US Military Endurance Sports

USMES Elite Program FAQs

By Marie Sanchez, 2017 USMES Director of Operations

Elite Program FAQ

What is the scope of the elite program?

The USMES “Elite” Sponsored Athlete Program supports men’s and women’s athletics that are more individual in nature, including and not limited to, triathlon, track cycling, mountain biking, women’s road cycling (for now), running and para-athletics. The program also supports an Elite Men’s Cycling team. Ultimately we want to support the highest level we realistically can within each discipline.  In some cases, we are looking to help transition, or “graduate” athletes to a level beyond what we can support if they desire to pursue a professional career.

What is the focus of the elite programs?

In short, the focus off all the programs is to help military athletes who have demonstrated the talent, motivation, focus and work ethic to compete on the national and international stage in endurance sports.  This program is primarily developmental in nature and it’s about helping give those athletes an opportunity to experience another level of competition they may not otherwise been able to, along with some education and mentorship along the way.  It also gives them an opportunity to experience the realities of a sponsor supported world.  The program is looking for athletes focused on progression and raising the bar for what they consider “success”.  If we are doing it right, athletes will see success through results on some weekends, and take a beating on others as they continue to lean forward and test themselves at higher levels.

How are they funded? And what level of support to they get?

The Elite Sponsored Athlete Program is funded entirely through contributions to USMES of either cash or product.  Athletes are provided clothing, product and in some cases equipment will be offered at a discounted rate for purchase. Additionally, a fixed cash reimbursement amount may be applied to travel and entry fees.  The program does not fully fund or fully support athletes.  The program is meant to “offset” or “supplement”, costs that athletes incur.

I see several of our elite team members going to Europe and racing abroad, why are we putting so many resources into supporting these athletes?

Elite program athletes receive a relatively modest fixed amount of funding for travel, entry reimbursement and gear that covers a portion of their annual racing expenses.  A few athletes are supported for travel or specific competition via other avenues, such as the DOD supported World Class Athlete Program for Army and Air Force, or USA Cycling national team programs.  In many cases, athletes use their own personal funding to travel to events beyond what USMES can support.  As evidenced by folks assuming that we are funding these athletes, publically they are still associated with USMES and USMES benefits greatly, as the club reaps the exposure benefits of them competing abroad in high visibility competition without funding them directly to attend.

Why isn’t there an elite women’s road cycling team?

There has not been enough consistent interest by Category 1 and 2 women to warrant standing up a full women’s road team as there is with a men’s.  However, women road cyclists who meet program requirements are highly encouraged to apply to the Elite Sponsored Athlete Program and to race solo.  If we start to see a ground swell of women committed to competing in elite national events, then we will look to add an elite women’s road program down the road.  Overall we would love to see more women in general apply from all disciplines.

Why don’t we have a “development” program below the elite level?

Semantics aside, we do!  The club has numerous support structures in place, from club purchase deals and team focus events to entry fee reimbursement that are equivalent to or better than what most age group and Cat 3-5 athletes would see on their own or through regional or local programs.  Instead of working to create another “program”, USMES has focused on, and will continue to focus on, making the club experience more robust and as beneficial as possible especially for those seeking to race frequently and aspire to higher levels.

What do you look for selectees and what advice do you have for aspiring elite team members?

3 things in particular: 1) First and foremost, focus on improving regardless of discipline, focus on moving up the ranks, improving your times and placings.  Results and performance tell a concise story.  2) Challenge yourself.  Get out of your comfort zone and your region.  The number 1 issue observed with potential elite athletes is they cherry pick results locally to pad their resume, become local rock stars, and never race out of their region or in national caliber events in order to validate.  When they do “move up”, they often get pummeled and have a tough time dealing with it.  I highly recommend athletes race above their head and in different areas on occasion as they move up to gain perspective and help them continue to raise the bar.  3) It’s not all about being fast.  While fast is a big factor, being a well-rounded individual that can represent themselves and the club is huge consideration when making team selections.

At the end of the day everyone needs to keep in mind, these are competitive programs, and there will always be more people applying then are selected.  If you aren’t selected, take the opportunity to speak with the director and find out what you need to do to increase your chances in the future.

What has changed for 2017?

Click here for the Elite Sponsored Athlete Program Application

For more information on the USMES Elite Athlete Programs, please contact membership@usmes.org.