US Snowboard Team Coach Responds To Burton’s Press Release

It’s hard for me to understand Burton’s motivation in trying to drive this wedge between us over the great accomplishments of the US athletes at the 2002 Winter Olympics, but as the Head Coach of the US Snowboard Team I’m compelled to respond to Burton’s recent press release.

From Burton’s press release: BURLINGTON, VT – March, 11, 2002 – The results of the snowboarding events at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games show, for the second time, that free enterprise – not national team training – is the most effective system in developing snowboarding medallists.

Many people have a false impression, supported by ambiguous Communications from the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), that America’s snowboarding success is a result of the USSA’s “US Snowboard Team” efforts. This is not the case.

Foley’s response: The US Snowboard Team and free enterprise are not opposition. The US Snowboard Team is only an option. No one is required to be a member, some athletes choose it, some don’t. I believe that the US Snowboard Team is the most comprehensive and effective training program in the world and I believe participating in that program is the best way for athletes to excel at competitive snowboarding, but it’s not for everyone, and that is ok. If you ask any of the US athletes at the top of competitive snowboarding, regardless of whether or not they are members of the Team they will tell you that the team has only been a source of support. The medals won by US Snowboarders are a testament to the open structure set up by the US Snowboard Team, a structure that makes sure that the best Americans are the ones that make it to the Olympics, regardless of any kind of team or sponsor affiliation.

From Burton’s press release: *Of the 5 US snowboarding medalists at The Games, only one is actually of the US Snowboard Team.

*4 of the 5 US snowboarding medallists are professional athletes who qualified through competition ahead of US Snowboard Team athletes and earned slots at The Games.

*None of the 3 Americans in the Men’s Halfpipe sweep is of the US Snowboard Team.

*of the 14 riders representing the US at The Games, only 5 were of the US Snowboard Team.

*At The 1998 Games, of the 14 riders representing the US, only 4 were of the US Snowboard Team.

Foley’s response:Some of the above statements are just false, and all are meant to illustrate the supposed ineffectiveness of the US Snowboard Team. In reality 8 of the 14 athletes who represented the US at The Games are named US Snowboard Team Athletes, and 10 of the 14 train year round with the US Snowboard Team. Of the 5 snowboarding medalists, 3 of them (both Halfpipe Gold Medalists and the PGS Bronze Medalist) have spent a large part of their careers training with the US Snowboard Team. All 14 athletes are coached and managed by the US Snowboard Team during the Olympic Games.

From Burton’s press release: It’s confusing, but the US Snowboard Team marketed by the USSA right up To the last qualifying event for the Olympics is not the Olympic team. Competitions held in the US just prior to the Olympics determine who will go to The Games, after which the USSA claims dubious ownership of all qualifiers and their medals.

Foley’s response: USSA does not claim ownership of any qualifiers or their medals. The athletes themselves are clearly the ones responsible. USSA is very proud of its web of support and competitive structure that clearly contributed to the US success at the 2002 Olympics.

From Burton’s press release: When The Games end, the professionals go back to their careers, while The USSA returns to marketing their US Snowboard Team without them. Yet the USSA still claims the medals as the work of “the Team” in statements like This one from US Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt: “This was a team effort and we take a great deal of pride in the accomplishments of these athletes and especially in achieving our team goal.”

Foley’s response: This quote is taken out of context, as Marolt was referring to USSA’s stated goal of 10 medals by the athletes named to its Olympic Teams, not just the medals won by the snowboarders. The athletes of the snowboarding, freestyle skiing, and alpine skiing teams won 11 medals.

From Burton’s press release: This is not to say the USSA is all bad. In fact, thanks to efforts of staffers like Jeremy Forster, the USSA’s competitions are quality, respected events with ample media coverage. USSA staff has made sincere efforts to create training opportunities for professional riders, sometimes against the wishes of USSA management. (Never, has USSA mangement been in oppostion to these programs) Professional riders have trained with their staff (for a reasonable cost) without becoming a team member or giving up existing endorsement contracts. The USSA has developed athletes.

However, the distinction between the US Snowboard Team and successful US snowboarders at the Olympics is important. Snowboarding demonstrates that free enterprise works. The best athletes train, compete, choose sponsors, and manage their careers as they choose – as individuals. The team system does not work, and is essentially a marketing device for USSA to sell to its sponsors and fund its activities.

Foley’s response: Correct, the free enterprise system does work, but having the US Snowboard Team as an option only enriches free enterprise. It has been proven over and over in athletics that gathering athletes together as a part of a team is a highly effective method for improving performance of individual athletes. It’s confusing that while Burton states in this press release that “the team system does not work,” Burton’s three US medalists have all spent a large part of their careers training with the US Snowboard Team, and the majority of the younger riders Burton sponsors train with local teams and academies.

From Burton’s press release: Free enterprise, an American ethic, continues to be the most effective Means of developing medal-winning snowboarders. We proved this to the world Again at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Foley’s response: Yes we did, now let’s just all get along.


Peter Foley
Head Coach US Snowboard Team