Working harder than everybody else

Published on November 2nd, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Ed Adams will formally be inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame on November 5 in Newport, RI. It is a deserved honor and recognition for his many accomplishments as competitor and coach.

I haven’t always liked Ed, but not for any defendable reason. It was the early 1980s, our rivalry was in the Snipe Class, and he was east coast while I was west coast. We were more casual in our approach while he was militant. He wasn’t the life of the party, he just wanted to win, and his work ethic was annoying.

However, I saw another side of him during the 1985 SORC. We were on different boats, and on a layday I found myself joining him for a discovery tour. The latest and greatest of IOR race boats were available, and he was curious. I watched as he unabashedly hopped from boat to boat, lifting and looking at all the details. He saw what I didn’t, and I was fascinated by the education.

Kids, if you think you are going to excel in this sport by competing against people your own age, you are wrong. You’ve been lied to. You need to explore different boats and find people older than you, better than you, and different than you, to improve. I was lucky to grow up during a time when this was normal, and Ed enhanced my education.

Many years later, at the 2011 Etchells Worlds, he coached our team to victory. His presence stabilized us, he provided and secured our direction, and his confidence made us confident. When he noticed changes in personality, he spoke to us. His steadiness helped us win with a race to spare.

So I have come full circle with Ed, and enjoyed his response to an interview question in Sailing World when asked, Were we better off in the era where people were teaching themselves, as you did, rather than relying on coaches, as happens so often today? His response…

I think some of the skills we developed before we had coaches were perhaps a little better, but it obviously makes for a longer learning period. I have some strong opinions about junior coaching. I think our whole junior process, where the kids are parent-driven—parents are trying to get their kids into exclusive colleges and hire coaches who tell the kids what to do instead of how to do it, or how to figure things out for themselves—too often leaves us with kids who lack self-motivation.

And at the pro level, self-motivated people are the ones who succeed, not necessarily those who were parent-motivated. So, to answer your question another way, accepted junior coaching practices, when parent-driven, are not good for our Olympic and pro-sailing development. Coaches need to guide kids carefully, teach them how to problem-solve—it’s a tricky process, but this push to get kids into college rather than make them better problem-solvers is not helpful.

Also, kids who don’t come from much money don’t get as many opportunities as many of the kids who are parent-driven. There are a lot of stories of kids who didn’t come from wealthy backgrounds who are self-motivated and achieve great things. And I think there are more of them out there that we don’t know about because the results and subsequent opportunities are so dominated by parent-driven kids.

Victor Diaz de Leon, from Venezuela, comes to mind. He went to St. Mary’s. He was a second-stringer on the team, had to learn to speak English, and when he graduated, spent his time crewing for good people. Over the last year, he’s become the top pro-level tactician in the keelboat fleet, just by working harder than everybody else.

For complete interview, click here.

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