Reshaping the Olympic Pathway

Published on January 15th, 2014

By Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing
In Scuttlebutt #3998, the Editor draws a comparison between recent participation numbers in Australian youth events versus U.S. youth events. He wrote, “perhaps there is hope” regarding the recent U.S. youth participation and its potential correlation to Olympic success. We’d like to assure the Scuttlebutt audience that there is more than hope. There is a plan.

Youth participation is just one factor in the long-term development of Olympic sailing talent. We face our own conquerable challenges with Olympic talent development in the U.S., many of which are addressed in the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program’s Vision 2024 Plan. V2024 was released in May 2013, with the following mission: create sustainable performance and reshape the U.S. Olympic pathways.

The following are three of the key elements at the core of developing Olympic sailing talent in our country.

1. The Boats. Youth sailors build their sailing skills in a variety of ways, often getting started in the Opti, C420, high school, Open Bic, etc. Step 2 is high-performance boats, a critical stage that needs to become easier to reach and sustain for U.S. sailors. The U.S. Olympic Sailing Program endorses six Olympic Development Classes at this critical junction in a young sailor’s development: Laser, Laser Radial, 29er, I420, F16, T293. With the exception of the Laser full rig and T293, Olympic Dev boats are the equipment sailed at the Youth World Championships. Young sailors, take note, the Youth Worlds is the ultimate goal for sailors under 19. If you are training for the Youth Worlds, you are already on the Olympic Pathway.

2. The Schedule. Starting in 2013, the US Sailing Youth Championships now features all Youth Worlds boats, plus the C420 and Laser full rig. Through collaboration between the Youth Champs Committee and the Olympic Program, the Youths have been reinstated as a Youth Worlds qualifier (in years that are favorable to the calendar). This year we added a second event to create a Youth Worlds Team qualifier series. The second qualifier regattas, all based in Florida this winter, have positively impacted the healthy participation numbers at Orange Bowl. These events also earn qualifying sailors an automatic invite to the 2014 Youth Champs, providing incentive for the sailors who may not be in the running to make the Youth Worlds Team. As a result of all this, a circuit has been formed in short order for young sailors competing in high-performance boats, and in some classes this involves the kids racing against adults (we believe a positive trend for sailing in this country).

3. Key Partners. It will require a national effort to accomplish the long-term mission of reshaping the U.S. Olympic Pathways. That is why we feel it is imperative to work within the existing frameworks of youth sailing. There are a lot of good things happening – at racing clinics like CISA and Brooke E. Gonzalez, at the Youth Champs, within the Olympic Development Classes, at Coconut Grove Sailing Club every winter.

Though we have a very long way to go, we are optimistic about early progress with many of our partnerships. College sailing coaches, for example, are starting to work closely with US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider coaches, an effort led by High Performance Director Charlie McKee. In some cases, an Olympic coach regularly collaborates with the coach of a young college athlete who is balancing college and Olympic sailing. And Youth Development Director Leandro Spina is working with a host of partners around the country – including the top national clinics and Oakcliff Sailing, a US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider Training Center – to get more young sailors in high performance boats.

For many young sailors, knowing the next step is half the challenge. And to the Editor’s original point, the right boats (high performance) + participation are key building blocks to a country’s Olympic sailing pipeline. If you know of a young sailor with big plans for his/her sailing, click here to get them started on an Olympic Pathway.

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