Any national sailing team will benefit if the federation takes an active role in supporting development sailors. The jump from development to senior is always large and a trial for the sailors, so that to be in the system with a continuity of coaching methods and systems is a big advantage for the younger sailor.
Optimally the role of the federation should be to help sailing clubs build a large enough pool of beginners and club sailors by providing the guidance and coach development and knowledge to the clubs in order to allow them to provide the right building blocks for the young sailors. The federation themselves will run development squads for the best of these sailors, so that in an ideal world we see that magical term continuity go from club to region to national youth team, to senior team. This is a facet of the structure of sailing that we work very hard to establish within the organisations that we work with.
By providing the correct building blocks to the young sailors the federation ensures the talented sailors will arrive to the more advanced squads of the federation with a large enough knowledge and skill base to support their future development and talent
A big part of this development lays in the selection process both for the sailors and the coaches, it is desirable to choose the sailors and coaches with most potential for development as well as teaming the right coach for the right sailors will ensure they keep developing together in a synergistic manner. It is also important to realise that the sailors gaining the best results in junior classes may not always be the best sailors to develop in the long run. Toplevel Sailing has a bible of sailor evaluation forms which we encourage the selectors of national development squads to use. They have various criteria from skills analysis to physical analysis which have proven very useful in improving selection for a number of federations. Indeed the same sort of criteria can be used when selecting development coaches, whose work is every bit as important as the senior coaches.
You would probably want to believe that all federations act according to these standards and choose sailors and coaches according to abilities and potential. The reality is far from it
Many federations choose sailors and coaches based on clubs affiliation, pedigree, friendship and other factors that do not ensure the best sailor or best fitted coach is chosen. This fact has caused numerous talented sailors and coaches to either quit sailing or lose many years in their development, costing their federation many medals and achievements.
Whilst this topic has been very suppressed over a long period of time, we feel so passionately about giving examples that we are going to explain a couple of cases. These are not the only ones – indeed when a 49er of a European nation gained a silver medal a few years ago, beating the Olympic Gold medal representative, the politicians forced a situation that the brilliant young boat quit sailing. That can’t be good for any federation, or indeed for the sport!
Two very strong recent examples that comes to mind are the Israeli federation and Indian federation.
We wrote a lot about the Indian FX Asian Games silver medallists, who we coached. To remind you, the Indian federation 2018 Asian games selection process for the 49erFX favoured a team that has never beaten the other team in an international event and only beat them in one local event. Our team had to take the federation to court, losing 8 valuable weeks training whilst they secured the place, and then winning silver. That simply cannot happen without a supreme level of determination and talent. Imagine what that team could have done if the Indian federation had supported it from the outset. Ironically (and sadly) they have not sailed since, as no funding has been forthcoming.
The Israeli federation which is controlled by clubs in recent years have favoured sailors and coaches for the club controlling the federation regardless of their abilities and achievements, from the sailors point of view the situation is less grim as the best sailors are usually selected for the elite squads. Now they are facing a complicated situation in which the leading women 470 team refuses to work with the squad coach who has been abusive to them and far from professional, yet the performance director insists they either train with the squad or are kicked out despite them being the only team which have achieved olympic qualification as well as the local olympic committees elite status for achieving top results at the 470 worlds and Europeans, Their recent performance at the 50th Trofeo princess Sofia regatta in Palma is a clear indication to that destructive path.
Toplevel Sailing strongly believe the best sailors and best suited coaches should be chosen to represent a country based on clear unbiased and very open criteria. During our work we develop together with our clients the best tools to assess and select their teams and coaches as well as finding ways to help them develop their talent in order to achieve the best possible results in the shortest period of time.