Early Preparation Improves Olympic Success
Published on November 14th, 2016
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
The success of any National Olympic program is dependent on talent and pressure. Every team needs experienced sailors, and every team needs depth to get the most out of each team member. The better job the program does at these two variables, the better chance they have at long term success.
The US Sailing Team (USST) is eager to return to a time when the county was a dominant threat on the Olympic stage, but that goal is dependent on talent and pressure. There was a time when the US had both, but international programs have raised the bar. The only answer for the US is to take that step too.
Previously, the US could have its best sailors focus on school sailing through college, and then support the transition into an Olympic class after graduation. Now, any person who follows that path is a longshot to get to the Olympics, let alone win a medal. Significant preparation must occur before the campaign begins.
This doesn’t mean that US sailors can’t go to college. Quite the contrary, as that is not the decision international sailors are making. School sailing is the decision, not school.
The difference between the US and the international sailing community is the emphasis in the states on institutional-style doublehanded boats during the teen and school years. While this style of racing in the US fosters participation and small course skills, it falls short in providing the technical skills needed at the Olympic level.
The solution in the US has been the Olympic Development Program (ODP), an initiative launched in January 2015 to help young sailors build complete skill sets in order to achieve success at the Olympic level. Molly Vandemoer, ODP Program Manager, shares this message to college-age sailors:
“Our goal at the ODP is to help sailors learn to campaign effectively, excel in their sailing, and eventually shine on the International stage. We are also very aware of the demands that college puts on the athletes. We want to give the sailors a realistic plan for the year that accommodates their studies, the college sailing season, and allows them to stay engaged in their Olympic Classes.
“The ODP is expanding our scope to be a more realistic aid to the athletes wanting to campaign. We are now helping those sailors transition from the Radial to the Laser, from the 29er to the 49erFX/49er, from the I420 to the 470, etc. And are working closely with the USST (US Sailing Team) to ensure the sailors in the Olympic Classes are prepared for International competition.
“We have a ‘College Circuit’ comprised of Winter and Summer events that will keep the athletes engaged with the ODP and USST. We have two camps at Oakcliff Sailing Center (Oyster Bay, NY) and a robust skiff schedule this summer.
“The first camp at Oakcliff is intended to be a refresher for those already in the Olympic Classes and a chance for those new to the boats to get in them and ensure it is a correct fit. Those sailors then log hours on their own over the summer. We see them at the second camp and HP Regatta at Oakcliff, as well as the listed skiff regattas. Over the winter timeframe we will have various camps and regattas.
“We encourage people to look at the 2017 ODP Schedule and check in to update us on their training plan.”