Canadian Cyclist


October 13/98 11:57 am - an editorial

Posted by Editoress on 10/13/98

Time for a reality check.

The OCA MUST attract more members to continue.. period! The "racers" will not be able to afford to continue to race at the level they have become accustomed if this doesn't happen. The reality is that the CCA has its hand in for a larger piece of the take, the Ontario Gov't has started to clench its outstretched hand, and the price of putting on events has begun to escalate as all parks, recreation areas and such are needing more and more $ to keep going (Thanks to Uncle Mike Harris), resulting in upped charges to everyone who wishes to use their facilities. Most of the ski resorts are not ready or interested (and they will charge too!), and with the numbers of races being put on we will soon run out of variety. Hardwood is a great location with super facilities ... but overused. And I have not even touched on the expense of putting on a road race (Eh Curt?) or insurance costs.

So... the OCA must attract new blood, both in its executive and its members. The problem, as I see it, has been the sales pitch. You know - the ol' FEATURES and BENEFITS thing. Why, oh why, would a non-racer join the OCA? I'm not just talking tourists here. I'm talking about Joe Weekender. We all know these people. Have job, kids, maybe a house. They are not interested in the grind involved in regular racing, but love to ride with a bunch of buddies on a regular basis, and occasionally attend an enduro (tour). These people are not joining and do not know the benefits of belonging to the OCA. They should. And they will join if it is properly presented to them.

The perception is that there is no other reason to join the OCA unless you are a racer!! BIG PROBLEM. It is the Ontario CYCLING Association not the Ontario RACING Association. Many people will at this point bring up the Québec example, and rightly so, but this is not an example any other province has been able to follow because of the special Québec circumstances. The support of cycling amongst the general populace and the Tour de l'Isle allows for two organizations in Québec. Without the Tour there would not be enough support to have two organizations.

So, the question is: how does the OCA attract more members? The answer is that it needs to arrive at a plan to enlist all CURRENT members in recruitment. The best way to increase membership is to convince the converted that it is in their best interest to bring more members into the fold. The question then becomes - How do you get those members interested in recruiting? One answer is Incentives:

- A member who bring another new member into the fold get a reduction in his/her yearly fee.

- A tour operator who bring members in get a bonus of some sort.

- a shop that sells memberships to its customers gets ???

and so on. Hey, if it works for bookclubs, fitness clubs and Amway, why not cycling associations?

It is also time to retreat from the adversarial attitude between the Elite racers and others. What is the point here? Racing as we know it in Ontario today would not exist without the sheer numbers of Sport and Beginners participants. The Elite riders give us all something aspire to (a fantasy, if you like) and gives inspiration to all those hoping to achieve greater things. Most Sport riders (98%) will never rise above Sport, but then they are solely in it for the fun. Many of these people could move into volunteer positions with a minimum of support, assistance and encouragement. Elite riders' years of hard work and sacrifice could be recognized and they could be fostered into an invaluable resource with the correct incentives. Many of these people could be brought back into the organization as mentors if such a program were running.

This does not mean that current members will be neglected. But the current membership has gone sour on its leaders and does not see that their needs are being serviced. They attack anyone from their own ranks who has the nerve to raise their voice in support of change. This is an attitude that is deeply embedded and will take some work on the part of a new executive to overcome. One of the main obstacles to overcome will be convincing the long time members that they too will benefit from increased membership, as increased revenue will allow for the development of programs that they have been crying for.

You may think to yourself "She's dreaming!". Well, maybe I am. But it is from dreams (and hard work too!) that realities spring. As I see it now, the OCA is stalled. There is a lot of arguing and fighting going on that is NOT conducive to progress and is, in effect, chasing people away. Who wants to continue to live in a house where all you hear is bickering and fighting?

It is time for change . . . POSITIVE change.

To paraphrase: "Ask not what your Association can do for you, but rather what you can do for your Association." Some readers will say at this point: "why should I do anything for my Association?" Well, if you have to ask, then you just don't get it...

P.S. Almost everything that I have said would apply to other provincial associations as well.

Here is one final offer/suggestion - if the time and space can be found prior to the OCA AGM itself (4:30-7:30 pm, Saturday, November 21st), we would offer to moderate a 'live' Forum session.


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