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Olympic Sailing Chairman Dean Brenner: Formula for Sailing Success

We’re now into our second year of the quadrennium, and the reality of the four-year Olympic cycle is that each year those who are serious about medaling at the Games in 2012 need to be a little bit sharper, a little bit better. Constant improvement is the name of the game in Olympic and Paralympic sailing. And as I sit here in February 2010, and look at our program, a couple of thoughts come to mind.

Dean Brenner_Credit Walter CooperFirst, we just completed US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR and our team did well. We’re all proud of how the team performed on the water, and I’m equally proud of some of the other noticeable improvements we are making with the program. It was obvious to me that the rest of the world is taking notice of the growing strength of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. I know it because I’m hearing about it from other coaches and team leaders. As I said to the Team at our Annual Meeting last month, “our plan is working.” The long-term plan to reinvigorate Olympic and Paralympic Sailing in the USA is clearly on track. There is no doubt in my mind, and the results last month in Miami were but the latest proof.

Second, as I look around at the athletes who have succeeded, and are succeeding at the Olympic and Paralympic level, I see a few common characteristics. And the best way to describe these characteristics is to recount a conversation I had recently with a good friend and former coach of mine, Ron Rosenberg. We were discussing what we have seen over the years from various sailors and we were trying to capture a way to articulate the formula for sailing success. And here is what we came up with:

High Performance = (Skill + Commitment) - Distraction
 
What I like about this is that it calls out two key variables in your potential success – skill AND commitment. Skill is great and in many ways is required in Olympic sailing. But it is not nearly enough. There are tons of great sailors who never get within sniffing distance of winning an Olympic medal. Only when some skill (and not always even the greatest skill!) is combined with serious commitment do we start see results to be proud of. Skill AND Commitment are required. I’m absolutely certain of it.
 
In addition, what I like about this little formula is that it is the combination of skill plus commitment, MINUS distractions that ultimately gets you to where you want to go. The teams or the athletes that can combine their sailing skill with their firm commitment, and who can then eliminate as many distractions as possible, are the ones who will consistently achieve good results.

This formula really captures what we are trying to do with our program. We are looking for skilled athletes, who are highly committed to the goal of winning medals, and then we work with them to help them eliminate as many distractions as possible. When we get all three variables in the correct proportion, I believe we’ll reach our overall goals.

It’s late February, in 2010, and the Games start in about 2.5 years. We have a lot of work to do, but I like what I see.

Sail fast,

Dean Brenner
February 25, 2010