Five questions for Charlene Boudreau

Sport management program off and running at UCCS

Charlene Boudreau

Editor's note: The College of Business at UCCS launched its first certificate program in business education and leadership for sport this summer, inspiring this story. The interview was conducted before the recent departure of Boudreau, whose iniatitives continue at the university, where many watch with particular interest as the 2012 Olympic Games are set to begin next week.

Charlene Boudreau has been active in the sports industry in Colorado Springs since 1996, working primarily with USA Swimming and U.S. Figure Skating. Early in her career, her work was dedicated almost entirely to national teams and athlete performance, including identifying opportunities for improvement in performance support systems. As her work began to take on a more administrative and strategic tone, she returned to school and earned her MBA in marketing and service management in 2005.

“Eventually, I began to share professional materials, events and other business solutions with a broader sport business audience, including the U.S. Olympic Committee and additional members of the Olympic family,” she said.

Early in her career, she taught a lab in an exercise physiology class offered in the University of Colorado Colorado Springs biology department. After earning her master’s, she taught a graduate marketing communications class in the College of Business for three years. In 2007, she established a consulting company, based on a vision to “optimize the efficiency, productivity and success of athletes, coaches and sports organizations while proliferating the value of planning in athletic and administrative performance.” The following year, she was recruited by the business school to coordinate sport management field experiences and teach courses in Olympic, International and Nonprofit Sport Management and Sport Science for Sport Administrators.

Now, she is bringing her UCCS experience to a job she begins this month, as executive director of the Partnership for Clean Competition, an organization that funds scientific research related to anti-doping in sport. Before leaving the university last week, she was associate director of sport management at UCCS. She worked directly with students, campus administration and the community on professional development and strategy related to sport.

“My passion and impact lie in industry, and my No. 1 career goal is to contribute and affect change in a high-performance environment with a high-performance team,” she said. “Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to integrate all of this into the work I do for the College of Business at UCCS.”

1. UCCS launched the college’s first certificate in business education and leadership for sport this summer. How were you involved, and why is it an important program?

It has always been extremely important to me that my undergraduate students are earning a bachelor of science in business administration with an emphasis in sport management, not the other way around. In 2009, Forbes reported that “the top positions in business are occupied by leaders now, not managers.” Sport is an industry that requires solid business knowledge, acumen and skill. Based on my own experiences as a consultant, followed by my newfound access to academic resources in this AACSB-accredited business school, it was easy to create and get behind the idea of CBELS. The actual program, which runs for the first time this (month), is offered in response to requests for more frequent business education and leadership training for professionals currently working or pursuing work in the sport industry and is designed to help these sports business professionals develop new skills and new perspectives in management, strategy, service and operations.

For example, some of my own most rewarding projects in terms of impact and/or learning have involved the development of multi-disciplinary high-performance teams, guiding tradition-driven committees and departments through culture change, and mentoring students, athletes and young business professionals through large group project dynamics and conflict. These experiences have helped me strengthen my instincts and skills as an active listener, critical thinker, strategist and leader. I hope that CBELS will do something similar for each participant -- empower them to perform at a higher level and meet the rising expectations and demands of our industry.

2. You taught courses in nonprofit sport management. How is sport management different in the nonprofit than in the for-profit sector, and what is taught in the sport science class?

During the past four years our sport management fieldwork program has shared or exchanged services directly and collaboratively with more than 35 local sports businesses, including the United States Olympic Committee, the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation and at least a dozen of the 20-plus local national governing bodies. I recently conducted a Service Exchange Analysis that revealed that UCCS faculty and sport management students have invested more than 33,000 hours in local sport organizations, events and business operations. What is largely unknown about these organizations is that most of them hold a 501(c)3 nonprofit status. In fact, it is largely unrealized by the public that the United States is the only country (i.e. the U.S. Olympic Committee is the only National Olympic Committee out of the 205 worldwide) that does not receive government funding for sport. The USOC and all of the national governing bodies (NGB) rely almost entirely on private-sector support as their primary and ongoing source of revenue. The nonprofit organizations are subject to governance and revenue allocation rules that distinguish them from their for-profit major league sport peers.

For example, NGBs are governed by boards of directors and volunteer committees. They do not have owners, and rely on membership dues as a primary source of revenue and must strive to get financial support from corporate sponsors to cover operational expenses. They ultimately are required to re-invest their profits in activities and programs that will directly benefit their members. Sport management requires an understanding of the political, financial and programming implications associated with both the nonprofit and for-profit business scenarios.

I’ve always felt that it is important to provide some connection between the performance and administrative sides of sport. Administrators who have even a limited level of understanding of the fundamentals of training – including muscle physiology, nutrition, sport psychology and training principles and methodology – tend to make decisions with the interest of the organization and the athletes in mind.  The sport science course pairs instruction of theory in each of the sport science disciplines with deliberate practical application.

For example, we follow several weeks of discussing the physiological role of nutrition in training and performance with a tour of the Olympic Training Center dining hall and kitchen and an executive-style “lab” report addressing and justifying the logistical and financial implications of operating a quantity food service facility.

3. You have been a “team leader” in several championships for a variety of countries. What is a “team leader” and how did you get involved with these countries?

Every once in a while, I walk into work and think to myself, “Whose life is this? Who gets to do this for their job?” At one time, much of my work was dedicated to national teams and athletic performance; my job was to support athletes and coaches in their pursuit of personal bests and championship titles.  Oftentimes, this means being on-site for key training sessions or camps. Sometimes it means traveling with a team to the championship event to provide key support services during competition. As a team leader, I had the honor of supporting Team USA (swimming) at the 2004 Open Water World Championships in Dubai, UAE; 2005 World University Games in Izmir, Turkey; 2006 Short Course World Championships in Shanghai, China; 2008 Victorian State Championships in Melbourne, Australia; and 2008 Short Course World Championships in Manchester, England.

My work with these teams ranged from advance team logistics, such as arriving ahead of the team to secure cell phones and finalize transportation and meal plans, to serving as the day-of-travel point person as athletes arrived at our final U.S. departure airport from cities all over the United States, to providing on-event support with post-competition recovery or drug testing. A team leader could be considered one of the more “glamorous” roles. Not only is it an honor to have served in this capacity for Team USA, these experiences have allowed me to develop a keen sense of political and cultural acuity that helps me navigate today’s sports business and performance landscape much more intuitively.

4. You will compete in your fourth Ironman Triathlon in August. What was your first Ironman and what about these events interests you? What’s your life schedule like when you are in training?

I completed my first Ironman distance triathlon in Colorado in 2002 -- the Boulder 5430. My only goal was (a) to finish and (b) not have to carry a glow stick. I’m not exactly sure how or when I decided to sign up for that race, but I do recall finding a training plan online and convincing myself every day to trust it. I did, and it worked. I enjoy training. It’s productive and often affords me time to think. I’ve always loved running and cycling, so triathlon is somewhat of a natural fit.

The funny thing is that despite working at USA Swimming for 12 years, I am still a terrible swimmer. But I have an 18-week training plan that I’ve followed and modified many times but which never requires a workout longer than two hours during the week. There are some hefty time commitments on some weekends, but I find the training manageable, which is especially important for those of us working full-time jobs.

What I love most about race day is that everyone has their own reason for being there. For me, it has been an ongoing learning experience. When you’re training for or competing in a long-distance event like this, you will inevitably be tested -- physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s all part of the journey.  What we get from the depths of tough moments is experience – and confidence in learning that we can survive and are willing to endure. For me, much of this translates into other aspects of my life. After the Boulder 5430, I completed Ironman Canada and Ironman Austria. That was seven years ago. I didn’t mean to take such a long break from training. This summer, I am excited to return to British Columbia for Ironman Canada. Hopefully I can finish without a glow stick again.

5. Will you be in London for this year’s Olympic Games?

My plans for London this year are still up in the air. I will not be attending the games as part of the official U.S. delegation. However, I do have some strong ties with folks on the ground in London and other parts of the UK, and I have learned to be agile when it comes to games time. If I am needed, I will be there. But for many years I have been proud and fulfilled knowing that while the games are certainly the highlight of many careers, being part of the preparation is also very meaningful. The one thing I know for certain is that whether I am in London, Colorado Springs or elsewhere, I will be watching. And gold or no gold, I will be supporting our Olympians and Paralympians, the principles of Olympism and the Olympic Movement in general.

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