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Tiger Shaw: Carving Out a Ski and Snowboard Pipeline

By: By Pam Baumeister

October 7, 2014

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), a privately funded national organization in Park City, is responsible for half of the world’s Olympic Winter Games and the preparation of hundreds of top-notch athletes who represent the United States. Tiger Shaw, former Olympian, entrepreneur, international businessman and long-time supporter of USSA, took the helm of the organization as president and CEO in March 2014.

What life skills did you gain as an athlete that have helped you as a business leader?

Perseverance with micro goals to build a successful outcome. Part of that is loving the process—whatever it is—to achieve the outcome. You won’t become a ski racer or snowboarder if you don’t love the practice. We all know athletes who try to take shortcuts or don’t practice much or think they’re gifted. Being gifted is a requirement, but commitment is an absolute necessity.

How does your work as an entrepreneur outside the sports world help the USSA?

I raised money to start a company, which parlays well into raising money for the philanthropy and development foundation at USSA. Starting a company and selling a product to people who had no idea what it was … and then sales at Global Rescue, the company I was most recently at, helped me create worldwide strategic partnerships and clients, which is also helpful because we represent an international sport.

The USSA’s goal of becoming the best in the world in both skiing and snowboarding was achieved in 2010 at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver when 21 medals were won. Where will you take USSA next?

“Best in the world” is quite true in some sports and some disciplines, and quite untrue in other sports and disciplines. The immediate goals are to remain where we are, defend the mountaintop and become best in the world where we are not. There’s tremendous room for growth. The best example could be that our best-in-the-world status in alpine is driven by our superstars. We do not, in all cases, have superstars in line behind them. Sometimes you have a pipeline problem. You can become successful if your top end is strong, but if you don’t have a pipeline that’s an opportunity that has been missed.

What are your plans for building a pipeline of successful athletes?

I’ve been working closely with my staff to identify the problems and to develop a strategy to fix it. But you won’t be able to judge me on the success of that for five years. You don’t grow a maple tree in a year.

What advice would you give an aspiring athlete who might be on the cusp of becoming an Olympian?

Devote yourself to practice and to self-improvement, but be happy with any outcome. Focus on the process—not the outcome. Set your goals; put your head down and go.

Where are your favorite places to ski?

The best snow on earth is in the Park City area and along the Wasatch Front. I also love Sun Valley. Ski racers are drawn to Sun Valley for the steep, groomed terrain.

For links to video of USSA members in action, check out the organization's YouTube Channel.

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