USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender finds time to lead important NGB Council for the USOC

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Gary Abbott (USA Wrestling)

Rich Bender greets an Iranian wrestling leader during the 2013 World Cup in Tehran, Iran. Bender has taken a key leadership role within the U.S. Olympic movement as NGB Council chair.

It will be a busy week for the U.S. Olympic family, as the Olympic and Paralymic Assembly will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., the headquarters city for the U.S. Olympic Committee. A series of important meetings, seminars and functions will bring together the leadership of America’s Olympic family, just weeks before the 2014 Winter Olympics.

This year’s assembly – themed “Power Of Sport” – will welcome more than 400 participants representing Olympic, Paralympic and Pan American National Governing Bodies; U.S. Olympians and Paralympians; Multi-Sport Organizations; the Athletes Advisory Council; the Paralympic Advisory Committee; USOC board members and staff; and government representatives involved in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements. 

USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender will be doing much more than just attending some meetings and representing his sport. As the Chair of the important NGB Council, Bender will be leading the discussion in two important sessions with all of the national governing body chief executives in attendance.

The USOC is required by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to organize the NGB Council to ensure effective communication between the USOC and the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and the Paralympic Sports Organizations. These meetings are not held just because of this act of Congress, but because of their impact.

“The NGBs are a foundational piece of the Olympic effort, the 365-day arm of our American Olympic movement. They are very significant when you think of the reach of the National Governing Bodies,” said Bender.

Consider this. The combined membership of the organizations in the NGB Council is 13,071,709. The annual collective budget is $643,262,000. Each year, the NGB organizations host 59,824 events. 

Those who serve as chief executives of these organizations are responsible for running their individual sports organization, and combining with the other sports to create Team USA for the Olympics, Paralympics, Pan American Games and other major events.

“It is extraordinarily important that the USOC hear regularly about the issues and concerns of the NGBs, because, along with the athletes, we are most central component of the Olympic movement in the United States. I think that the USOC is basically the work of the NGBs. The relationship that exists is vital. The USOC Board needs to be regularly informed about NGB issues, both from the NGB reps on the Board and the NGB Council leaders,” said Doug Beal, CEO of USA Volleyball.

Bender has been serving in this leadership role since September 2010, when he was selected by his peers to complete the term of Skip Gilbert in the chairman role. In September 2012, Bender was unanimously re-elected to a full term in this position, where he will serve four years through the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

By assuming this responsibility, Bender must find the time for council activities in addition to directing the staff efforts for USA Wrestling and working with the international wrestling federation FILA. Bender must be able to attend regular meetings with his fellow chief executives, as well as working directly with the USOC staff and leadership on the issues which are important to the Olympic movement. 

This year has been a tremendous challenge with Bender’s additional leadership role in the Keep Olympic Wrestling movement, which resulted in wrestling being selected by the IOC General Assembly as an extra sport for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. The work of the NGB Council has not missed a beat.

He has established a positive working relationship with the key leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

 “The National Governing Bodies play an increasingly important role within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements and Rich Bender's leadership of the NGB Council has made a significant impact. He brings vast experience as an NGB chief executive to the position, with strong communication skills and a fierce commitment to the Olympic movement. I look forward to continuing to work with him in this role through the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

 “The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic family appreciates the contributions that Rich Bender is making as the chair of the NGB Council. He has the respect and support of his peers from the National Governing Bodies, and has shown that he works well with the USOC staff and volunteer leadership. The success of Team USA will continue to flourish because of the daily leadership and talent of our NGB executives, which have chosen Rich to represent their interests,” added Larry Probst, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

In addition, Bender has received high grades from his fellow NGB chief executives.

“Rich has done a terrific job as chair of the NGB Council.  With more than 45 organizations represented, it is only natural that we don’t always agree on every issue.  But our fair, open and always civil dialogue is a reflection of Rich and his steady, even-keeled personality.  He’s a great leader who I am proud to have as a friend and colleague,” said Dave Ogrean, Executive Director of USA Hockey.

“Rich has been as effective as chairman of the NGB Council as we’ve had in my recollection. He is a good communicator and he is open to a broad range of input. He is connected to the USOC leadership and meets regularly with Scott Blackmun. From my point of view, Rich is an ideal leader for the NGB Council. I don’t know from my experience that the Council and the NGBs have been so closely aligned with the USOC, which is a credit to Rich and the USOC staff leadership. He is doing a wonderful job,” added Doug Beal, CEO of USA Volleyball.

This week, the NGB Council will meet two different days for a total of eight hours, with an extensive agenda of topics. In addition to comprehensive updates on the different activities and programs of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the NGB leaders will discuss drug testing, safe sport issues, sport performance, resource allocation, organizational excellence, educational opportunities and much more.

These meetings are designed to allow each of the National Governing Body executives to go back to their individual sports and improve the management and direction of their organization and their sport. The success of each NGB will come together and help lead to the success of the U.S. Olympic Team.

Rich Bender takes his responsibility seriously, and has set some high goals for himself and for the NGB Council.

“I have a passion to foster and develop a strong working relationship between the NGBs, the Athlete’s Advisory Committee (AAC)  and the USOC,” said Bender. “This is where the rubber meets the road in the Olympic family. The athletes are who the Olympic movement is all about. The NGBs are what provides programs and opportunities for these athletes to pursue their Olympic dreams, all done with the consistent support from our National Olympic Committee.”

They say if you want to get something done, just ask a busy person. In the Olympic movement, one of those key leaders who helps get it done is Rich Bender of USA Wrestling.