’s athletes is an absolute dream come true.”
Hirshland’s appointment has been welcomed by Casey Wasserman.
“I know first hand that Sarah is a visionary leader and exactly the right person to lead the USOC as we collectively build to the LA 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he said.
“I look forward to re-teaming with Sarah plus the entire team at the USOC to deliver a new Games for a new era that benefit athletes and our communities alike, and connect the Olympic and Paralympic movements to the future.”
Hirshland is set to relocate to Colorado Springs with her family to take up the position.
The nationwide search for a chief executive was conducted by Spencer Stuart, a executive search and leadership consulting firm.
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.