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Terence Ma, Former VP of USA Water Polo, Displays on Management

In unraveling how USA Water Polo’s present management—together with Board Chair Michael Graff and CEO Christopher Ramsey—have dominated U.S. polo for the previous 15 years, the thread results in Terence Ma. Second in command to former USAWP President Wealthy Foster, Ma was bounced out of the group in 2007 and has not been concerned with American water polo since.

In a wide-ranging interview with Swimming World, Ma says this was not by alternative. He describes being a faithful volunteer who spent 1000’s on journey and lodging to meet his duties as USAWP vice-president at a time (2001-06) when the group was a fraction of its present measurement. He helped draft a brand new set of bylaws on the urging of the US Olympic Committee—not as a result of USAWP was in dire want of a makeover, however attributable to a drive by the USOC emigrate nationwide governing our bodies [NGB] for particular person Olympic sports activities from volunteer-run organizations to professionally-managed entities.

Terence Ma

Ma particulars that time period limits within the reformed USAWP had been meant to be two quads (eight years)—a restriction that Graff and his board have circumvented. When he finishes his fourth quad this coming June, Graff may have served so lengthy attributable to an extension in 2012 and modification of the USAWP bylaws in 2017.

Now an IT skilled within the Northeast, Ma has stayed out of the disputes which have roiled the group since final October, when the Orange County Register reported that Ramsey and Cristy Sicard, Senior Director, Membership & SafeSport Compliance, had been named as defendants in a civil lawsuit in opposition to Bahram Hojreh. Not like quite a few outstanding coaches, former nationwide group athletes and USAWP members who’ve criticized management for its actions in regard to Hojreh, a former age group coach in SoCal accused of a number of counts of sexual abuse in opposition to former gamers, Ma has a unique grievance. Ultimately month’s USAWP Normal Meeting, the group’s biannual gathering of board members, senior leaders and regional officers, each Ma and former USAWP President Wealthy Foster consider that their efforts within the earlier a part of this century had been unfairly—and inaccurately—criticized by Graff.

[Water Polo Olympians Start Petition Demanding Removal of USA Water Polo CEO, Board Chairman]

It’s not the primary time Foster has felt this fashion however, as Ma particulars beneath, issues have gotten private. In accusing his predecessors of self-dealing, conflicts of curiosity and leaving the mum or dad group closely in debt—and by not acknowledging their contributions—Graff could have unnecessarily poked a hornets’ nest simply as his tenure is ending.


– What’s difficult to understand is why USAWP management—together with you and Wealthy Foster, the USAWP president—determined in 2006 to rewrite the group’s by-laws, create a brand new construction and transition to a completely new board.

After I first began with USA Water Polo and acquired extra concerned, it was basically a volunteer group. Our skilled workers was the chief director and a few folks in an workplace serving to him. At the moment, Bruce Wigo was the chief director. After I turned vp, Bruce and Wealthy Foster had a falling out, and Bruce determined to step down.

By the best way, in these days, Wealthy’s place was president. We didn’t have a md. It was a president, a vp, a secretary and a treasurer—these had been the 4 elected positions.

Bruce was an worker of the group. Basically everybody else was a volunteer. He had just a few individuals who labored for him. Below Wealthy’s administration we arrange the workplace in Colorado Springs. That’s the place we had a small workers—I believe there have been three folks in that workplace. Bruce was based mostly primarily in Florida.

Bruce “retired” [in 2003] so we employed Tom Seitz, via a course of that Wealthy ran, to be the subsequent government director.

After a yr, it was clear that Seitz was not understanding. Two of us, Al Frowiss, then Zone Chair for San Diego, and I had been dispatched by the chief committee to terminate Seitz. This befell on March 8, 2006. Since we didn’t have a termination for trigger in Seitz’s contract, we needed to pay him for the remainder of the quad. Angie Birchler was the Assistant Director of USA Water Polo based mostly in Colorado Springs.

Throughout this, a lot of which Wealthy ran, we went via a course of to rewrite the bylaws as mandated in 2005 by the USOC. So, we held off in opposition to hiring a brand new government director, particularly because it was coming proper earlier than the USWP Meeting the place the brand new bylaws had been to be adopted.

Below Wealthy, we had gotten Los Alamitos as a nationwide coaching heart. Previous to that we had by no means had a nationwide coaching heart. Numerous the nationwide coaching befell within the Newport Excessive College pool as a result of Invoice Barnett and long-time group supervisor, Barbara Kalbus, ran every part out of the Newport Seaside pool.

We determined that we would have liked to have a extra formalized coaching heart, in order that’s why we acquired the one in Los Alamitos. We raised cash and did so much for that.

– How did the USOC get entangled in altering the construction of USA Water Polo?

The USOC mandated sure modifications to all governing our bodies in 2005, not simply water polo. My reminiscence is that we had been complimented by the USOC for being the primary group to take them up on the problem to vary to a extra professionally-based construction. On the 2006 Annual Assembly, I chaired the Board of Delegates assembly which handed the brand new bylaws. I ran that assembly—and wrote myself out of a job.


My disappointment needed to do with the truth that within the conventional course of, I might in all probability have been elected president for the subsequent cycle. I used to be trying ahead to going to the Olympics as a result of that might have been my solely shot at going. Earlier than that, at my very own expense I had already been to all types of senior and junior water polo world championships, Pan American championships, and swimming world championships as a consultant of water polo. I had gone to world college video games at my very own expense.

I hosted FINA video games—I organized and hosted a global event on behalf of the U.S. males’s water polo group in Hong Kong. I had already executed lots of these issues as vice-president and I hoped to go to the Olympics as the subsequent president of USA Water Polo. But it surely didn’t occur. We modified bylaws and I used to be out of a job.

– Bryan Weaver and Mike Scofield had been recognized as members of the transition committee which migrated USAWP to a brand new board construction.

As a part of the transition, Foster chosen Russ Hafferkamp to chair the committee to assist populate the brand new board. I really useful Bryan Weaver, who had been very a lot concerned with masters [water polo] to be a part of the method. I don’t keep in mind all of the folks on the Committee. Initially, the previous Govt Council (Foster, Ma, Kurt Krumpholz, and Alan Cima) was proposed because the Nominating Committee for the brand new board, however we modified that because of the notion of a battle of curiosity.

Mike Schofield had been Chair of Zone One for ages. And, as coach for [the] Navy males’s group, he was a part of the cut up that occurred when the CWPA shaped and all that triggered between Bruce and Wealthy. Mike would have an excellent perspective as a result of he was in Zone One and possibly knew Mike Graff from earlier than. However, I haven’t spoken to Mike Schofield in years.

The final secretary was Barbara Kalbus?

No, the final secretary was Kurt Krumpholz—the daddy [of J.W. Krumpholz, silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics] And the treasurer was Alan Cima.

– What do you consider Graff, Ramsey and the job they’ve executed because you left?

Let me again you up right here. The very first thing is, I don’t know Mike Graff, I don’t know Chris Ramsey. I’ve by no means met both of them. I’ve by no means even talked with them—I used to be by no means in a position to get via to both of them. My solely animosity in the direction of them is that they by no means returned any of my telephone calls or communications.


USAWP Unrestricted Funds. Graphic Courtesy: USA Water Polo

Secondly, based mostly on the graph of the expansion of this group that was proven on the final annual assembly, which is the one one I’ve attended for the reason that one I chaired in 2006, what I’ve seen is outstanding.

Quantity three, now that I’ve had extra expertise on this planet and have run a medical college, I can inform you that we had been a bunch of volunteers who dug into our personal pockets for every part. To run issues we would have liked to go to a extra skilled mannequin.

What’s vital, after we [rewrote] the bylaws, one factor we had been very involved about—I don’t have the previous bylaws in entrance of me, they’re saved away someplace—we completely didn’t desire a chairman who can be chair for an extended time period. We thought that the mannequin we had earlier than, which was presidents that had a max of two quads. was a wonderful concept.

That was the mannequin we had been —for the volunteer aspect. For the skilled aspect we needed to have individuals who had been solidly, we thought that we would have liked to have a real workplace, however I don’t keep in mind how we had been going to construction that.

Let me get to some specifics.

USAWP_Revenue_2019 2

USAWP Monetary Information 1988 – 2019. Desk Courtesy: USA Water Polo

In each slide that was proven on the current annual assembly, it confirmed us having a deficit of $600,000 in 2006 for the group. I’ve no clue the place that $600,000 deficit got here from. Essentially the most I keep in mind is having a deficit of, is 100 thousand {dollars} and that was couple of years previous to that. Alan Cima, the then-treasurer, would have a greater reminiscence of this. I wasn’t on any committee that handled the cash aspect. Our monetary construction was satisfactory and adequate that we had been in a position to help each a males’s group and a girls’s group; the ladies solely acquired began in time for the 2000 Olympics, which was beneath our watch.

The nationwide coaching heart was beneath our watch, and we had been in a position to make issues work.

The subsequent factor is that, once I was an officer, we by no means acquired a suspension letter from the USOC. Now, if it was hidden by Wealthy, I don’t know. However he says he by no means noticed one. I do keep in mind seeing a letter from the USOC, complimenting us on taking the method of fixing the bylaws. They had been complimentary to us for having hosted the FINA [World League Super] finals in Lengthy Seaside, a few different main occasions and our participation on this planet league.

In my reminiscence every part wasn’t nice however we had been rising and doing higher and higher yearly. However we would have liked a extra skilled group to help the NGO.

– I’m not stunned there was an intent to make sure the board chair wouldn’t keep on so long as they favored. Which is actually what occurred. Graff favored the gig—he was definitely good at it—and was in a position to engineer his board and to a sure extent membership to perpetuate his personal place.

Which brings me to the query: why Mike Graff?

He was chosen by Russ Hafferkamp. I do not know how that occurred. My reminiscence is that he was CEO of a producing firm—the identify that comes up is Bombardier. Once you have a look at USA Water Polo on the time, we had been largely amateurs within the monetary world. It was clear we would have liked stable monetary backing and administration expertise. However California was significantly polarized. We had lots of robust people who thought of themselves skilled administration folks.

In my view now, as an skilled supervisor, I might not think about them as individuals who can be acceptable for such a group.


Russ Hafferkamp. Photograph Courtesy: Mark Constantini

There was at all times this stress between Northern California, Southern California and the remainder of the nation. And these had been all individuals who had been all concerned in water polo then and there. That’s why we constructed into the board of administrators the concept we’d have individuals who had not been concerned for at the least 15 years as members of the board.

I assume Russ took and ran with this as a result of Mike Graff was somebody who was an internationally identified administrator of a serious group who had been out of water polo for 15 – 20 years—and presumably impartial.

Mike was named, my place ended and I by no means had any extra communication from the group, so I couldn’t inform you what was behind all of that. I used to be instructed after we did the unique bylaws that I might be named to the board. One way or the other or different I used to be by no means named to the board and was dropped.

– I’ve learn the time period “unbiased director” and the way it’s meant to designate somebody not concerned with the game. Graff has referenced himself as such. It strikes me now as a misnomer however it was (apparently) right when he was elected.

One factor you talked about is that Wealthy Foster is livid about how he was characterised on the current meeting.

Let me arrange the background for you. Since 2006—or each time it was that we went out of workplace—I had not heard from or had been in a position to get in contact with Wealthy since then. Final December, Wealthy despatched me a LinkedIn message: We must always get collectively and discuss.

I despatched him a response; he stated he’d name the subsequent week. However I by no means heard from him. Due to your contacting me, and Liz Grimes contacting me via LinkedIn, I turned inquisitive about what’s occurring with USA Water Polo. I’m a life member and that’s the one means I’ve any hyperlink to USA Water Polo at this level.

I made a decision to register for and pay attention to the Normal Meeting that was broadcast. After listening to a part of Mike Graff discuss, I used to be steaming scorching. I used to be livid.

The subsequent day, or perhaps a day after that, Wealthy Foster known as me.  He instructed me he too was livid; he’s enthusiastic about suing. I stated to him: I agree! I’m livid too!

[A Moment of Truth at the USA Water Polo General Assembly?]

The feedback that made us indignant is that there was self-dealing. There wasn’t any self-dealing to my data. That there was graft; what graft? He was speaking about how we had been suspended by the USOC, we weren’t suspended by the USOC! The $600,000 deficit—that wasn’t beneath our watch. The letter from an accounting firm that [USAWP] was now not a going concern. That wasn’t beneath our watch—it wasn’t one thing that I ever noticed, and I noticed all that documentation.

All of that was alleged to [before Graff’s] coming in—and that might have been Wealthy Foster and me. I used to be livid about that. And Wealthy was too. I can solely converse for myself; I used to be not receiving an revenue and but I spent near $200,000 the ultimate two years of my administration at USA Water Polo simply on journey, resort prices and quite a lot of different [expenses]- automobile leases and different issues I used to be not reimbursed for.

– Do you look again on the group you left in 2006 and what you now know of USAWP and see that the modifications had been finally useful?

Simply to place in context, I grew up in Southern California, and once I left to school in 1976, since then I’ve lived in California two years—and that was eight years in the past. Apart from that, I’ve lived all throughout the nation.


Wealthy Foster. Photograph Courtesy: R. Foster

Throughout my time in water polo, [the sport] has at all times been California-centric. There have been spots within the nation just like the Northeast, Chicago, St. Louis and Florida that at all times had water polo. Texas has at all times had water polo, significantly within the Houston space. Boys’ water polo has at all times been there and has been robust for a really very long time. The Dallas Water Polo Membership has been very robust there for a very long time.

The Linehans have at all times been concerned. Jim Linehan Sr.—the daddy—was the secretary throughout my first time period as vice-president. He was secretary earlier than Kurt Krumpholz.

Our problem had at all times been easy methods to develop water polo exterior California. It’s at all times been troublesome, and a part of that’s how the CWPA got here to be. Once you have a look at our construction then, I’ll simply say we had been a volunteer group doing no matter it might to make issues occur. Below Wealthy’s management we did some issues to make [our operation] extra skilled—although I might argue that among the concept had been large successes, someplace horrible failures.

However at the least we began that course of.

The USOC mandating a unique construction to the group put us on the trail to be rather more skilled, and what I see of the supplies often crossing my electronic mail is that the group has grow to be [that].

We made Man Baker the Olympic lead for all our nationwide groups and he began the Olympic growth (ODP) pathway. Whereas we had been within the administration, we employed Ratko Rudic, the best-known water polo coach on this planet to be our males’s nationwide group coach. Issues didn’t work out with Ratko however he was the coach.

[Swimming World Presents “Lessons with the Legends: Water Polo Coach Ratko Rudic”]

We had desires of being an excellent group, however we didn’t have the mechanism or the help. I acknowledge now in hindsight we didn’t have the behind the scenes help to make it occur.


Ratko Rudic, Professional Recco’s coach. Photograph Courtesy: Professional Recco

What it appears to me is—from what I’m seeing of USA Water Polo—we now have that in place. That is from just a few passing glances, so I don’t comprehend it to be completely true.

What would have been concern to me is the dimensions of the board that [the organization] has now expanded to. You don’t get good choices from such a big board. Our board previously was too small and remoted. Our board was the 9 Zone Chairs and a few referees. That was mainly it. That wasn’t good both.

The skilled construction is vital and that has to underlie every part and make it work. From what little I’ve seen. USA Water Polo has made that work.

– To your level about an excellent group within the making, on the nationwide group stage it’s been half profitable; the ladies are spectacular whereas the boys stay a piece in progress.

The lads have been a piece in progress all alongside, with the one exception of the silver medal [in 2008] for which Wealthy Foster takes lots of credit score. The lads’s group has at all times been seventh and eighth, and even with Ratko Rudic, the perfect coach on this planet, we weren’t in a position to enhance very a lot.

It speaks to lots of issues we’ve been discussing, and what little dialogue I’ve heard sounds the identical. It’s a matter of the truth that our males and our kids aren’t taught or don’t develop up on water polo like they do in Europe.

– The animosity in the direction of Ramsey is each pronounced and fully private. He was previously a chief fundraiser for a serious New York Metropolis arts group—an important talent given the monetary challenges the group confronted when he arrived.

Does this animosity replicate the tribalism that has existed in American water polo for many years?

That I’ve no clue. What you relayed of a few of his pondering as to why that’s the case could very properly play into that. Keep in mind that 15 years in the past, if my reminiscence is right, our CEO and government director—who supposedly had the credentials as a result of he had been an athletic director—Tom Seitz—made barely $100,000.

Once you speak about somebody who’s making near $500,000, that’s more cash than folks assume it’s price in a volunteer group, significantly one the place one aspect is profitable and the opposite aspect is just not.

[On The Record with USA Water Polo’s Chris Ramsey: Present, Past, Future]

That Huntington Seaside versus Newport Seaside versus San Diego in California, significantly the [Olympic] Membership versus Central Valley versus East Coast versus everybody hates Florida… there’s a lot to that. And that was how the group was run when Wealthy and I had been in cost. Our job was to handle all that as volunteers.


Chris Ramsey. Photograph Courtesy: Artem Zinger

Now that we have now knowledgeable group that takes the ability base away, I can see that as a problem however for folks to get to the purpose the place it’s private? I don’t know if that’s sufficient of a proof.

I can relate to that as a result of I skilled that [in water polo]. I needed to mediate between Huntington Seaside and San Diego… while you say “Southern California” you don’t imply San Diego. They’re not Southern California! We needed to mediate between that. We put one of many youngest [age group] tournaments in St. Louis on a regular basis and everybody needed to journey—it was known as The Speedo Cup—to St. Louis. The California folks had been livid. “Why do we have now to journey to the Midwest? We’ve to tug our children out of college. Why can’t they simply come out right here? We’re all out right here and we’re at all times taking part in within the last rounds anyway…”

That’s the stuff we handled. We needed to handle that as a result of there have been particular person energy bases. Making a nationwide coaching heart was a part of our means of transferring away from being Newport Seaside-centric.

All of that performs collectively, and I believe that Chris Ramsey would definitely get lots of animosity as a result of having centralized authority throughout the skilled construction goes to remove from the ability bases. However making that private and hating the person himself and which means he’s a horrible individual? That appears to be a step too far.

And, he must be protected against that by his chairman and the volunteer board. That’s what the board is there for—to handle the politics.

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