Erika Reineke: Opening the door

Published on January 23rd, 2020

In the absence of winning medals at the Olympic Games, interest in the US Sailing Team comes from our connection with the athletes. The more we know about them as a person and understand their experience, the more we become part of the experience.

Campaigning in the Olympic Laser Radial event, American Erika Reineke has become an exceptional example of an athlete that is expanding the awareness of Olympic Sailing in the USA. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck caught up with Erika for an update:

What’s motivated you to share your journey?

I want people to be better connected with me, to realize what it takes to run an Olympic campaign. It’s more than just sailing a bunch, getting the results, the fundraising, and all the media stuff that goes along with it, but what we’re actually doing.

I want to highlight the little moments away from the regattas that really make this commitment worthwhile. It could be a positive lesson or a hardship, but by providing this insight it helps the community better understand the people we are and the journey we’re on.

Is there a degree of courage or confidence needed to open that door?

I would say so. There are things in the past I probably wouldn’t have written about and maybe try to keep more internal, but now I see how these experiences I’ve endured would help others. I see how an important way to give back is to share what I’ve learned, even though it might be super hard for me at the time to write about, or perhaps worry about my self-image.

It would be easy to limit the information and not show people that I have weaknesses at these moments, but we all do, and it’s just a very real part of life. So yes, there’s some courage and confidence that goes into writing about it, but I also see how doing so is critical to my improvement process.

When I write about an issue, it allows me to organize my thoughts. Does that come to you too?

The newsletters I write, they’re almost therapeutic. Writing a regatta report after an event is more objective; it just checks the boxes with no real, natural content. But when I identify an incident away from the regatta, that’s when I can let my passion flow, open the door wider for the reader while better processing the experience internally. So yes, it’s very beneficial for me.

There aren’t too many examples of people offering real substance… perhaps it’s not easy to recognize what might be of interest.

There’s a disconnect as to whether people want to see the results or we think people want to see the results, or maybe they just want to know how the process is going. Especially if they’re donors, they want to make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing and love what you’re doing.

And they want to know when you’re struggling…

Yes, it is about maintaining the emotional connection.

You really opened up with that report after the 2019 Worlds.

That was a tough one.

And you do the Tuesday Tips. What got that going?

One of my past teammates, Briana Provancha, had the idea about doing it during her Rio 2016 campaign and she imagined how it could be a good way to give back. So she gets the credit, but I had to figure how to best execute the plan of putting some coaching out there online. I thought about doing a YouTube channel but decided it was going to be too much, deciding instead to do a short story, choosing a topic every week, and post it Tuesday on Instagram.

The feedback has been really, really good, with a lot of people messaging me about questions and asking me to go over topics. That’s where I get some of my ideas as it has become a really good online dialogue. I learn from them. They learn from me. They talk to me about what they have questions about, what they want featured. It’s been really cool for me to be a part of.

You make a good point in how your communication plan needs to be at a level that you can consistently deliver on.

Agreed, and I found it to be super easy to post every week on just a topic that either a sailor wanted or something that I’ve learned that week at a training camp.

Let’s switch gears. I’m going to say a city that you’ve competed in, and you’re going to say what comes to mind that is not regatta-related. Here we go:

• Hyeres, France: “Great seafood in the South of France. Loved it. I ate fish almost every meal.”
• Palma, Spain: “I love the sangria in Palma. At the end of the event, I’m always excited to have a glass of sangria.”
• La Rochelle, France: “I love the biking. Cycling there is beautiful with really nice bike paths.”
• Aarhus, Denmark: “The architecture. It’s very modern and different, even where we launched in the marina had these huge triangular buildings.”
• Enoshima, Japan: “Definitely the surfing. They have set surf hours, something like 5-9am and 5-8pm, and that is the only time you can surf, so at those times everyone’s out surfing, and the beaches are packed.”
• Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: “Oh, gosh. The tacos. I love the tacos. I mean, that’s so stereotypical because it’s Mexico, but they really do have good street tacos. I love fish tacos, so I went with the fish tacos.”
• Porto, Portugal: “The waves were absolutely massive. Even just standing on the beach, the waves were bigger than anything I’ve ever seen.”

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