Oakcliff Helix: Mapping Olympic success

Published on December 3rd, 2020

Founded in 2010, Oakcliff began with the simple mission to raise the level of sailing in the United States. Located in Oyster Bay, New York, the facility has been particularly adept at presenting solutions to accomplish that goal. Their latest mission? Providing aspiring Olympians with a road map to the podium. Here’s their update:

For 10 years, Oakcliff has amassed the largest collection of Olympic class boats, awarding more than a million dollars in prize grants to Olympic campaigners and hopefuls through the Triple Crown series, training athletes who are now competing in The Ocean Race and the America’s Cup, and creating an academic program for aspiring champions with the USPA High Performance High School.

Now, Oakcliff has developed Oakcliff Helix, a cyclical training road map designed to guide sailors towards Olympic success in the most effective way possible and building the DNA of Champions.

To cut down on inefficiencies including wasted time and money, each rung of the Helix provides a step-by-step plan for sailors on their way to greatness. It starts at Exploration and Discovery and covers all the steps to prepare an athlete on their way to Olympic qualification. Every rung of the Helix has a plan for training, travel and events, goals for the sailor, factors to consider before moving to the next step, and cost estimates.

By outlining specific goals and budgets for the athletes at each level, the Helix makes sure no excess funds or effort are spent pushing athletes in the wrong areas of their development at the wrong times.

The Helix was developed from an extensive survey conducted by Oakcliff asking, “What makes a successful Olympian sailor?” Participants ranked traits associated with Olympians, from mental resilience to financial situation, as more or less important. A focus group followed.

“One thing that became abundantly clear in the focus group was that young sailors with Olympic dreams were faced with a fuzzy path lacking formal leadership, coaches with conflicting goals and a confusing mass of opportunities that all cost money with little result,” said Oakcliff Executive Director Dawn Riley. “Young sailors can’t dream if they don’t have a vision to aspire to.”

What the survey found was traits like independent wealth and competition on the international junior circuit proved less important than previously emphasized in the US Olympic program. It also identified a number of critical steps towards more success, including detailing a program like the Helix.

• To read the full outline of the Oakcliff Helix, click here.
• For the summary of survey result, click here.
• To contribute to the survey, click here.

Editor’s note: When you combine the nimbleness of Oakcliff with the determination of Dawn Riley, ideas become action and Oakcliff Helix is another example. Bravo!

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