The Long View May 2024

by TC Lane, USTA Chief Operating Officer

Thankful for Our 60

USTA directors shoulder the load of advancing our industry, but they shouldn’t have to do it alone

The smoke has now cleared from the 2024 USTA Board of Directors meeting. And, from the standpoint of a USTA staffer heavily involved in assembling and executing the event, I now feel prepared to share with you the successes from the annual three-day affair.

There were many highlights, such as the board continuing to make funds available for the industry’s broadcasting initiative and increasing the amount of support for our county fair matching program from $20,000 to $30,000. Additionally, the board will continue its support of the Standardbred Transition Program, which commits $5 for each transfer of every horse and since its inception has surpassed over $100,000 each year towards aftercare.

This is all in addition to the deep dive into the 32 rule change proposals on the docket for this session, plus the exploration into the possibility of the acceptance of frozen embryos and the practice of intracytoplasmic sperm injection—all major topics for the board to consider, to say the least.


Much to the chagrin of the naysayers within our industry, we made a substantial amount of progress in Columbus. As a person who routinely and admittedly follows the random chatter on social media, I have continued to notice many “social media gurus” referencing the size of the board as “just one of the many problems” that our industry is currently facing. One of the key takeaways from the meeting this year is quite the opposite. Yet again, I left the meeting with a feeling that, once more, I am thankful for our collection of 60 directors.

For a group that meets in full assembly only once a year, it might appear from the outside that the task at hand is daunting and unwieldy. But, once you’re inside the circle, you will soon realize that it isn’t sizable at all. Debates surrounding industry issues can become lively and lengthy, but at the end of the three-day event, racing is rewarded in some fashion from those in-depth discussions. In that regard, the size of the board is more of an asset than a liability. Personally, I feel that, with a smaller handful of individuals, the ability to represent the masses would be much less. As a result, our members may suffer from a reduction of our board. The cross-section of representatives that is spread throughout the country provides a much larger perspective that strongly represents our now 20,000 members—a number that has increased over the last handful of years, I must add.


Why am I making the size of the USTA a topic for this piece? Because the board of directors represents you! As a member of District 1 myself, they represent me, too! I am bringing it to your attention since involvement was one of many crucial items of interest discussed by the USTA Executive Committee. Membership engagement at the local level is of utmost importance not only to USTA President Russell Williams, but also to the entire board of directors.

Each and every USTA member is personally invited each year to attend their district meeting. There, you have the opportunity to share your feedback on a host of relevant topics, including upcoming rule change proposals and issues specific to your state and region. Lastly, the directors present at these meetings provide you with instant access and are there to answer any of the questions or concerns that you may have. The intent is to then take your feedback to the national stage in March for a much larger discussion.

The problem, the way I see it, is and continues to be that our members are not showing up when invited to do so. On 13 separate occasions in 2023, USTA members were invited to their respective district meetings via email, in addition to website and social media blasts and, in some cases, direct mail. Despite our outreach, only 234 members from the 20,143—just 1.2 percent of all USTA members—attended their district meetings. From the three districts with the highest membership numbers—District 1 (Ohio), with 3,426; District 2 (Indiana and Michigan), with 3,111; and District 7 (Pennsylvania), with 1,897—only a combined 57 people attended their district meetings, a dismal 0.67 percent of their total membership.

To say that 98.8 percent of our membership chose to not be a part of the discussion or actively participate in any form is simply problematic and somewhat irresponsible. As a result, President Williams has created a task force of directors and staff to work toward increasing involvement moving forward. Shortly, the schedule for the upcoming round of district meetings will be updated, so please make sure you bookmark

In conclusion, many of you may have probably stumbled upon the message, “Everybody wants to be a lion until it comes time to do what lions have to do.” By not engaging in important dialogue, you have chosen to sit back and not provide any feedback to your representatives. In turn, we then tend to become upset with the decisions of our leaders. On that cool weekend in Columbus this past March, I can safely say that, as a proud member of the USTA, your lions were in place and they were working for you, despite your absence.


TC Lane


The views contained in this column are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the USTA. To comment on this column, email us at




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