Today is International Women’s Day, a day which honors women’s achievements while making a call for gender equality and inclusion. To celebrate this day, U.S. Figure Skating’s first female CEO Tracy Marek discusses making history, her future goals and her positive impressions of the sport within her first two months in the job.
What is the importance to you of being the organization’s first female CEO?
It is my honor to be the new CEO of U.S. Figure Skating. The figure skating community has been very welcoming and is constantly showcasing the incredible commitment and passion it has toward this remarkable sport. From a leadership perspective, representation matters. I have already been approached by a number of skaters, be it one of our up-and-coming athletes or members of our elite programs, to share their excitement of seeing a woman in this role, and asking to define time so they can give me feedback and ask questions about how they might follow in my footsteps to be a CEO in their future. I am energized by the opportunity to help share opportunities and insights and I recognize that our community of skaters are looking at me, so I plan to do everything I can to help encourage them and support their efforts by amplifying the work they are already doing to become the next generation of leaders.
What are you most proud of in your professional journey into this position?
I am most proud of my focus on authenticity and my desire to be myself at every turn. I have been very fortunate to have had incredible professional experiences that have brought me to this point with U.S. Figure Skating. It has been very important to me that I partner with an organization where I can have a positive professional impact focused on growth, but where I also know that I can be authentic and real.
To me, that means that I don’t have to aim to be the smartest person in the room just because of my title. I am very passionate about being part of a talented team, where the best idea or strategy can come from any number of people. With the strength and vision of our athletes, coaches, HQ team and vast volunteer partners, it has become very clear that we have a remarkable community that is very much driven by the ongoing growth and success of our sport. That shared community is very authentic and is the backbone of figure skating. This community has been very welcoming to me already, and I am confident that we will all be able to do some pretty special things together as a team.
If you could share one piece of advice for young women who want to be a CEO someday, what would it be?
My advice would be for all young women to build their network, gain exposure to a variety of people and a variety of roles, and to allow their natural curiosity to take the lead in their efforts to learn what might interest them as they begin to define the potential of their career. Your first job doesn’t have to represent everything that will happen for your future. Be open to a range of opportunities within your general field of interest so you can gain exposure to the kind of positions that you might not initially know even exist. Get to know the organizational culture (how does an organization develop and grow its team members … how does it “feel” to work somewhere … are you inspired or stagnant … this can sometimes matter even more than your actual role within the team). Pay attention to the leaders and the role players as each are equally important and can help you define the type of team player you would like to be. Overall, know that you CAN be a CEO and take the first step. I haven’t always had the confidence, but I was always willing to take the risk. Figure skating provides such an incredible foundation of work ethic, relationships, perspective and experiences, I believe it is a wonderful foundation for a new generation of leaders.
What are you most excited about in your first two months working at U.S. Figure Skating?
The people! The entire community has been so welcoming, and everyone is very excited to talk about ideas and opportunities to grow the sport. I have been wildly impressed by the overall commitment of the countless volunteers and people who give their time and expertise to bring figure skating to life. From skating club presidents to team leaders to officials, and everyone in between, the energy within the figure skating family is strong enough to power a small country, probably more! It became clear to me very quickly that figure skating has the history and future that it has because of the strong organization of volunteers who have worked hard to build this sport. I really respect and appreciate the work that is being done and look getting forward to working closely with this valuable team.
What are your initial goals in the job?
My current focus is to connect with the figure skating community and to listen, observe and learn as much as I can. I am lucky that I started with U.S. Figure Skating in January 2023. In such a short window, I have been able to attend so many of our major events, both on the national and world stage. I have been able to meet so many incredible people and hear ideas and insights directly from the people who have the greatest passion in the growth of our sport. I am coming from a professional sports background, so I will admit that I have a lot to learn about the figure skating and National Governing Body worlds. But I am also confident that my strong curiosity in learning about this organization will be a great asset and will help me maintain a very open mind to all thoughts and ideas. We have a lot to be proud of as a sport, and we also have a lot of great opportunity ahead. My goal right now is to listen, learn and observe as much as possible, and then to work with the figure skating community to drive alignment and help make sure that we work to build the future of our sport together.
Is there anything else you would like the figure skating membership to know about you?
I am a very proud “military brat” as the daughter of a career U.S. Air Force Officer. We moved many times when I was growing up, so I have learned to adapt well to change. My mother was a registered nurse, and really worked hard to help my sister and I gain great experiences no matter where we lived and how often we moved. I am not a skater … but I will be! I plan on signing up for our Learn to Skate USA® program just as soon as I get my house settled in Colorado Springs. I skated very casually as a child, but I am looking forward to benefitting from the strong programming and coaches who will show me how to skate the right way. I’m very excited!
Let’s end with a fun question. What are your hobbies outside of the office?
My husband Randy and I are the very proud puppy parents of a Westie named Poppy. She is amazing and, if you aren’t careful, I will talk about her for hours on end! We also love to travel, and have been to 45 different countries and six continents, including Antarctica. Our travel experience is something we are very proud of, but the figure skating community has us beat due to all of the international competitions and events. We’re looking forward to seeing where figure skating takes us around the world. But, most importantly, I am excited to gain new experiences and collaborate on innovative ideas as we all come together to define the future of our sport. This is going to be fun!