Improving youth training to improve Olympic prospects

Published on March 17th, 2015

After the US Olympic Sailing Team failed to win any medals at the 2012 London Games, there has been a heightened energy to assess needs and rectify the program. But no manner of organizational adjustments at the US Olympic team level can change the fact that US youth sailors are not adequately prepared when they decide to take on the challenge of Olympic-type competition.

After the 2012 Olympics, a shortage of qualified contenders continues to plague the US team, and the outlook for medals at the 2016 Rio Games depends now on if progress can be made within a few of the classes. However, the long view may be improving toward the 2020 Games, with this announcement released by the US Team…

Portsmouth, RI (March 17, 2015) – Following an unprecedented $5 million donation by the AmericaOne Foundation, US Sailing has begun implementing a new-look Olympic Development Program (ODP), guided by its Project Pipeline strategic initiative. Starting in March 2015, promising American youth sailors will begin to receive world-class coaching support from the program in high-performance classes.

“With the help of AmericaOne and other generous donors, we are excited to launch a completely revamped Olympic Development Program here in the US, and provide significantly improved training to youth athletes looking to increase their high-performance skills,” said Josh Adams, Managing Director of US Olympic Sailing.

“We need to help driven youth sailors transition into high-performance boats, provide them with clear pathways in the sport of sailing and get them the best possible coaching,” Adams continued. “Through the ODP, we will give dedicated youth athletes in the US a level of support that was previously unattainable. The ODP will strive to establish a culture of excellence with the highest standards while serving as the top level of youth training in the US.”

Working in conjunction with the major American youth sailing institutions, classes and events already in place, the ODP will help guide the way for motivated sailors who are ready and looking to successfully transition from important skill-building classes like the Optimist, Sabot, Techno 293 and Club 420 and into high-performance classes to better prepare them for Olympic-type competition.

High-Performance Outreach

US Sailing Youth Development Director Leandro Spina (Miami, Fla.) and Youth Development Program Manager Richard Feeny (Bristol, R.I.), as well as other ODP performance staff, have already begun attending major youth regattas and clinics. Other events with an ODP presence in 2015 will include Laser Radial and 29er Midwinters East and West, Class National Championships, US Sailing junior championships, and high-level clinics, among others.

While at these events, ODP representatives will be connecting with athletes, coaches and parents. Their goal will be to provide recommendations on how youth sailors can pursue their high-performance goals as they get older and move into new racing classes. They will also share how sailors can participate in the ODP. Those just starting on their journey in the sport will get guidance on what they can do to improve, and what their next steps should be if the Olympics is their goal. To see which events ODP staff will visit in 2015, look at the 2015 ODP Master Schedule.

World-Class Training Camps
Many of the events attended by ODP representatives will also be used to help identify athletes with the talent, potential, and drive to get the most out of newly organized ODP Training Camps. These camps, funded by US Sailing, will bring together top youth talent with some of the best coaches and technical experts in the world. Multiple camps will be held each year, primarily in 29er and Laser Radial classes, as well as the other types of boats that compete at the US Youth Sailing Championship and the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships. Participation in ODP Training Camps will be determined by invitation. Interested sailors will be continually evaluated throughout the year based on set criteria, and rosters will evolve, as participation in one ODP camp does not guarantee a spot at the next camp.

A selection team made up of ODP staff will invite sailors to ODP Camps, using the following selection criteria:

* Desire and commitment
* Age
* Results at Evaluation Regattas (listed on the OPD Major Event Schedule)
* Demonstrated potential via rate of improvement
* Fitness and athleticism
* “Coachability”
* Willingness to follow a training plan
* Physical size

For questions regarding ODP Training Camps, contact Youth Development Program Manager Richard Feeny.

Travel Teams For Major Events
Based on performance and progress made at major regattas and ODP Training Camps, a US Sailing Youth Travel Team will be selected for the 29er World Championship and the Laser Radial Youth World Championship. Athlete selection will typically occur about 8-12 weeks before the event. Travel Team members will operate as a unified group at these class world championships, working with an ODP-provided coaching staff.

Following a similar approach to ODP Training Camps, no further commitments are promised to Travel Team sailors after the target regattas are completed. Over time there will be a free flow of sailors into and out of ODP Training Camps and US Sailing Youth Travel Teams based on talent, desire, attitude, and performance. The selection committee responsible for managing athlete invitations to the ODP Training Camps and Travel Teams includes the following US Sailing staff:

* Youth Development Director Leandro Spina
* Youth Development Program Manager Richard Feeny
* US Sailing Team Sperry High Performance Director Charlie McKee

For questions regarding US Sailing Youth Travel Teams, contact Youth Development Director Leandro Spina.

US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami

Supporting The Youth Worlds Team
Forming a key part of the Olympic Development Program will be the US Sailing ISAF Youth Worlds Team. The Youth Worlds Team roster will be announced following qualification at the US Youth Sailing Championship. Multiple Youth Worlds Team training camps will be scheduled each year, supported by ODP coaches. An individual plan for each sailor or team will be clearly mapped out in collaboration with the staff, taking into account school constraints, training opportunities, and other factors. In many cases other athletes who did not earn Youth Worlds Team selection will be involved in the camps as training partners, offering a valuable opportunity to work as a team towards the World Championship podium while receiving expert coaching. Now supported by US Sailing’s resurgent Olympic Development Program, the ISAF Youth Worlds Team will receive an unprecedented level of assistance and preparation.

New Philosophy
In keeping with US Sailing’s Project Pipeline strategy, the new-look ODP will include invitation-only elements. However, a key aspect of the program is the ongoing dialogue between ODP staff and dedicated athletes. Throughout the year, youth sailors will have multiple opportunities to gain access to ODP-organized training.

“Invitations to ODP camps and travel teams are simply an invitation to attend a single event,” said Charlie McKee, High Performance Director. “There will be no ‘anointed ones.’ There will be an ongoing flow of kids into and out of these training opportunities, and sometimes that will involve sailors shifting between classes. Not all top sailors will attend all of the camps, and school schedules and other commitments will require flexibility. ODP camps will be high-level, process-oriented learning environments with significant educational resources provided by US Sailing. Commitment and progression will need to be shown to merit continued participation and the same applies to the Travel Teams.”

Additional details.

Source: Will Ricketson, Olympic Communications Manager, US Sailing

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