The Dean Comes Clean

MR.CLEAN

Moderator
46,682
4,725
Not here
Despite the frequent criticism of the US Sailing Team we've featured on the Front Page over the past few years, outgoing USST Chairman Dean Brenner has long seen the value in engaging the biggest online sailing community in history (you can see my 2011 interview with Dean here). With the humbling performance turned in by the team in Weymouth, Dean might've wanted to run and hide until his tenure is up in a few weeks, but with all credit to him, he's manning up right here in the SA forums to answer your questions about the team's performance, the organization supporting them, the sponsors, the future, whatever. Give him your best shot; personal attacks won't be censored, but they'll probably be ignored. Here's the note Dean sent us to explain what he'll do.

It’s no secret that the 2012 US Olympic Sailing Team did not perform at the Games in Weymouth this month. We failed to medal in a single class, for the first time since 1936. Lots of questions are being asked, and that’s good. We would have conducted a thorough program review after these Games, regardless of how the team did, because of the imminent leadership transition that has been in process for several years. But the performance has added some urgency to the review.

I know there are many members of the SA community who have some questions they want to ask, opinions they want to share, and disappointments they want to vent. I’m here to have a discussion about it. But let me share a few macro thoughts first:

1. I am proud of our progress overall. While our poor performance these last two weeks is undeniable, our four-year progress as a program is equally undeniable. Our budget is, on average, about 400% bigger than it was eight years ago. Do our athletes still have to fundraise? Of course they do, but some of them have to fundraise a lot less than they used to. We’re not where we need to be funding wise, but we’re proud of the progress thus far.

2. We made a decision four years ago, that we had to change the culture of the US Sailing Team to a more collaborative, team-based culture, and we have significant progress there. We have moved away from an “everyone for yourself” mentality to a “we’re in this together” mentality. It is clear to anyone who has been around the team. We have a cohesive, collaborative group. This lays a great foundation for the future as our new talent comes online, they will have a squad culture waiting to take them in.

3. We also made a decision four years that fitness had to improve. It did, significantly, by any measure. But we can always do better there. But we made great progress, with more to do.

4. Our biggest weakness? Our talent pipeline. We need more and better young talent, and we need to do a better job retaining them once they are in our system. We created a Development Squad five years ago, still only in its fledgling stages, but it has produced some good results over the last three years. We did not win any medals in the 2012 Youth Worlds, but we won three bronze in 2010, and three silver in 2011, topping the medal charts at each event. We have a lot of work to do there, and I expect that the next administration will look hard at our talent pipeline. It needs more resources and some serious strategic thought.

5. Some will criticize our Trials. I’ll largely leave that to the Forum discussion. But the OSC thinks that international events are the way to go. Does it help domestic class development? No. But I remain unconvinced that class development should be the purview of the OSC. Class development is the purview of the class, and the OSC should conduct whatever Trials system it determines will select the best possible team. We’ll come back to this topic, I’m sure.

I know there are other topics to be discussed and I’m happy to get into them. But here are my rules: ask me a legitimate question in a respectful way, and identify yourself by name, and I’ll happily discuss. Rudeness and personal attacks will be ignored, and I’m going to politely decline to engage in debate with people who don’t identify themselves by name. I also will not criticize any sailor or staff member directly. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. Clearly we have lots of things that need to be done better. My eyes are wide open to that fact.

Dean Brenner

Chairman and Team Leader

US Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Program

 

Philc

Super Anarchist
Despite the frequent criticism of the US Sailing Team we've featured on the Front Page over the past few years, outgoing USST Chairman Dean Brenner has long seen the value in engaging the biggest online sailing community in history (you can see my 2011 interview with Dean here). With the humbling performance turned in by the team in Weymouth, Dean might've wanted to run and hide until his tenure is up in a few weeks, but with all credit to him, he's manning up right here in the SA forums to answer your questions about the team's performance, the organization supporting them, the sponsors, the future, whatever. Give him your best shot; personal attacks won't be censored, but they'll probably be ignored. Here's the note Dean sent us to explain what he'll do.

It’s no secret that the 2012 US Olympic Sailing Team did not perform at the Games in Weymouth this month. We failed to medal in a single class, for the first time since 1936. Lots of questions are being asked, and that’s good. We would have conducted a thorough program review after these Games, regardless of how the team did, because of the imminent leadership transition that has been in process for several years. But the performance has added some urgency to the review.

I know there are many members of the SA community who have some questions they want to ask, opinions they want to share, and disappointments they want to vent. I’m here to have a discussion about it. But let me share a few macro thoughts first:

1. I am proud of our progress overall. While our poor performance these last two weeks is undeniable, our four-year progress as a program is equally undeniable. Our budget is, on average, about 400% bigger than it was eight years ago. Do our athletes still have to fundraise? Of course they do, but some of them have to fundraise a lot less than they used to. We’re not where we need to be funding wise, but we’re proud of the progress thus far.

2. We made a decision four years ago, that we had to change the culture of the US Sailing Team to a more collaborative, team-based culture, and we have significant progress there. We have moved away from an “everyone for yourself” mentality to a “we’re in this together” mentality. It is clear to anyone who has been around the team. We have a cohesive, collaborative group. This lays a great foundation for the future as our new talent comes online, they will have a squad culture waiting to take them in.

3. We also made a decision four years that fitness had to improve. It did, significantly, by any measure. But we can always do better there. But we made great progress, with more to do.

4. Our biggest weakness? Our talent pipeline. We need more and better young talent, and we need to do a better job retaining them once they are in our system. We created a Development Squad five years ago, still only in its fledgling stages, but it has produced some good results over the last three years. We did not win any medals in the 2012 Youth Worlds, but we won three bronze in 2010, and three silver in 2011, topping the medal charts at each event. We have a lot of work to do there, and I expect that the next administration will look hard at our talent pipeline. It needs more resources and some serious strategic thought.

5. Some will criticize our Trials. I’ll largely leave that to the Forum discussion. But the OSC thinks that international events are the way to go. Does it help domestic class development? No. But I remain unconvinced that class development should be the purview of the OSC. Class development is the purview of the class, and the OSC should conduct whatever Trials system it determines will select the best possible team. We’ll come back to this topic, I’m sure.

I know there are other topics to be discussed and I’m happy to get into them. But here are my rules: ask me a legitimate question in a respectful way, and identify yourself by name, and I’ll happily discuss. Rudeness and personal attacks will be ignored, and I’m going to politely decline to engage in debate with people who don’t identify themselves by name. I also will not criticize any sailor or staff member directly. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. Clearly we have lots of things that need to be done better. My eyes are wide open to that fact.

Dean Brenner

Chairman and Team Leader

US Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Program

They look like this.....

/monthly_08_2012/post-2869-079382000%201345003605_thumb.jpg

 

Attachments

  • Gold.JPG
    Gold.JPG
    105.7 KB · Views: 8

Jackovator

Super Anarchist
1,089
0
2. We made a decision four years ago, that we had to change the culture of the US Sailing Team to a more collaborative, team-based culture, and we have significant progress there. We have moved away from an “everyone for yourself” mentality to a “we’re in this together” mentality. It is clear to anyone who has been around the team. We have a cohesive, collaborative group. This lays a great foundation for the future as our new talent comes online, they will have a squad culture waiting to take them in.
That's where Australia started after Atlanta in 1996. It's been a steady up and probably matured now in 2012. The Brits have been all over this for a looong time. How do I know? I was part of the (unfortunately) "fend for yourself" era.

My question would be - are you implementing management structures to ensure consistency of this culture, coaching and team building?

 

stranded

Anarchist
660
0
Brisbane
america has a pool of good young sailors, as do most competing countries

the key element for australia's jump above the pack was hiring the ( Ukranian ? ) coach before Sydney olympics.

..... and that was a main focus on 470's

I believe he has become fixture in the structure now

must like beer and vegemite !

 
Last edited by a moderator:

Philc

Super Anarchist
america has a pool of good young sailors, as do most competing countries

the key element for australia's jump above the pack was hiring the ( Ukranian ? ) coach before Sydney olympics.

..... and that was a main focus on 470's

I believe he has become fixture in the structure now

must like beer and vegemite !
Victor has now coached crews to 9 medals, 6 gold and 3 bronze. 5 Gold for Australia!

 

2high2tight

Super Anarchist
3,520
0
Ok, so far I heard justifications for status quo. In football, we nuke the coaches. They are responsible -- ultimately -- for everything from the chemistry to the playbook to the conditioning to the morale. On sailboats, after each race, good crews review each race, leg by leg, looking for mistakes. So lets start with:

1. what changes would you make next time around?

2. what is the root cause of the mid fleet finishes?

Judge the following and give your thoughts on each...

3. were our competitors properly conditioned?

4. did they have enough experience in similar fleet conditions?

5 how was their boathandling?

6. how were their tactics? Race by Race

7. Statistically, you need to be in good starting position to win. Statistically....how did we do in the starts?

8. You discuss pipeline of next gen competitors.....are their athlete specific action plans in place for each

9. how do you reach out to find talent? Is there an official scouting program? Do you have outreach to the clubs? Do you have a means for people to contact you and go "Janey seems to be able to drive downwind with her eyes closed and win everytime"

10. I started with Coaching. How would you judge the coaches? Don't spend a lot of time on the positives because obviously, the results weren't there, so what are the deficiences?

And yes, I got the right to ask these. I've invested. Chaired Race at my club. Hosted Jr. Big Boat team on my boat. Wife was on the board of Jr. Sailing for 3 years. I've also coached football and basketball and painted a smile on my face at endless ballet things. And no, I'm not being a dick. My guess is the National Program is asking these same questions right now (they damn well better be); we just want to have an ear aimed at the discussions. Its not like you are talking about Nuclear technology or the secret receipe for Coke....

 
G'day Dean thanks for putting yourself up for questions

I'm Jeff Southall my question is with a double vote regarding equipment for the 2012 Olympics which should help the US, do you feel the US equipment choice was based on the evaluation of young sailing talent or lobying talent?

 
Hi, Dean. Pat Byrnes, occasional club racer and local club race officer.

1. Did our team members spend enough time in Weymouth and similar venues?

2. Will they be more prepared for the Rio venue?

3. How can our team members get more time competing internationally?

4. How can young US sailors get more financial support for travel to qualifying events and what can be done to lighten the burden for them?

5. Our results were extraordinarily poor, so the US Sailing team report card can't come out with all "A"'s. What grades would you give to different aspects of the program and which are the weakest links that kept US sailors out of podium range?

6. What would it take to bring the program to where most US competitors consistently get into the medal races?

7. How hard would it be to get more top international Olympic class competitors to come to a few events in the USA and to expand the number of higher-grade events that would be of interest to them? Related: Which of our venues would appeal to international Olympic class competition and would likely be able to support such events?

8. Are there any feasible steps that can be taken in conjunction with other organizations (college sailing, etc.), to broaden the pool of young sailors who have experience with tunable, higher performance boats? Are there other groups that could help with this?

9. How often do you get feedback, including anonymous feedback, from team members, former team members, alternates, trials participants, etc., and what do they say needs to be improved?

10. What do international competitors and coaches say about our level of preparation and competitiveness?

I thought the Glen Bishop comments were fascinating and worthy of a close read and at least some response, even though he acknowledged that a lot of the things he'd like to see would not be easy or inexpensive to achieve.

 

insider

Member
185
0
everywhere
As a Brit who has spoken to plenty of those who made the British squad I will tell you it is fundamentally a question of money. Chart the medals for GBR from 1996 onwards. 1996 was the last Olympics before National Lottery Funding. That money allows full time sailing for far more than just those who have medaled for GBR this time. It allows a good portion of the development squad to do this too.

How much money would be enough money? How far short of the British budget do you fall? (bear in mind that GBR funding was already high even without a home games)

 

morrisre

Super Anarchist
2,696
2
Hello Dean, thank you for putting your self forward to answer questions directly.

Judging by the general opinion of US sailors put forward on Sailing Anarchy and the reaction to the declining performance of the US team at the Olympics there seemed to be a general apathy towards the Olympics prior to the games and a questioning of whether sailing at the Olympics has any relevance to sailing as a sport in the USA.

Where do you view campaigning internationally in Olympic classes and competing at the Olympics sits with in sailing in the USA in general?

Is there a general systemic issue that means the best sailors do not focus on the Olympics and if so what do you feel these are?

Will the fundamentals of the sport of sailing in the US need to change if the USA is to return to the level of success shown in sailing in the past and other Olympic sports?

Ric Morris, Ireland

 
There was recently a posting by a Kiwi observer (I think) who stated the shortcomings precisely. It'd do well to start with his critics and let Dean respond directly.
I heard about some of John's comments. Like lots of other people, John has opinions. But the problem with John's comments are that he positions himself as some sort of insider, who seems to have in-depth knowledge of our program. In fact, I have spoken to more than 2/3s of our Olympic team and all of our coaching staff, and no one has ever heard of John. He's never been part of our program in any way. In addition, the Australian and New Zealand Yachting Federations moved quickly to distance themselves from his comments: http://www.sail-world.com/USA/Australian-49er-equipment-slurs-refuted/100846. And in fact the team leaders for both the Kiwi and Aussie Olympic Teams approached me in Weymouth and said they were not associated in any way with this guy and they felt his comments were out of line.

In other words, John has zero insider knowledge of our Program, none of us know who he is, I've never met him... so he's entitled to his opinion, but beyond that I have no comment on his opinions. They are just that... opinions.

Dean

 
What are his thoughts on the abolishment of nationality rules in the Americas cup having a detrimental effect on sailors wanting to compete in elite events?
Thanks for the question. No real opinion here on the AC nationality rules. I think it actually hurts the AC, but that is just one man's opinion. I don't think it has much impact on Olympic Sailing.

Thanks.

Dean

 
2. We made a decision four years ago, that we had to change the culture of the US Sailing Team to a more collaborative, team-based culture, and we have significant progress there. We have moved away from an "everyone for yourself" mentality to a "we're in this together" mentality. It is clear to anyone who has been around the team. We have a cohesive, collaborative group. This lays a great foundation for the future as our new talent comes online, they will have a squad culture waiting to take them in.
That's where Australia started after Atlanta in 1996. It's been a steady up and probably matured now in 2012. The Brits have been all over this for a looong time. How do I know? I was part of the (unfortunately) "fend for yourself" era.

My question would be - are you implementing management structures to ensure consistency of this culture, coaching and team building?
Thanks for the note Jackovator. You bring up excellent examples. Some other countries have been ahead of the USA for a few years and we are working hard to catch up. The Brits started their turnaround 20 years ago, in conjunction with the olympic lottery funding. It is hard to compare any other team to them because they have the built-in competitive advantage of the lottery. But they make excellent decisions and have a world-class program. It's not just about money for them. I have lots of respect for Sparky and his team. They do a great job.

We think we are making a bunch of really good long-term decisions, and one of the ways that progress will be consistent is through a strong search process for the next Olympic leadership. I'm sure we'll get into that topic here, so I'll leave it for another question. But we have a lot of people in our Program now who believe firmly in the things we have been committed to. I think some things will change after these Games, but I also think a lot of the fundamental changes will continue to remain in place. We need to make some improvements, but we have a lot of positives as well.

Thanks.

 
Ok, so far I heard justifications for status quo. In football, we nuke the coaches. They are responsible -- ultimately -- for everything from the chemistry to the playbook to the conditioning to the morale. On sailboats, after each race, good crews review each race, leg by leg, looking for mistakes. So lets start with:

1. what changes would you make next time around?

2. what is the root cause of the mid fleet finishes?

Judge the following and give your thoughts on each...

3. were our competitors properly conditioned?

4. did they have enough experience in similar fleet conditions?

5 how was their boathandling?

6. how were their tactics? Race by Race

7. Statistically, you need to be in good starting position to win. Statistically....how did we do in the starts?

8. You discuss pipeline of next gen competitors.....are their athlete specific action plans in place for each

9. how do you reach out to find talent? Is there an official scouting program? Do you have outreach to the clubs? Do you have a means for people to contact you and go "Janey seems to be able to drive downwind with her eyes closed and win everytime"

10. I started with Coaching. How would you judge the coaches? Don't spend a lot of time on the positives because obviously, the results weren't there, so what are the deficiences?

And yes, I got the right to ask these. I've invested. Chaired Race at my club. Hosted Jr. Big Boat team on my boat. Wife was on the board of Jr. Sailing for 3 years. I've also coached football and basketball and painted a smile on my face at endless ballet things. And no, I'm not being a dick. My guess is the National Program is asking these same questions right now (they damn well better be); we just want to have an ear aimed at the discussions. Its not like you are talking about Nuclear technology or the secret receipe for Coke....
Lots of questions there, some of them requiring super long answers. But here it goes, I'll answer as many as I can.

By the way, you have never heard me argue for strict status quo. Every quote I have made, if you read the entire quote, has shown that our mindset is "yes, we have done some good work, but we have a long way to go and lots of improvements yet to make." So what would I change next time? I think the next big battle we need to handle is big improvements in our pipeline plan. We made some good initial steps, but not yet enough. Our funding has gotten better. Our culture and dedication to fitness has gotten better. Now it is time for our pipeline program to improve.

What was the root cause of the mid-fleet finishes? Well, first of all they were not all mid-fleet. Anna, Molly and Debbie finished 5th, Amanda/Sarah 9th, Mark/Brian 7th and Paige 8th. Not what we were looking for, but certainly not mid-fleet. What happened? I think the answer depends on the class. I think in some cases, perhaps we got out-trained. I think in other cases, we may have over-trained. In some cases, our starting was average at best. In some cases, we didn't get our ideal conditions and our "toolbox" was not as broad as it should have been. And in some classes, we knew before the first race we were highly unlikely to medal no matter what.

Our team was very fit. Our team was very comfortable in Weymouth, we spent tons of time there, as much as almost anyone other than the Brits who live there.

Other than that, I'll say that we will conduct a thorough review of the entire event, and the entire strategy. You have every right to ask, and I'll answer as thoroughly as I can. We are still gathering feedback and information on the details of what happened.

Thanks!

 
As a Brit who has spoken to plenty of those who made the British squad I will tell you it is fundamentally a question of money. Chart the medals for GBR from 1996 onwards. 1996 was the last Olympics before National Lottery Funding. That money allows full time sailing for far more than just those who have medaled for GBR this time. It allows a good portion of the development squad to do this too.

How much money would be enough money? How far short of the British budget do you fall? (bear in mind that GBR funding was already high even without a home games)
Money is a big issue, but it's not the ONLY issue. The Brits have a lot of resources, but they also make good decisions with that money. I have a lot of respect for what they do, Sparky in particular.

How much is enough? That's a really hard question to answer. It depends on how far deep down into the grassroots development we would try to go. I think a $5-6m annual budget (as opposed to our current $4m) would be a huge increase because it would allow us to fund our top talent more, retain them for multiple quads, give better bridge funding to our rising talent, and fund our pipeline much better. Those are the four areas I would invest in first with another big bump in funding.

Dean

 
Hello Dean, thank you for putting your self forward to answer questions directly.

Judging by the general opinion of US sailors put forward on Sailing Anarchy and the reaction to the declining performance of the US team at the Olympics there seemed to be a general apathy towards the Olympics prior to the games and a questioning of whether sailing at the Olympics has any relevance to sailing as a sport in the USA.

Where do you view campaigning internationally in Olympic classes and competing at the Olympics sits with in sailing in the USA in general?

Is there a general systemic issue that means the best sailors do not focus on the Olympics and if so what do you feel these are?

Will the fundamentals of the sport of sailing in the US need to change if the USA is to return to the level of success shown in sailing in the past and other Olympic sports?

Ric Morris, Ireland
Thanks Ric. Sailing is indeed a niche sport in the USA. The entire Australian Olympic Team, in all sports, brought home 7 gold medals this time, and 3 of them were won by the sailing team. Sailing is a high profile sport in Australia and Peter Condie and his group will deservedly get a lot of attention from their NOC for their exceptional performance in Weymouth. In the USA, we are competing with all the professional leagues AND the high-profile Olympic sports like track and field which just won 29 medals at these Games. Sailing is a small sport in the USA, and the entire Olympic Sailing circuit is getting better and better every year.

We can compete on the top levels of Olympic sailing, but we need to continue to find more resources to attract and retain the top USA talent, many of whom choose not to do Olympic sailing... it's still really hard to make that full life commitment.

Dean

 

Latest posts




Top