I wanted to share my thoughts on this years SCCA National Convention and what I learned and what I set as goals for myself from the discussions I had. It is long, but please read if you can find the time in the day. We all know most of you are reading this in the bathroom anyway.
3 KYR Members, and myself, were able to attend the SCCA Convention this year to represent our region and grow our network. The convention this year had 270+ attendees from all over the US and 62 training sessions offered (thanks for the numbers Laura Harbour ) and it was 2 long days of training and networking.
My personal goals for the weekend were to learn as much as I could about SCCA track and road racing programs, make as many connections I could with National staff and near by region leadership so we can have the relationships we need when we need support, or to support other. Last, but not least, I wanted to take every opportunity I could to talk up the great work we do as a region and share our successes with anyone that would listen.
Friday started with a kickoff that covered the future of the SCCA and the direction the club would like to go. This was a theme throughout the event and I’ll hit on it more, but there is no shortage of competition in the motorsports activity space and the club needs to evolve to stay competitive.
My first session was on electronic communications which brought interesting viewpoints from many different regions from Arctic Alaska to Florida, 50 member regions to 4000 member regions. I learned several things in this many of which seem even more important for us right now. The discussion revolved around tools used and how and when emails, mailers, or social media should be used. Interesting that many regions use a pay service like Constant Contact to keep up with their members and potential members. This is something I’d like KYR to try and after talking with someone there I was able to get us an agreement, if we want, for the full service for only $14/month. This will let us open up our communcations and advertising to many new avenues, and I am really excited about the SMS text services it offers that our members can sign up for. The end of the session turned to discussions on social media and their uses. One point brought up is the difficulty in controlling the message and that many many regions have moved away from open Facebook groups due to trolling or spam or other issues. I am proud of our FB group, though, we have more members of our group than many regions 4 or 5 times our size. I see it as an asset for us, not a detriment, and I really want it to stay that way. We are adults, please do not use the social media platform to drive away members or potential members. I don’t want us becoming another SCCA region statistic on failed social media.
The next session I attended was on the Tire Rack Street Survival School, which we have helped to host in the past with the local BMWCCA, but I feel this is an area where we can step up and host our own schools, several a year, and we have the National Program manager right down the road in Scott Dobler II. There were a lot of success stories out there about TRSS opening up new venue opportunities for clubs. This week I am going to re-approach PJCS about hosting a TRSS and try to do the same on Knox to see if we can use TRSS to rebuild those relationships.
After the TRSS discussion I went to a session on recruiting volunteers and leaders. I found this one very interesting as we have a volunteer run organization and without them we would not have a club, let alone events. Bob Tunnell went into the importance of recruiting people who have this as a passion. I was blown away by the number of people in the SCCA across the country who have never even driven a race car, let alone actively race, but their passion is the people. Come for the cars, stay for the people. The second half of the presentation was on leadership skills, something I work on every day in my real life job and want to bring everything I can to this club. As the RE I see it as my job to clear the path for the people that are the experts to get things done, the great volunteers in our club that make our events happen. That was my takeaway, to use whatever connections I can create to tear down barriers.
Next was lunch and I was invited as RE to have lunch with the SCCA Board of Directors to discuss the big SCCA picture and also what impediments we see as regions. The first part of the conversation was centered on hiring a new President and CEO for the club. Then we started discussing our regional issues one of which was the support, or lack there of, provided by SCCA Nationals around the website, registration, timing and scoring, etc. Last year the SCCA set out to create a hub for all regions to essentially build off of their SCCA and also to automate registration (think SCCAs own MSR), payment, etc…but it all came to a stop when the past President resigned. One thing I learned is that we are very lucky to have the Webpage and people that know how to use it and MSR, that is an asset some regions do not have…and based on that conversation I would not count on any SCCA system coming any time soon. Finally, I had the chance to ask a question about standing up a track program and our competition and the conversation really turned into a discussion of competition out there. Many SCCA regions are having trouble now competing with NASA, WRL, Chump, Chin, etc for track days and indpendent groups like AutoX Inc, and AutoX Atlanta who hold SCCA style events outside of the SCCA umbrella. It is recognized by many of the directors that our current pricing structure just is not competitive in many markets. My takeaway is that we need to strive to evolve and stay on our game to be as competitive as possible as we are a non-profit competing in a for profit world. I made sure to talk to our GLDIV direct and all the near by regions who have road race programs and got their commitment that they will help in whatever way possible when we get to the point of hosting races at NCM…none of them were going to come up off any money, but we have a pool of experience stewards and officials we can reach into if necessary.
The next session I attended was on Succession Planning for club leadership, something that we as a club are very bad at…and so are many other clubs based on the participation in the session. Historically we do not have any succession planning at all, and that needs to change. Our current model is work people until they hate life and burn out and we never see them again. When Jamey McDaniel left, we had no assistant RE to take his place. When Brian Mason had to step down as Activities Director we had no backup and now Dave is wearing two hats. When Annie moved away,we had no back up for Secretary. In all these we were left scrambling and that needs to change. My takeaway here is that we need to start identifying people to fill the shoes of our current roles, if you’re interested please let any of us know. I do not plan to being RE forever, or even for another year and these leadership positions were not designed to be occupied for more than 3-4 years, at most. We need to keep people fresh and a deep bench is key.
After that discussion, I moved onto a discussion led by our former RE Jamey on hosting new types of Solo events. Many examples were given like mini match tours, mini pros, mirrorkhanas, rallyx scoring events, night events, test and tunes, etc. One thing I learned here is that we do a great job with our Test and Tunes, its amazing how many regions limit them to very small, serious only, racers or don’t have any at all. I brought up Dave’s great idea of the penalty box that we use and I think other regions will be seeing a lot more of that around. I’d really like us to try a chase event, or mirrorkhana this year, or a mini match tour if we have a 2 day weekend. Definitely things that we will discuss once we have a schedule of dates in place.
The final session of the day was the Solo Town Hall, its like arguing on the internet, except in person. A large portion of the conversation centered around the new Junior Karting program requirements that will be coming out later this year. The new program will have training requirements and also minimum safety features required for the karts. Once they are known and published I’ll make sure to let the FJ parents Shawn Lambert Chris Evans Russ Coleman know as we’ll need to identify and train new youth stewards and make sure everyone’s kart is up to the new safety standards. The rest of the discussion centered around the new ST ECU rules and Fast Track in general. The general consensus here is if you have any feelings about any changes make sure to write letters, the SEB generally gets very little feedback on any proposal. They also promised to attempt to publish more background information on any decisions they do make.
That was Day 1 and we finished the evening by attending a indoor karting event (electric karts, bleh) with several other regions and SCCA staff.
The next morning, bright and early, I had the honor of participating on the RE Panel. The panel had REs from every type and size of region. The morning session of the Panel started with the discussion on how do keep people engaged in the off season. The KYR GT6 league was a well received idea, some regions do indoor karting league with scoring and points and I think i’d like to see us try that next year. Another topic that came up was keeping people involved in the event and talking before and after, something I think we’re good at, but some clubs have issues with people racing and leaving….so I suggested everyone should start a dollar bets program. Nothing keeps people around like the possibility of shit talking. The first panel ended and the second panel began on a topic of interest to me and that is how do clubs handle solo and racing programs in one. The overwhelming response of the larger regions that do this is that you need to keep the programs (the leaders, the money, the books, etc..) separate. Lots of historical examples of one performing poorly and leading to the death of another and causing clubs to fail. I think this is important for us when we get a race program going that it be a stand alone entity from our solo program that way each group has autonomy over what they do, spend, etc. Let the decisions fall to those who know what they’re doing. I even think for our club that if we have a race program based in and out of Bowling Green and NCM with BG area members that would allow that program to be as successful as possible.
Finally, the panel ended with discussions around finances and sadly there are many regions in not great places, some without any sort of savings and as the SCCA club racing is losing participation some clubs are losing money and actually approached me about idea on hosting successful AutoX events. Many people were blown away that a region of ~250 members routinely puts on 100+ entrant autoX events. I also discussed the many other things we do to make money for the club, because even with successful autox events you make very little profit so the hosting events for others (LS Fest, Optima, etc…) and getting sponsorships was a big part of that discussion. It made me feel that we, as a club, are in a good position to dictate our own future.
The next session, led by Jamey, discussed the importance of engaging current and new members. This is a pivotal piece of our success and growth as a club as we have at any one event 30-40 new autox’ers and how we as a club treat them is everything in whether or not they return. I am committing to go out of my way at every event I am at to meet and greet every new person and offer any support I can. I would challenge the rest of the club to do the same, lets make everyone feel as welcome as possible, even if they are just there watching, or riding along, lets make everyone want to participate and come back.
There was a session on the SCCA Targa Event, and there will be another one next year and we hope to be a stop on it again. Keep an eye out for that as it was a huge success last year.
The final sessions I attended were on data acquisition and its role in the SCCA club racing program and SOLO tools offered by National office. Given our successful solo programs, many of the tools we are already using but a lot of feedback was given to national office to make these tools more user friendly, more interactive and online.
Finally, the event closed out with the Awards Ceremony and Hall of Fame induction. The highlight for me was Cindy Duncan winning the Solo Driver of the Year award and thanking those who lent a helping hand along the way including KYR members Stephen Lee and Nathan Steinke. The banquet is a humbling event, seeing people being awarded, or inducted, who have been active SCCA members and volunteers for 20, 30, 40 years. Many of these people give everything and ask for nothing in exchange, they are models for all of us.