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Bringing the best out of Barny

Published on April 17th, 2019

American Chris “Barny” Barnard has been focused on standing atop the Olympic podium since launching his first Olympic campaign after graduating from Georgetown University in 2013.

That mission took a massive step when he won the gold medal in the Men’s Laser Class at 2019 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar which drew a record 869 boats from 67 different nations to the Bay of Palma in Majorca, Spain.

Palma was the start of the European season for the Olympic events, and as it was Barnard’s first major title win, Scuttlebutt Editor Craig Leweck checked in with Barnard for an update.

How has your new coach impacted your competitiveness?

Last year, I had a bitter end to the season. So I really wanted to take my time and do my due diligence in finding my next coach. There were a lot of factors that went into that decision-making process. I leaned on Malcolm Page, Luther Carpenter, and a slew of other mentors for guidance.

For me, it came down to the idea of finding a coach who could work with my personality, could to turn my weaknesses into strengths, and understood the difference between winning regattas and winning races.

Ultimately, we came to an agreement to begin work with John Bertrand last fall. Our relationship is still very young, only a few months old, but he has brought a real transformation to my life, both on and off the water.

He has stepped up and brought a new level of professionalism to the program. He is helping massively with the fundraising, conducting in-depth analysis of my racing, and is really committing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to help me achieve my dreams.

John has a ton of experience and success, both as a sailor and as a coach. Those accomplishments make it easy to lean on him for insight.

We have worked a ton on tangible skills on the water like top-level upwind boat speed concepts, starting execution, and the term he coins as “tactical intelligence.” Off the water, he has heavily prioritized improving my mental skills by practicing things like mindfulness, visualization, and having presence.

We’ve been working hard on these skills. They have really helped me bring better focus to my day-to-day training and performance during events.

Another interesting part of the equation is that John and I both grew up as California kids. He understands what it’s like to grow up in that culture. He spent some time with my parents at their home earlier this year, as well as with my fiancé, Kate, and her parents.

I think that gave him a real insight into my personality and where I come from. The combination of all these things, from his experience and knowledge, to his commitment to me, my passion and my dreams, and his unique understanding of me as an individual and my values, will continue to help me grow as a sailor and bring the best out of me.

What have been the past hurdles that have kept you from victory?

There were definitely some weaknesses in my sailing that wouldn’t even allow me to play the game and compete at the top. Early on in my Olympic campaign years, things like fitness and big fleet racing concepts held me back. While I greatly improved in those aspects of the game, more specific weaknesses became apparent.

John and I have attacked these weaknesses head on. One major thing we’ve worked on are things like the highest levels of upwind boat speed, starting execution, and other concepts that I can rely on in all conditions.

For me, the biggest hurdle I’ve overcome recently has been the mental side of the game and how inconsistent that was. I’ve worked really hard in the last few months with John and my sports psychologist to work on my mindfulness, visualization, and self-belief.

Now, I have much more appreciation for sailing and life in general. I see what I do for a living and what I am trying to achieve as a great opportunity that comes from within, not as a pressure from outside.

That mindfulness and opportunistic perspective that comes from deep inside me and my goals put me in a stronger position to commit and enjoy what I am doing in each moment, every day, and the program as a whole. They’re very powerful things, skill I continue to practice, and will hopefully make my performance much more consistent from here forward.

You’ve been chasing Charlie Buckingham for a long time. What’s it like to finally get one on him?

Charlie and I have always had a healthy rivalry and friendship growing up together. I’m two years younger than him and we go way back from the kid’s beach of Newport Harbor Yacht Club, to Naples Sabot days, Newport Harbor High School, Georgetown University, and now in the Laser class.

Last quad, Charlie consistently had the upper hand on me and earned the spot for the Rio 2016 Olympics. This quad, I would say it’s much more even as we seem to “trade punches,” beating each other, one event to the next. Winning Palma was just another chapter of that rivalry.

However, for both of us, we have bigger goals and focuses than just trying to beat the other. We are both aiming to win medals every event we enter and ultimately at the Olympics. To each of us, the “other guy” is just another guy.

We are focused on becoming the best sailors we can be, and there are plenty of Australians, British, Kiwis, and others who couldn’t care less about our rivalry. Those on the top of the podium in Tokyo will have the last laugh.

Your Los Angeles Lakers are in turmoil. What would you do if you were in charge?

WOW WHAT A MESS! Now you are going to get me talking about stuff I REALLY care about!

Well obviously, Magic Johnson has stepped down from his role as President of Basketball Operations and now Coach Luke Walton has agreed to part ways. I’m sure as I’m talking to you something else will go down.

I don’t think anybody before this season wouldn’t have taken Lebron James in free agency. After this season, Lakers Nation is very split, and the Kobe Bryant faithful are loud and proud.

We had pretty bad luck with injuries last year, so I don’t want to overreact too much to that. But one thing for sure is that after Lebron’s injury, and after the hot pursuit and failure to trade for Anthony Davis, the culture within the locker room went very sour.

I don’t blame Magic, Rob Pelinka (Lakers GM), and Lebron for trying to make the trade happen, but unfortunately it backfired on them, and that leadership didn’t do much to help keep a strong culture and trust within that locker room.

Now the Lakers are in a real mess. From my understanding and research, if they aren’t able to sign an A-List free agent this summer, there isn’t much to look forward to. Their salary cap is really tied up and limits their trade options. Like some talking heads have commented, one of their best options is even trading Lebron to get younger and start over.

Like any organization, whether it’s the US Sailing Team or the Lakers, it starts with building a winning team culture from the top down. Hire the best replacement for Johnson who will grind daily for scouting, find a coach that the team can buy into and play hard for, build the right culture with strong leadership and everything will fall into place.

Hopefully all that will happen before Lebron gets too old.

The Simple Answer – Get a time machine and grab 2001 Kobe and Shaq Championship Team. Those were the days!

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