A peek behind the curtain
I managed to be in SCCA for decades without so much as investigating – or even thinking about – how SCCA worked at a national level, let alone consider how to participate in its governance.
For once, I’m not referencing the critical need to get involved at the Region-level, rather I’m talking about how to drive change (or continuity) on a national basis; think about big topics such as: why do we have so many classes with few entrants? Why is my class getting consolidated? These mandated parts are nearly impossible to find, how do we upgrade to parts from this century? Is a roll bar, roll cage or nothing required in this class? Should this driver/steward/official have his event participation privileges revoked? Not easy answers when dealing with a national audience.
If you think the SCCA National Board of Directors (BOD) decides all of these big issues, you’re only partially correct. Once elected to the BOD, I was able to walk the exalted hallway (at Kansas City Airport Hilton) of BOD meetings, I was able to peak behind the curtain of power and I found … a mirror! What?! There’s regular SCCA members and fellow racers sitting on these committees?!? I mean, where are smoke-filled rooms, double martini power lunches, squinty eyed fat guys and imperious women of high office deciding the fate of my max camber and treadwear rating on my “street” tires?
Wow. Who knew the National BOD works on strategy and broad issues impacting the Club, while the actual rules making is done by the broader membership through Volunteer Committees? I had no idea who, what, or how anyone got on the Club Racing Board (CRB), Solo Event Board (SEB), Road Rally Board (RRB), or any of their Advisory (or Ad hoc) Committees (AC). I never thought about Volunteer Committees and their specialized AC’s (e.g., Spec Miata has a SMAC). As it turns out, the BOD these days, tries very hard to stick to broader issues impacting the Club versus second-guessing CRB, SEB, RRB, etc. recommendations. That’s not to say the BOD doesn’t return recommendations requesting greater clarity or consideration, but we are many years past since the BOD spent it’s time arguing sway bar diameters.
So, how do you get involved on a committee? First, you need to be subject matter expert (SME); just bear in mind, we don’t need – or want – the guy who has laser-focused concern on making his car more competitive. You don’t need to have been racing or prepping cars for 15 years, but you probably need to have been racing sufficiently long that you are known and respected by your racing peers. Typically, you’ll have experience at the highest level of competition (Runoffs, Solo National Championship), but it’s not a mandate. If you feel you are qualified, reach out to current member on the Committees or AC’s in which you’re interested and tell them that you want to get involved, possibly joining the Committee. Once you know you’d like to join a Committee, it’s best to submit your racing resume prior to an opening, as succession planning normally has a year or more head start.
The following are some brief snapshots of the experiences some Committee members from this area:
Derrick Ambrose is on the B-Spec AC, which he helped co-found at a Touring Committee meeting. Derrick found the “understanding of the rules changing process and working on making balanced changes with data instead of subjective driver input” to be real positive. His only negative experience was when a CRB liaison attempted to influence a decision against hard data. Derrick recommends every driver would benefit from serving on a committee, as it “gives a better understanding of how the system works for rules” and the related discussions that impact each class.
Ryan Otis on the STAC (Street Touring Advisory Committee); he was approached by a SEB member who let me know there was an opening on the committee and encouraged him to submit a resume.
Ryan believes the most important thing about being on a committee is the involvement in the rule making process and the awareness that “you are there to serve the membership, not your own personal interests.” Self-awareness also is an important personal attribute for success on a committee: “nearly any topic will invite different opinions, so the ability to communicate clearly and respectfully is key.”
Sean Hedrick is a member of the Spec Miata AC, have been recruited by Todd Butler and others. The positives he’s found are the “ability to help guide the class into the future … continue making it better,” which includes closing unintended GCR loopholes. As SMAC gelled, discussions have become more focused. SMAC has manufacturer involvement, as “Mazda is extremely supportive of the SMAC.” Sean has found challenges and benefits from “different communication styles and personalities … on and around our committee.” Minuses being on an AC revolve around broader membership communication: “no matter what we do, it will upset some people.” Being on a committee may require thick skin, as internet “experts” do not let their lack of facts impact their occasional eagerness to “publicly state what we are doing wrong.”
Jeff Zurschmeide, a one-time chair of the Production AC, was recruited into the position by others on the committee. Jeff gained in-depth insight on both the rules and the rule-making process. The downside to being on a committee was the “incessant lobbying” by those wanting “an easy walk to a championship.” Overall, Jeff found his time on the committee as a very positive experience, building strong friendships, and giving him deeper insights into the way SCCA works [to which I’ll add] and how sausage is made!
Potential candidates generally want to know how much time they would be committing. There’s no hard and fast rule, as it greatly depends on the Committee and the magnitude and nature of the topics at hand. A caveat: it can be incredibly frustrating on some Committees and energizing on others. If you are a fist pounder, with ears serving as much function as an early Fox body side scoop, you won’t get far. When you are selected to be part of a Committee made up of your racing peers, who willingly dedicate their time and energy to make SCCA racing better – it can be a very positive thing for both the Club and you.
Good Luck & Good Racing!
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By Jeff Zurschmeide
Area 13 Director,