By Don Kjelleren— Board President
Let me start by wishing everyone a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!! I would also like to thank everyone who has been part of the Vermont Senior Games Association (and former GMSG) for your contributions that have brought us to our 30th year of serving the over 50 year old Vermont community. We are very proud of this accomplishment. The VSGA is one of the oldest Senior Olympics organizations in the U.S. We are looking forward to 30 more years of providing fun, fellowship and fitness.
I would like to use my message in this issue of the Vital Times! to give you a report on the state of the Vermont Senior Games Association organization.
It is excellent! We know where we are going, and we are well on our way to getting there. We are growing at a rapid clip, are financially sound, have an outstanding working board of directors, an exceptional sports coordinators organization, terrific volunteers, a great group of committed athletes, and we are about to embark on a major new initiative.
Let me expand on these accomplishments. First let’s talk about the competitive State Championship games. Barbara Jordan and Bill Nedde, co-chairs of the Games Committee and the sports coordinators organization, have done a terrific job presenting and running the 2012 Vermont State Championship games. To the best of our knowledge 2012 had the highest participation in our 29-year history. Our efforts, starting with the 2011 games, in reorganizing, rejuvenating, and revitalizing the old GMSG is paying off as our games participation has increased 87% in the past two years. (See page 6 of the Autumn 2012 Vital Times! for a detailed report and analysis of the 2012 games.) We are well on our way to realizing our 3 year goal of having 500 participants in 2013; and our dream/vision goal of having 1000 participants in the year 2016.
Here are some of the highlights for 2012. We have increased the number of national sports from 11 to 15 (it would have been 16, but we had to cancel horseshoes due to wet weather). The NSGA requires that we hold 14 or more national sports to remain a NSGA member in good standing. In addition we brought back the winter games, and added extra Vermont games that were not on the national list, such as bocce and candlepin bowling. I am particularly pleased that we have tripled the number of woman participating in our games. I hope to see this trend continue to where we are closer to the national ratio.
I would like to see us add women’s basketball and line-dancing. Four of our sports account for more than 50% of our athletes. We are projecting to increase this to 6 sports producing more than 50% of our athletes. To attain our dream/vision of 1000 athletes, every sport will have to grow, some modestly and others significantly. We will need to focus on swimming, volleyball, badminton, and add another national sport such as softball. I would also like us to add one or two more Vermont games next year.
Community awareness of the VSGA’s programs and activities needs to be significantly increased, as well as the promotion of our individual sports. We have formed a publicity and promotional committee made up of professionals in this field to address these issues. One of the first things we have done is produce a VSGA brochure. (See information about the new brochure elsewhere in this newsletter.)
We plan to remain an open state and welcome out-of-state athletes, but our growth plans will focus on encouraging more Vermonters to get involved. For years the VSGA has depended on out-of-state participation for the games’ success. In 2011, nearly 45% of our athletes were from out-of-state. With the 2012 growth of Vermonter participation this percentage has dropped considerably.
Another factor affecting our games is the age of our athletes. Future success depends on what I might call a feeder system— we need to interest more 50-59 year olds in participating in the games. Statistics show we are trending in this direction. We had 25% of our 2012 athletes in this age group. (40% were in the 60’s age groups, and 25% in their 70’s— the balance were 80+.) Our publicity and promotion program will give priority to the 50-59 age group. This will require an education program that does not reference that they are “seniors,” but promotes the fun, fellowship and health benefits that our organization offers.
2012 was the qualifying year for the 2013 NSGA Summer Games Championships to be held this July in Cleveland, Ohio. Due to its proximity to Vermont we are hopeful of sending a large Vermont team to compete for the gold. If you qualified for the National Games, by now you should have received a postcard (and an e-mail if we have your e-mail address) telling you how to register. If you didn’t receive either one of these notifications and you want to go, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the NSGA at 225-766-6800. Early registration must be completed online or postmarked by Thursday, January 31, 2013 at midnight Eastern Time. You can save $25.00 by registering early online. Regular registration begins Friday, February 1, 2013, and must be completed online or postmarked by Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at midnight Eastern Time.
I would like to thank Bob Willey, and his Vermont Systems, Inc. company for their significant contribution to the success of the VSGA games. VSI provides the VSGA, as a sponsor, with our online registration. This is becoming increasingly popular among our athletes. Bob’s contribution saves our athletes several dollars in fees when registering online for our games.
Our financial progress has also been excellent. We are now financially stable, and we should be able to start building a reserve fund in 2013. Our financials are divided into two categories: competitive and non-competitive programs/activities. Our competitive State Championship games are financially self-sufficient based on registration fees, donations, sponsorships, and in-kind donations. Our 2012 games budget was double our 2011 budget. Our 2013 budget is projected to increase by 30-50% to cover growth expenses. Our non-competitive games effort is currently focused on one program: MOVE for well-being. This initiative is fully funded through sponsorships. We are very fortunate to have UVM’s Center on Aging as our major sponsor underwriting a large percentage of the costs for this program. We have also received meaningful sponsorship funding from several other community businesses. (See the sponsorship page in this newsletter.) Sufficient funding has been received to proceed with the MOVE program and to be assured of sustainability.
Our entire organization is to be highly commended. We are extremely fortunate to have a talented, hard-working, committed organization. It is the combination an outstanding working board of directors, devoted sports coordinators, and dependable volunteers that have made for our success. We were especially pleased to present a special Board of Directors recognition and award for exceptional service to Barbara Jordan and Bill Nedde (Games Committee co-chairs), Melissa Mendelsohn (webmaster), and Peggy Lipscomb (Vital Times! editor). We currently have an 18 member board. (See the list of Directors elsewhere in this newsletter.) We welcome our newest director, Marti Powers, who joined the board at our last board meeting. At the January board meeting we also elected officers for a new two year term, and installed our Class of 2015 directors. Barbara Jordan is working hard on supporting, growing, and strengthening the sports coordinator organization. I believe we have the organization, talent, commitment, advocates, and desire to accomplish our 2013 goals and vision.
Finally, I would like to highlight our new initiative: MOVE for well-being. The vision of the VSGA is to provide programs and activities that lead to healthy aging, a quality lifestyle and well-being. Even though we might perceive that all Vermonters are healthy and hardy, this is really not true. The reality is that there is a great need for encouraging and motivating a majority of the aged 50+ Vermont community to become physically active. The MOVE for well-being initiative is designed to do just that. Our MOVE committee, co-chaired by Kim Mihan and Gary Eley, have been meeting and working on an almost daily basis to perfect the program. (See the front page feature article for the program kick-off information, and how you may participate.) Under the guiding hand of Phyllis Bartling (of Futura Design Co.), the committee is releasing exciting professional flyers, posters, brochures and ancillary materials. Ute Talley (Shelburne Health and Fitness) has facilitated the development of an excellent user-friendly MOVE website at www.moveforwellbeing.org. The website provides full information concerning the program as well as a way to register and report your physical activity minutes online. Our vision for the MOVE program is to eventually sign-up more than a thousand persons who seek to gain and/or maintain a healthy life-style.
In conclusion, thank you everyone for your part in our success. As we enter our 30th year we can be proud and excited about our accomplishments and the brightness of our future. We are indeed reorganized, rejuvenated and revitalized!!