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Australian Sailing to strengthen Youth Pathways

by Michael Martin 26 Aug 04:01 PDT
Jason Waterhouse with Youth Championships medallist © Robin Evans

During 2019 the Australian Sailing Board commissioned a review into the youth sailing space including the State underpinning programs.

A working group was formed which included representatives from the Australian Sailing (AS Board), State Association Boards, Coaches, Club representatives and relevant Australian Sailing (AS) staff. All were connected to the youth sailing space and had significant experience and understanding of the programs and history.

The Working Group worked under a term of reference which was guided by the following objectives:

The working group is to review the State Underpinning Performance Pathway Programs and the role they play in youth development; as well as assist in identifying the most suitable way to resource and deliver youth development in order to:

  • increase and retain youth participation, with consideration to diversifying participation;
  • strengthen the role of class associations and encourage Board and Kite class participation;
  • strengthen the role of Clubs and increase club membership;
  • improved affordability for parents and stakeholders; and
  • provide clearer pathways for talented youth sailors with state institutes / academies.
The review looked at the following areas:
  • The number of participants involved in the underpinning programs.
  • The impact on Clubs and the impact of clubs.
  • Opportunities for coaching of the cohort.
  • Coach development.
  • Female participation.
  • Financial and time commitment of families.
  • Age limits.
  • New classes, such as Kiteboarding.
As part of the review a survey of stakeholders was conducted. This proved very successful with over 200 responses from stakeholder groups across the country.

The review highlighted that the sports youth sailing base (clubs) is relatively under-developed and talented youth sailors were being taken out of their club environment too early. Resources were being disproportionality allocated to State Youth Sailing programs, benefiting a relatively small portion of our total youth sailing base.

The review reinforced the importance of ensuring clubs are at the centre of a sustainable future for youth sailing and that the development of a club based coaching program is a priority coming out of this review.

The working party subsequently made ten recommendations for consideration by the Australian Sailing Board. The Board has agreed to adopt these recommendations, with work now under way at varying levels of implementation.

One of the recommendations is to discontinue the Australian Youth Championships as an annual standalone event. The recent cancellation of the 2021 Australian Youth Championships (due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic) means that the use of existing class nationals for the Australian Sailing Youth Team to attend the Youth Sailing World Championships will be expedited for implementation in 2021. Details on the updated selection policy will be released when there is more clarity around the regatta schedule for the 2020/21 summer.

Resourcing in this space will be dual focused; helping to develop sailors so that they stay engaged at their club and remain lifelong members of our sailing community; and provide opportunities for aspiring athletes to progress from club to national level.

Whilst the ongoing pandemic has affected implementation to varying degrees, Australian Sailing is committed to ensuring all objectives are achieved in a timely manner, with a goal of providing stronger foundations for development at club and class level; and a brighter future for Australia's future sailing stars.

Pathway Strategy Development

To further support and prioritise the much-needed work around improving the Australian Sailing Performance Pathway, in February 2020 AS employed Melissa Wilson into the role of High Performance Network Lead to assist in the development of the AS Performance Pathway Strategy. This work is under way and now includes the newly appointed AS High-Performance Director Mike McGovern's input and leadership to ensure success beyond the Tokyo Olympics. The strategy will address support frameworks for Youth and Emerging athletes in Olympic and Olympic pathway classes and will promote alignment and clear pathways from Club level to the Australian Sailing Team.

Early success of this work includes the recent announcement of two new roles within the Australian Sailing Pathway space:

  1. Australian Sailing National Pathway Coordinator - Kite Foil Racing. Filled by Ryan Palk.
  2. Australian Sailing National Pathway Coordinator - Windfoiling. Filled by Arthur Brett.
AS have also recently recruited a National Pathway Manager to work alongside Melissa Wilson and Mike McGovern in the preparation and implementation of the AS Performance Pathway Strategy, with the successful candidate for this position to be announced shortly.

While a large focus of the AS performance program continues to focus on sustained Olympic success, AS accepts that there are many pathway options for Australian sailors. AS are working to acknowledge these, document the options and promote them as participation and performance options amongst our sailing community as well as to those new to the sport and those interested in taking up the sport of sailing.

Stay tuned to and the Australian Sailing Youth Facebook page for the latest information and updates on our Youth development pathways, regattas and events.

A summary of the recommendations can be seen in this table:

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