MR.CLEAN

Anyone Curious About the US Olympic Team? Ask The New Boss

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As many US Sailing Team fans will already have noted, two-time Aussie gold medal crew Malcolm Page was named new US Sailing Team Director today.

 

A college dinghy and team racer who came to the team after years as a magazine publisher, Adams was charged with what may have been an impossible task for someone with his experience level; to bring the US Team back from its dismal, zero-medal performance in London and make a real impression in Rio. Despite what seemed like a good plan for Brazil, the team's 2016 performance was only tolerable in comparison to the 2012 debacle, and something had to change for the next quad. To hear Josh's early plans in a 2014 interview with Mr. Clean, click here.

 

Fortunately, US Sailing finally did what we've been begging them for a decade - quit hiring your management consultant and magazine publishing pals from New England for this essential job, and find someone with a proven history of winning - even if you have to headhunt them from somewhere else.

 

Enter Mal Page, who aside from being the most decorated dinghy sailor in Aussie history, may be the only sailor to ever win a gold medal with two different skippers. Page walks away from one of the toughest jobs in sailing - Marketing Director for ISAF - to take on another extremely job, but one he's uniquely prepared for. We say this not because Page has led a big team to success; we say it because he was part of one of the winningest olympic sailing teams in modern history, and a very clever lad. Perhaps more importantly, he comes from a decade worth of training under the world's best olympic sailing coach - Victor "The Medal Maker" Kovalenko (pictured with Page, above). While it's too much to hope that Victor will defect to the USA as part of the deal (Kovalenko has famously turned down some huge international paydays to stick with his adopted homeland downunder), Page should have all the tools he needs to recreate the winning culture enjoyed by the US Sailing Team up until the past decade.

 

You guys always come up with the best questions, and I'll be speaking to Mal tomorrow morning for this week's SA Podcast. What do you want to know about the team, the plans for Tokyo 2020, about Malcolm in general, or whatever?

 

Post here.

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Seems the US focus on small boats is at HS and College sailing levels. How do we get those kids into real programs that are going to make them competitive in real boats (not rocking an FJ or C420 around the course)? We see a lot of the skiff guys going on to handle other boats (at much bigger levels) very well. How do we develop that culture here to allow those people to learn more and advance like other countries around the world? Great to get some new (not New England) blood into US Sailing - Best of luck!

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Great news for US sailors - but a loss to sailors everywhere under the WS admin. You'd have to guess Malcolm saw more potential in the new role. It makes WS look even weaker when talent walks away.

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How is his role really defined? As head coach, or primary face/fund raiser for the team?

 

What is his experience in raising money from corporate sponsors?

 

Does he plan to ask his Aussie mates who sail for Oracle if they will finally get some money for the US Sailing Team out of Larry Ellison? If not, why not?

 

Does he plan on building a bigger, deeper pool of talent for Olympic/high performance classes, and if so, how?

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Are you given free reign to implement your own strategy or will you have to follow suggestions from the knobs on the board?

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is that really it? Thomson had about 40 questions in a day when I ran that "Ask" thread. Christ is it always amazing to see just how little SA'ers (and frankly, everyone in the world) care about the sailing olympics. Did anyone ever care?

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is that really it? Thomson had about 40 questions in a day when I ran that "Ask" thread. Christ is it always amazing to see just how little SA'ers (and frankly, everyone in the world) care about the sailing olympics. Did anyone ever care?

 

There was a time when lypmix sailing was relevant, but that ended when all of the sport's funding was siphoned off to a few pampered elite. So today, lympix sailing is detrimental to the sport - some say it's an aspirational promotion for the sport - but as one who has seen it up close - I have a very different opinion.

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is that really it? Thomson had about 40 questions in a day when I ran that "Ask" thread. Christ is it always amazing to see just how little SA'ers (and frankly, everyone in the world) care about the sailing olympics. Did anyone ever care?

 

Nope.

 

Well, to be fair, I had a sailing buddy sail for India in the games in Greece. I paid attention to that one.

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its not that SA'ers dont care about olympic sailing, its just that at this point in the quad many people dont care about olympic sailing

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its not that SA'ers dont care about olympic sailing, its just that at this point in the quad many people dont care about olympic sailing

Thast ritte! Ist sicklacalle.

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we just pushed back our interview a day, as Mal is flying to Oz via the UK and Abu Dhabi...please get your questions in about the US Sailing team and Tokyo 2020...if anyone cares about American medals?

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we just pushed back our interview a day, as Mal is flying to Oz via the UK and Abu Dhabi...please get your questions in about the US Sailing team and Tokyo 2020...if anyone cares about American medals?

 

 

The lack of interest here ought to be the first indication to Malcolm that he has a very steep hill to climb in this country to raise money for the team.

 

His first challenge - how is he going to make people care enough about Olympic sailing to even want to compete, and/or give money/time to help those few who do want to compete.

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its not that SA'ers dont care about olympic sailing, its just that at this point in the quad many people dont care about olympic sailing

Thast ritte! Ist sicklacalle.

 

 

Maybe, but even during the Olympics there was very little chatter and even big olympic stories on the front page got a fraction of the views of the usual racing stories

 

we just pushed back our interview a day, as Mal is flying to Oz via the UK and Abu Dhabi...please get your questions in about the US Sailing team and Tokyo 2020...if anyone cares about American medals?

 

 

The lack of interest here ought to be the first indication to Malcolm that he has a very steep hill to climb in this country to raise money for the team.

 

His first challenge - how is he going to make people care enough about Olympic sailing to even want to compete, and/or give money/time to help those few who do want to compete.

 

Thanks Peter. Good question.

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How does he think the funding levels compare in the US Olympic Sailing program to Australia's, and if they are comparable, why are the results so different?

 

And speaking of sponsorship, what is his plan to energize not just corporate sponsors, but the individual sponsors who seem to have been the primary contributors to the program?

 

Is he concerned that he won't know those players as well and how to appeal to them since he hasn't spent as much time in the USA?

 

What does he think of the current US coaches and if money was no object, who would he bring in (other than Victor) to turn around the program?

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Christ is it always amazing to see just how little SA'ers (and frankly, everyone in the world) care about the sailing olympics. Did anyone ever care?

Oh yes, people care. Just not Americans, apparently.

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Mal,

 

How essential is government funding to the creation of a long term winning culture for an Olympic squad.

 

In the absence of that funding, what do you believe would work for an American environment where the teams are largely responsible for funding their lives, travel, equipment and training....

 

What were the keys to success for the Aussie olympic sailing team (is it Aussie culture, the support of Aussie Yachting, the local clubs,???) and how many cycles do you think it takes to get the development funnel created to build that winning culture?

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Christ is it always amazing to see just how little SA'ers (and frankly, everyone in the world) care about the sailing olympics. Did anyone ever care?

Oh yes, people care. Just not Americans, apparently.

 

 

 

If you go by the overall numbers olympic sailing is one of the least followed olympic sports of all, and the three countries that pay the most attention ain't big. UK overperforms all other nations by a fair bit...after that, it's the antipodes and then Holland and France (and BRA for this version), though the vast, vast majority of dutch or french people still could not tell you who, what boats, or how Olympic sailing works. In America, it's worse - only a tiny fraction of people know that sailing is an olympic sport!

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Junior talent is identified and those sailors compete at Youth champs and College coaches recruit at the Orange Bowl. Life in the US for families with the cash to support an elite athlete means "go to the best college that you get into" Almost all of these sailors go off to college to race 420s and lasers on short courses... The pipeline of sailors crashes to a handful of sailors even interested in competing at the international level.... more over... they have 4 years racing club 420s in 20 minute races and minimal experience in skiffs, multihulls or boards.

 

The mindset has been... Well.... we can take your motivated college all american and coach them up ... in 4 years they will be top 10 in the world in their class and in 8 years... medal contenders.

What is your plan to manage this mindset for US sailors. Can you develop medal winners starting campaigns post college?

 

The US system has sailors in club 420s and lasers until they are 22.... These rigs are not technical. How much of handicap is the US bias towards simple minded boats with few adjustments to be made? Is their time in college just a waste with respect to Olympic sailing.

 

The Adams program focused on individual mentoring of these juniors who expressed any interest by the US Sailing coaching staff...They are directed to camps and clinics as individuals. Parents (who pay the bills) are also isolated by this individual approach in the guiding and coaching the young talent. At the level of the pipeline.... How important are sheer numbers of sailors who can be organized into teams and get internal support from being on a team. Can you win, if your top sailors go to your olympic camps... 5 or 6 times a year before hitting the world cup circuit (or whatever its called today)

 

Do you think the pathway for a 17 year old junior sailor who is successful at optis, 420s and lasers...Is clearly spelled out in the US System... What structure will sustain a sailor and support the ups and downs for a 10 year journey? Just their Family?

 

Most parents could probably get the basics of how their junior would progress in one of the team ball sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer and the major schools are happy to play the role of minor league development for the big bucks of college athletics.... What parents certainly understand is FREE... as in free scholarship will get their kid the coaching to move up the ranks). They probably have an understanding how swimmers come through their swim clubs to the national teams. The michael Phelps mythology is well known. Again, college plays a significant role and again... FREE Scholarship gets you the coaching to improve. They get it that by 16 or so.... their kid stops paying for coaching and is recruited!

 

Sailing can get you some financial aid... but the coaching is for a different game then international sailing... What can be drawn from these other sport programs that would improve US Sailing outcomes? From the parents perspective today... junior sailing is that PLUS FACTOR on the kids resume that gets the kid into a competitive college.... No matter if the kid wants to continue racing there. The college training is not like getting trained at Duke in Basketball by the Olympic coach Mike K.

 

What is your evaluation of the current class coaches.... Do they have the leadership skills to enroll the US Yacht club and College programs in changing their programs to enable their sailors to actually obtain the coaching and water time on olympic boats to win at the international level.

 

College programs in sports have well known and celebrated elite programs. Would the US program be well served if you cut a deal with a school... Say Stanford and funded a squad of 49ners? and pick another school for N17s.. Even better one on each coast!

 

College sailors tap into their alumni network for support and recognition.... the atta boys' and girls come from individuals who are predisposed to support you because you all attend Yale and so on. The Olympic sailor wanna be.. Has no support structure, No PR machine.... They are virtually unknown by the amateurs in their class (or closely related recreational class) Is this PR network important in the big scheme of things in developing a winning program.

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A lot of the olympic classes are dog shit in the United States, for example the 470. Why not set up a team base in europe, in a centrally located spot with good breeze, and use that to coordinate training, have housing, place to store boats, etc?

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josh adams is quoted in a sail world exit interview as saying..

"These young American sailors are getting guidance and at a critical time in their development as sailors. That’s what the Olympic Development Program is all about."
The guidance is..

"an incredible opportunity to hear from the likes of Anna Tunnicliffe, and Luther Carpenter, and Charlie McKee, and Leandro Spina and talk about how to map out their Olympic pathway and specifically how to campaign, and how to train."

 

 

My question is REALLY! Do you think you can build a successful program for your sailing skills based on listening to seminars from ex competitors... Seems to me... that words... even really great words uttered at a branded US Sailing Development team training camp.... are not going to get it done on the water...

 

Hell... the cynic in me.... would ask... does the Josh Adams development program serve the paid coaches and consultants with cash and status more then delivering results on the water for a USA pipeline. What changes would you make?

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I don't think most american parents would be in favor of turning the US olympic team into something more like the GB team.

 

A while back - maybe when the olympics were in england.., i looked into the makeup of the teams.

 

the british team was pretty much entirely filled with sailors who never went to college (as we understand it in the USA), and probably never will...

 

many of the british sailors basically finished what we would consider high school, and then sailed full time. one or two went for a year to "colleges" that are really just a continuation of high school - not really considered "university" in britain. A few of them did go to "real" universities, but mostly they were in non-academic programs - "sports studies", and stuff like that. mostly the schools were not very good. I think i noted one or two exceptions - sailors who had gone to very good universities, and were doing academic or professional programs.

 

On the US team, things were very different - most of the sailors either were attending, or had graduated from, real 4-year institutions.., and most were doing actual academic programs. quite a few had been at really good universities - say ivy league, or equivalent in terms of competitiveness.

 

I think if you were to go to nearly any american yacht club and ask the parents of the top junior sailors, if they would want their kid to either forego college.., or delay it by say 8 years or so.., to pursue a possible olympic berth - they would say "no way".

 

So i think i am actually happy with some aspects of our olympic program - good students get a chance to represent the US in the olympics.., and then go on and have a productive professional life. sure - maybe they could get more funding for travel to regattas and so on.., but i really don't want to see a team made up of kids who forgo college and a professional career for an uncertain life as a pro sailor.

 

maybe they don't win a lot of medals.., but who cares?

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I don't think most american parents would be in favor of turning the US olympic team into something more like the GB team.

 

A while back - maybe when the olympics were in england.., i looked into the makeup of the teams.

 

the british team was pretty much entirely filled with sailors who never went to college (as we understand it in the USA), and probably never will...

 

many of the british sailors basically finished what we would consider high school, and then sailed full time. one or two went for a year to "colleges" that are really just a continuation of high school - not really considered "university" in britain. A few of them did go to "real" universities, but mostly they were in non-academic programs - "sports studies", and stuff like that. mostly the schools were not very good. I think i noted one or two exceptions - sailors who had gone to very good universities, and were doing academic or professional programs.

 

On the US team, things were very different - most of the sailors either were attending, or had graduated from, real 4-year institutions.., and most were doing actual academic programs. quite a few had been at really good universities - say ivy league, or equivalent in terms of competitiveness.

 

I think if you were to go to nearly any american yacht club and ask the parents of the top junior sailors, if they would want their kid to either forego college.., or delay it by say 8 years or so.., to pursue a possible olympic berth - they would say "no way".

 

So i think i am actually happy with some aspects of our olympic program - good students get a chance to represent the US in the olympics.., and then go on and have a productive professional life. sure - maybe they could get more funding for travel to regattas and so on.., but i really don't want to see a team made up of kids who forgo college and a professional career for an uncertain life as a pro sailor.

 

maybe they don't win a lot of medals.., but who cares?

Actually "who cares" are those people that make money from the team. Managers, coaches, marketing ect. No medals. No job. Sailors pay to be product these people sell.

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Clean, here is a few questions you can ask.

 

"You position also oversees the the now defunct Paralympic Team. With outlooks on sailing being included back into the Para Games, Will you fire the US Disabled Sailing Coach and look for someone who can really help the disabled sailors in the US?"

 

"Will you work to get the stupid classification system fixed?"

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Clean,

Good interview with Mal.

 

It would be interesting if you could have a follow-up chat with him in a set time frame... like 3, 6 or 12 months from now. Just to see what progress has been made...

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Good interview Clean!

 

Great follow up question to his point about the sea change the US team is facing... namely a shift from

control at the athlete level to the now critical one of control at the coach driven/national level. (sailor Athletes choose everything.. ... coach, events , training, individual coach, etc rather then the team coach/national authority which runs the team and dictates coaching, events, training etc etc)

 

Your question about the US culture being at odds with this direction was spot on.

Mal replied, that he lived through this change... in 2K.... it was all about his results and as he matured, he got the need for team work and this yielded the two golds on his resume.. (A great answer showing insight into what matters and how he will make the case)

 

The US leadership has been pontificating/preaching about teamwork for 20 years and you pointed out that once again.... something important was missing in Rio. So.... Mal will have a challenge preaching the gospel to the current and upcoming members and perhaps coaches. . Effecting a culture change of this magnitude is enormous and when it counters the US sporting mindset... this is a huge challenge. Glad that he recognizes this and he pointed out that his challenge is the first 100 days of the quad with the senior team. He knows what he is doing and has the cred to make it count! (Woman's gymnastics may be an appropriate model to follow!)

 

He also gets the funding catch 22. You pointed out that currently, the us sailor is competing for cash in addition to slots.... which makes the team vibe an issue. His point is that this is true and that winning is important to get the elite team on board. His strategy is forming and getting buy in from all of the stake holders in a scalable plan. So that what ever the funding level... the program will make progress. I look forward to hearing his fundamental plan in a few months.

 

Beyond the funding issue... he gets the critical role of elite world class coaching and is thrilled that he has one of the top three he ID'd , Luther Carpentor is on board. He also points out the need to ID and promote the next generation of elite COACHES who will make the difference for the entire pipeline. I get the sense that he really knows what to look for in finding talent at the coaching level.

 

 

I think he extended major props to Josh Adams who organized the first ever Olympic coaches speaking to Colegiate coaches about best practices etc recently in miami. I think he saw real value in that initiative and will build on it going forward. It will take him some time to figure out the us college stranglehold on college sailing/sailor/parent goals...He made a good point that the US college system worked in the glory days... the bar is just much much higher now. He will know much more in a year and has scheduled meetings with Josh Adams, and several others around the country in the next few montsh... Josh had a similar goal that hadn't really worked out and so Mal doesn't know what he doesn't know yet.. . Hopefully he can thread the needle with regards to scheduling olympic development members cross training with college sailing.

 

 

The other key point he saw was the need for communication to the existing competitive sailing community in the US. As he pointed out... if you can't reach us.... then it's not going to happen for the non sailing general public. Your point about the general enthusiasm of the SA community for olympic sailing is quite low...and borders on absolute HATE for the olympic movement for many (just see the crap the Aussies are dishing out on their world cup event in Australia). So this is a challenge that communication strategies may not touch.

 

You asked about superstars.... aka Ben Ainslee for the Brits and wondered... who the US poster boy could be? He agrees that superstar marketing is an important part of the communication strategy going forward... So. stay tuned!

 

Here's another question for you and Mal..... How do you market Bora G to the existing sailors in H16s, F18s and A class's plus the Mothies and now the pro sailing world of sailors interested in the TP52 program that he is helming for Quantum.. What do you do in marketing him or having some outreach so that rank and file sailors in classes that SHOULD care about his success actually pay attention to his progress over the quad and root for him? Hopefully, you can build from there to the rest of the competitive sailing community. This sounds like basic sports marketing... I wonder if he will direct a focus on individuals marketing to the competitive sailing world?

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Thanks guys. I will FOR SURE be speaking with Mal again soon, and probably in person in Miami in January. Thanks again for making my job easy!

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Thanks guys. I will FOR SURE be speaking with Mal again soon, and probably in person in Miami in January. Thanks again for making my job easy!

 

Make sure you ask about disabled sailing and why Betsy has been in leadership for far too long.

The US Sucks on the disabled world stage.

 

Oh and ask why US Sailing will not help with fund raising for such a limited group of limited people? It's not like we can walk around and ask for funds to go sailing................ok well Dee did...walk around and wave both arms.

 

Will this new nobody do anything to help fix the broken system that Betsy helped to perpetuate???

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A lot of the olympic classes are dog shit in the United States, for example the 470. Why not set up a team base in europe, in a centrally located spot with good breeze, and use that to coordinate training, have housing, place to store boats, etc?

 

And the new leader of US Olympic Sailing is 100% committed to sending a couple 40 year old men to the next games.... The #2 team are a couple of teenagers with parents in their 40's.

 

The issue is that we do not have a long term athlete development model for young sailors that makes them want to have fun sailing for the rest of their lives.

 

The programs fail to align with age appropriate training, activities and goals. Everything is set for a very short term outcome. Burn em out in Junior Sailing, Burn em out in high school and burn them out again in college and wonder why we can complete globally.

 

In 1984 we medalled in every event, in Rio we had a bronze. The difference is that kids in the late 70s and early 80s learned to sail on all kinds of boats and sailed for fun - today, they start at age 6 trying to win in one design.

 

Stealy droppin' 2 cents and OUT!

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Burn em out in Junior Sailing, Burn em out in high school and burn them out again in college and wonder why we can complete globally.

 

 

If an athlete gets burnt out with the rigor of high school or college sailing, then I'm sorry, they are never going to survive an Olympic campaign. The sheer drive, determination and desire needed to be the "best in the world" needs to be able to step over the hurdles of college sailing with ease.

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Thanks guys. I will FOR SURE be speaking with Mal again soon, and probably in person in Miami in January. Thanks again for making my job easy!

How's that going for ya?

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Burn em out in Junior Sailing, Burn em out in high school and burn them out again in college and wonder why we can complete globally.

 

 

If an athlete gets burnt out with the rigor of high school or college sailing, then I'm sorry, they are never going to survive an Olympic campaign. The sheer drive, determination and desire needed to be the "best in the world" needs to be able to step over the hurdles of college sailing with ease.

 

 

Long term athlete development models stress age specific training and age-specific competition. US Sailing emphasizes no such training methodology.

 

An athlete develops into being ready. The fact that they cannot handle the pressure of competition as a child or teenager, does not mean they will not be able to develop to handle it as an adult.

Long term development focusses on keeping athlete engaged and learning, instead of creating a bi-binary path of pass/fail that turns them off to the sport and on to other ways to spend their time.

Your comments reinforce the flawed model that we have to develop athletes on a singular path based on winning at each previous level - I argue that a better path forward is through long term athlete development - less pressure on winning and more emphasis on foundational skills, long-term learning and having fun.

 

Right now in the M 470, we have a 20+ year gap in age between the top two teams - we have spent two decades discouraging young athletes. And we have doubled down on a team of 40-year-old men instead of looking towards recovering the sport for the future.

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