Is it the same or different?
Published on September 20th, 2022
When the US Sailing Team failed to medal at the London 2012 Olympics, it was a glaring outcome for a program that had silently been in decline. Better sailors were needed, but pregnancy takes 40 weeks and another 20 years for training. Turning the program around would take time.
While funding is often a scapegoat, the issues run deeper, and in this report by Bill Canfield, he wonders if other sports in decline can share notes:
Watching the 2022 US Open Tennis Championships reinforced that, like Sailing, this is another sport the US once dominated but now are barely competitive. It’s been 20 years since a US male won the American Championship and six without a US female rising to the top.
Even the last two US winners, Andy Roddick (2003) and Sloane Stephens (2017), were both less than dominate on the World stage and surprise victors.
Really, the only similarity between the two sports in America is they are both considered “Country Club” sports but this is not the case in most countries. They both are individual sports for the most part with no team involved, one is played with a ball the other with sophisticated equipment while tennis has a huge fan base and sailing other operates in almost a vacuum without spectators.
Other than the women’s sports of gymnastics and figure skating that have been glamorized by the Olympics, most other female athletes have operated on a secondary plane. However, the IOC has changed all that bringing equality and focus to all female sports.
The American females have fared well here through Title 9 legislation and are on the top in most sports including volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball, skiing, snowboards etc. You name it and we can put a competitive team together.
But neither tennis nor sailing have joined these sports with international success on the female side.
Whether male or female, it must go back to our youth programs. Are tennis and sailing making the same similar mistakes in their respective training and development while other US sports are keeping up with the best athletes in the world? Why are tennis and sailing seemingly alone in their loss of competitiveness?
Over the past decade many have expressed suggestions and solutions to our problems in both sports but nothing seems to work. Yes, there is far more government money in other countries but this is not effecting other US sports to their core.
Why just tennis and sailing? They are very dissimilar as games but very similar on their downward trend from once world dominance. Solutions must be out there but possibly the organizations behind both groups should join efforts in rebuilding both sports at the same time with similar strategies.
Editor’s note: Interestingly, the U.S. Hall of Fames for Tennis and Sailing are both in Newport, RI. Coincidence?