McGuire directs athletes toward gold

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Aron McGuire’s parents involved him in sports as a way to direct his exuberant energy as a child growing up. His constant movement would prove beneficial. McGuire would travel the world both as a director of USA Track & Field, and as an elite bobsledder with hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games. He has since settled down. Today, the 40-year-old director of the Olympic Training Center lives in Colorado Springs with his fiancée, Emily, and 5-week-old daughter Kira. McGuire spoke with the Business Journal this week about his role in branding Colorado Springs as America’s Olympic City, as well as supporting its athletes in their quest for greatness.

Tell us about your background.

I’m from Ohio and have been involved in sports since I was about 4. I was always an active child. My parents said I spent more time in the air than on the ground. … I went to the University of Akron, where I got my undergraduate degree in secondary education. … There, I competed in decathlon for the track and field team and, through other athletes, heard about bobsledding. … There are a lot of athletes who had transitioned from track and field to bobsled and, of course, I’d done my research and watched “Cool Runnings” multiple times. … I had an opportunity to train with Team USA in Lake Placid, N.Y. … and I qualified for the team and was able to travel all over the world to compete — Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Canada. … But, unfortunately, I didn’t qualify for the 2006 Games [in Turin, Italy].

How did you end up in Colorado Springs?

In 2006, I was hired by USA Track & Field, which is headquartered in Indianapolis. I was associate director and coordinated registration for events, housing and food for the athletes, their travel accommodations … I also managed coaches and medical staff and helped organize events for everything from youth to elite- and Olympic-level teams. … It was also while in Indiana that I received my MBA, which provided me with the knowledge and a well-rounded perspective as to how all those pieces fit with operating a business. [The MBA] gave me the experience and confidence to apply for and receive the position of director at the Olympic Training Center here in Colorado Springs. I started in this position in 2013.

And what are your responsibilities as director?

The Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center has two primary responsibilities in its oversight of OTC programs — to help American athletes achieve sustained competitive excellence and to ensure our resources are used effectively to that end. I oversee operations, training venues, athlete dining, facility management, budgets and strategic planning for the center. We have venues for athletes training in fencing, gymnastics, volleyball, judo, basketball, modern pentathlon, shooting, swimming, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling. The center also has capabilities for sports medicine and strength and conditioning, and has sport science facilities, as well as an athlete center with a dining hall and multiple residence halls. The center is able to provide housing, dining, training facilities, recreational facilities and other services for more than 515 athletes and coaches at one time and we host up to 15,000 athletes each year.

What are some recent projects you’ve worked on?

The cover on the velodrome [at Memorial Park] is a big one. Colorado is beautiful, but we do have winter, which can make it difficult to train when it’s cold and wet out. The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Cycling teamed up to place a seasonal dome at the track. … Currently, including community programs, the velodrome is used about 600 hours a year. With the cover in place, we hope to add an additional 400 hours. That would include Olympic training, but also programs on learning how to ride the velodrome, as well as athlete training and community races.

You have an MBA, which means you could work in a lot of industries. Is this more fun because it involves sports?

You know, at the end of the day you still have to make sure everything gets done, from a business standpoint. You have to pay the bills and make sure the lights are on and everything is running smoothly. … But it is satisfying to me when an athlete does well to know we were part of the bigger picture and played a role, however small that part may be. And I also feel it if an athlete loses, I know what that’s like because I’ve been there. … I guess I would say those things maybe make the job more meaningful, but sports have just been something I’ve always been passionate about.

What does it mean to have the Olympic brand here?

I think it’s huge. Indianapolis, at one time, was branding itself as the amateur sports capital in the U.S. … They focused on growing their sports industry and now they have several national governing bodies, in addition to the Colts, the Pacers, the Indy 500 … In Colorado Springs, being the country’s Olympic City creates an extremely strong brand for the region and, along with the U.S. Olympic Museum, the governing bodies here and the sports culture overall, can have a huge economic impact. It’s an identity I think young professionals can be attracted to. I think young professionals look for cities with identities — Indianapolis and sports, Nashville and music. They’ll stay because of that.

What is your favorite sport and what sport would you like to try?

My favorite sports would have to be track and field and bobsled, obviously. I spent so much time with both of those. If I could try any sport, it would have to be pentathlon. There’s so much to it. … It really requires you to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and it forces you to adapt. Plus, how great would it be to ride a horse, jump off and fence?