Don W. LockeI enjoy watching track and field competitions. I recognize the level of skill required for each of the events, but I am particularly impressed with what it takes to field a winning relay team. Each member of the team must possess certain skills and perform certain assignments to enable the team to be successful. The critical component for success, however, is the preparation for and the actual passing and receiving of the baton between members of the team.

This activity must be completed multiple times during the course of the race. Three team members must be prepared to receive the baton, two must both receive and pass the baton, and one has the task of making the initial baton pass. A single misstep or lapse of concentration can cause the baton to be dropped or bobbled, and the results are usually disastrous, no matter how large a lead the team has built. All the preparation and effort quickly evaporates into “what might have been.” Thoughts abound among the teammates concerning what each could have done to optimize the performance of the team as a whole. Could each runner have applied greater concentration to his or her responsibilities? How could each have better prepared to pass or receive the baton?

It is hard for me to conceive that my tenure as president of the American Counseling Association will close at the end of this month. I am just learning how to accept my assignment to “lead from the middle,” which I discussed in my very first president’s message to you. What once seemed like plenty of time to “take care of the business of the association” is now fading, and I face the task of taking inventory of what has been accomplished during the past several months. As I start this review, I realize that I am privileged to “carry the baton” for but a single lap in this venture. It is apparent that the passing of the baton to the next runner/leader is highly critical.

I had the good fortune to receive an excellent handoff from Marcheta Evans to start my tenure. Marcheta is one of those rare colleagues who can inspire you and force you to think beyond boundaries. I also have come to realize that part of Marcheta’s success was due to the manner in which she received the baton from Lynn Linde. Lynn is thoughtful and experienced and has provided mentorship for both Marcheta and me as we focused on the needs of our association. It is now my responsibility to ensure that the transition to Brad Erford goes smoothly, thus enabling the association to maintain its current pace and continue making positive strides.

This year has marked our 60th as an association. We have had the opportunity to reflect on the remarkable progress the profession and the association have made over that span. We have reached the 50,000-plus mark in membership, reflecting a 10.4 percent gain for the year. We have focused on membership services and increased the use of technology and social media to keep each member informed. We have made an effort to enable branches to develop leadership and encouraged membership participation at all levels in our association. We have begun work on revising our ethics code and have taken a stand relative to the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. We are working to secure employment for professional counselors in a variety of venues. We have advocated for professional unity and taken opportunities to sit at the table with our fellow mental health professionals.

I am going to stop writing now and focus on passing the baton to Brad. Thanks for allowing me to serve as your president, and be assured that I am currently preparing for whatever will be required by the next team with which I have the opportunity to serve.