Meet the New Boss; Not the Same as the Old Boss?
Meet the New Boss; Not the Same as the Old Boss?
With seven years as a member of US Sailing's Olympic Sailing Committee, and double that as an industry insider, many see former Olympic hopeful Josh Adams as ideally qualified to take over leadership of the U.S. Olympic Sailing program. Others feel his appointment will perpetuate the philosophies that left the U.S. Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider without a medal in the 2012 Olympics.
What do you hope this panel comes away with, what recommendations are you looking for? Are you looking for sweeping changes, or tweaks? Are you looking for more athlete feedback? What do you hope is the biggest thing that you get out of this review?
It’s a great question. And there are two key areas that I’m really looking forward to hearing about. [One is] getting a real and complete understanding of our youth development process as it currently stands. There tends to be a lot of hand wringing in this country over the youth development process and for good reason, because in some ways it’s getting better, but in some ways there’s a disconnect between youth sailing and the Olympic path. And that’s something that I want to change, and something that needs to improve for long-term success. Another area is how we approach the performance side and how we prepare the members of US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider. This is where an independent panel can be really helpful. Many of the people on this panel have experienced past strategies, for developing sailors and classes. They come at it from both a sailing and a coaching perspective. We want to be able to combine the conclusions and the recommendations that the panel makes on the performance side of the program, with the debrief that we will get from the coaches following Weymouth.
Dean Brenner had your job for the past eight years. When the hubbub dies down, he will probably be remembered for a couple things, the first of which is raising a lot of money, and putting the U.S. Team back on par with some of the top teams in the world in terms of funding. The second is turning the job of leading the team into a full-time job. I think history will look favorably on what he’s done. How do you leave your stamp on this team?
I would like to have people look back on U.S. Olympic Sailing on my watch, and have it be known as the period in which we developed sustainable performance. And created a system that allowed us to continually develop sailors’ classes. I think at the end of the day, that’s what I’d like us to achieve, which is sustainable performance; and an effective long-term youth development strategy.
Okay. That’s pretty succinct there.
And just to elaborate, whenever I talk about the performance side of U.S. Olympic Sailing, it really includes all aspects of the program. It includes a huge youth development component; it includes everything we’re doing on the revenue side, because at the end of the day our sponsors and our donors need to be on board with our performance strategy, and they need to support it. Those will be our two areas of focus, and hopefully that is what the program will be remembered for, while I was on my watch.
And how much of that is dependent on money?
The funding side of Olympic Sailing is a huge part of it. We have great support from our sponsors, our donors, and the USOC, that we need to maintain, and we need to continue to grow. But I’ll also say that money is not the only answer. We have to make good decisions with the money that we raise.
As many people know, the U.S. made a big change this past quad, going with an international system of regattas, which is probably more in line with what most countries do, to select the Olympic team. Previously the U.S. had used a lone domestic regatta. I think it was the correct decision. If there is one thing about it, though, I would criticize, it’s the distance between the regattas, which required our athletes to peak basically three times in the space of 14 months, for two Trials regattas that were eight months apart [Skandia Sail For Gold in June 2011 and the ISAF Worlds in December 2011], and then the Olympics. What do you think of the Trials, and what changes might you implement there?
There’s a couple different ways of looking at that gap between Sail for Gold and Perth. On the positive side, it gave sailors time to develop equipment. They had time to look at new spars, and sails. So while they have to peak again, they also have time to develop, which we viewed as a positive. In general, our Trials process this time around was a huge step forward. We were the last country in the world to move to an international event series, and in the end, we picked a lot of the right sailors for the classes that were in Weymouth. Having said that, as part of this review process, we’re going to get a lot of feedback from sailors and coaches on the timing of it, on the structure of it, and all that information will make its way to the Olympic Sailing Committee, and we’ll quickly start to make plans for the Trial system for Rio. It’s a clean slate. We’ll look at everything. There are a lot of other unique Trials systems out there that we’ll look at and debate. At the end of the day, we’re going to stick to this general approach of using international events.