Paul Cayard: Overcoming obstacles

Published on July 11th, 2022

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck recently met with Paul Cayard who was appointed in May 2021 to revitalize the U.S. Olympic Sailing program. Following Part 1 of the interview, here is Part 2:

What have you identified as an obstacle for the program?

One issue is that as the program got weaker, we abandoned the United States. Competition moved overseas, and that included the Olympic Trials, which undermines the motivation that we once had.

I remember in 1984 a young John Kostecki going to Long Beach for the Trials because it was an easy drive down from San Francisco, and that’s when he got bitten by the bug and said, “I’m going to focus on this,” and they went and got a silver medal.

Opportunities like that are really big which is what we’re trying to build back with the West Marine US Open Sailing Series. Having a circuit of races in the United States so these kids can go out in the ILCAs or the 29er and get exposed to the top-level athletes and be motivated to pursue the Olympics. So that’s one thing…

Is the USA trying too hard in the youth years to achieve success?

Wow, that’s a big cultural question. There’s people who say the helicopter moms and dads, whether they’re in soccer or in sailing, in the United States push kids too much for success, right, that there’s more to life than winning games but I think the key to that is to have an open mind.

Being super competitive is not for everybody, and it’s not a definition of being a great person or having a successful life. But there are people who are very competitive by nature, and they want to express that through sport. And those are the ones, the tip of the spear, that I’m operating in.

In the movie King Richard, there was a strong theme in which Richard Williams did not want to burn out his daughters Venus and Serena. Can you win a gold medal and not love sailing?

What I loved was competition. If I was taller, I would have played basketball. I would have loved to be a car racer. I just like to compete. It turns out that what I found my way to was sailing, and then I’ve learned to love the aspects of sailing that are amazing and unique. Some people might be driven by the love of sailing. Some people might be driven by the love of competition.

I suspect you have to love the experience and individually define that.

Agreed. Even me, when I was getting paid a lot of money in the America’s Cup, I was motivated way beyond any paycheck. I was motivated internally to go out and sail every day here in San Diego in 1992 and prepare our team. I loved going to work every day. I loved that I had to sail on Saturdays. And I loved being with my family on Sunday. But if we had to sail seven days a week, I probably would have loved that too.

Look for the final part of this interview.

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