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Blog #2 from the RRCA Convention.

Lakeland, Florida
April 23, 2010 - Day #2

Greetings from Lakeland, the crown jewel of Polk County, Florida.  Polk County is America’s citrus fruit capital.  The second day of the 2010 Annual RRCA Convention was filled with fun and friendship, mixed with some excellent presentations and the annual business meeting.  For those who were not too tired from the welcome reception on Thursday evening, runners from the Lakeland Runners Club accompanied us on training runs of various distances around Lakeland.  I chose the 3.35 mile run that took us to the west side of the city through some charming neighborhoods and around a beautiful lake.

After breakfast, the conventioneers were treated to a brief but spirited welcome performance by a professional dance troupe from Lakeland.  Then Bob English, Chairman of the Polk County Commissioners, delivered opening remarks that affirmed Polk County’s interest in runners.  When the winter doldrums hit, Polk County stands with open arms to refresh and renew the spirits Snow Belt runners like me.  After these opening remarks, Convention Director Dawn Decaminada and Marc Zimmerman of the Polk County Department of Tourism and Sports Marketing welcomed everyone to the convention.

The first convention speaker on Friday was Jeannie Fox, Deputy Director of Public Policy at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, who discussed Lobbying for Nonprofit Running Clubs.  Grassroots lobbying is defined as the communication of a group’s position on particular legislation to the general public, and then an appeal to the general public to contact their elected representatives to request the representatives’ support of the group’s position.  Jeannie stressed that grassroots lobbying is a democratic tradition of people coming together to solve a public problem.  She provided the conventioneers with an overview of the legal restrictions on lobbying under the Internal Revenue Code.

After Jeannie’s presentation, each region—Eastern, Western, Southern, and Central—met in individual regional sessions to discuss common issues in their region.  These sessions produced many constructive suggestions for ways we might do things better. 

Our luncheon speaker was Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association.  Pat is an incrdible inspirational speaker who has authored over 50 books.  He and his wife Ruth are the parents of 19 children, including 14 that they adopted from four different countries.  The children range in age from 23 to 36.  During a recent year, 16 of his children were all teenagers at the same time.  Never again will I complain about having to be the father of one teenage daughter!  In his presentation, Pat outlined for the conventioneers his concept of good leadership and his eight qualities of a great leader:  vision, energy, effective communication, good people skills, character, competence, boldness, and a serving heart.  Good leaders must be lifelong teachers and lifelong learners.  To be a lifelong learner, a leader must be a lifelong reader.  Not all readers will be leaders, but all leaders will be readers.  85% of the new books sold in the United States each year are sold to women.  Men need to start reading more!  Pat exhorted the conventioneers to read at least one hour per day.  Good leaders also have a humble spirit.  In Pat’s words, “Humility is like underwear.  Everybody needs it, but don’t let it show.”  Pat endorses the concept of TEAMS, an acronym which stands for, “Together everybody achieves more successfully.”

After lunch conventioneers had the choice of three educational sessions:  ChiRunning, methods for growing a race, and developing programs for older runners/back-of-the-packers, and walkers.  I chose the session concerning race growth and “garnered” many new ideas for improving the numbers and qualities of a race.  One thing to avoid is the TNHWHDIITP syndrome, which makes us institutional dinosaurs.  That is, avoid the stagnancy of the mindset of always responding to new ideas by saying, “That’s not how we have done it in the past.”

Following the afternoon educational sessions, Terry Diller of Star Insurance gave his annual presentation concerning the liability insurance that RRCA member clubs receive through their RRCA membership.  This presentation has become a staple of RRCA conventions.  New insurance features for RRCA member clubs include the coaches certification liability program, the children’s running liability program, and the medical volunteer liability program.  All of these new programs were developed in response to needs by RRCA member clubs.  The question-and-answer session yielded thoughtful guidance on some pressing issues that member clubs are facing.

The Star Insurance presentation was followed by the RRCA’s annual business meeting.  President Brent Ayer, Executive Director Jean Knaack, and Treasurer Dennis Novak gave their annual reports.  The bottom line financially is that the RRCA’s treasury is strong, and 2009 was a good year.  In 2009, the RRCA had a net profit of $191,492 (most of the net profit came from gains in the investment account as it rebounded), and its net worth as of December 31, 2009 was $721,221.  Then the membership conducted its annual election of officers and directors.  The following individuals were recommended by the Nominating Committee and unanimously elected for two-year terms:  Brent Ayer President, David Cotter Vice President, Dennis Novak Treasurer, Mark Gandonico Eastern Region Director, and Mitchell Garner Central Region Director.

The conventioneers then adjourned to Friday evening’s main attraction, the annual Lakeland Derby on Lake Mirror.  The weather was beautiful.  The temperature at dusk was in the 70s, with a gentle breeze.  The festivities included swan boat races and a hat contest.  Bill Rodgers, Saturday evening’s keynote speaker, joined us and was spotted at one point wearing a swan hat designed by Bailey Penzotti of the San Francisco Road Runners Club.  People swarmed around Bill like a rock star.  He graciously greeted everyone and posed for countless pictures.  Every RRCA representative seemed to have at least one story of Bill at a local road race.  Judging from the number of stories, I would have to conclude that Bill has run a road race in almost every state.  The festivities ended with fireworks over the lake.  Our friends from the San Francisco Road Runners Club won a prize in the swan hat contest at the evening’s festivities.

Saturday promises to be another eventful day, starting with the Race the Lakes 5K/10K in the morning.  I’ll have to see whether my herniated disc is up to a 5K race.  Based on recent days, I think that the Iron Bulldog is going to lace up his running shoes tomorrow and enjoy a 3.1 mile jaunt around the lakes of Lakeland.  It should be fun!

Keep climbing that mountain and have faith.

Mitchell Garner

Central Region Director
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