Work harder than everyone else >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Ed Adams will be officially inducted into National Sailing Hall of Fame on November 5 in Newport, RI. It is a deserved honor and recognition for his many accomplishments as a competitor and coach.

I haven’t always liked Ed, but not for any defensible reason. It was the early 1980s, our rivalry was in the Snipe class, and he was on the east coast while I was on the west coast. We were more casual in our approach when he was an activist. He wasn’t the life of the party, he just wanted to win and his work ethic was boring.

However, I saw a different side of him during the 1985 SORC. We were on different boats and on a day off I found myself joining him on a discovery tour. The latest and greatest IOR racing boats were available, and he was curious. I watched him jump shamelessly from boat to boat, lifting and looking at every detail. He saw what I did not see and I was fascinated by education.

Kids, if you think you’re going to excel at this sport competing against people your own age, you’re wrong. We lied to you. You need to explore different boats and find people older than you, better than you, and different from you to improve. I was lucky to grow up in a time when that was normal, and Ed improved my education.

Several years later, at the 2011 Etchells Worlds, he coached our team to victory. His presence stabilized us, he assured and secured our direction, and his confidence gave us confidence. When he noticed personality changes, he spoke to us. His consistency helped us win with a race to spare.

So I came full circle with Ed and enjoyed his response to a Sailing World interview question when asked, Was it better when people taught themselves, like you did, rather than relying on coaches, as is so often the case today? His answer…

I think some of the skills that we developed before we had coaches were maybe a bit better, but obviously that extends the learning period. I have strong opinions about junior training. I think our whole junior process, where kids are run by parents – parents try to get their kids into exclusive colleges and hire coaches who tell kids what to do instead of how to do it, or how figure things out on their own — all too often leaves us with children who lack motivation.

And on a professional level, motivated people are those who succeed, not necessarily those who were motivated by parents. So to answer your question another way, accepted junior training practices, when directed by parents, are not good for our Olympic and professional sailing development. Coaches need to guide kids carefully, teach them how to problem solve – it’s a tricky process, but this push to get kids through college rather than making them better problem solvers isn’t helpful .

Also, kids who don’t have a lot of money don’t have as many opportunities as a lot of kids who are ruled by their parents. There are plenty of stories of kids who don’t come from wealthy backgrounds, who are driven and achieve great things. And I think there’s more that we don’t know about because the outcomes and the opportunities that come with it are so dominated by the kids led by the parents.

Victor Diaz de Leon from Venezuela comes to mind. He went to Sainte-Marie. He was second on the team, had to learn to speak English, and when he graduated he spent his time teaming up for good people. Over the past year, he’s become the best pro-level tactician in the keelboat fleet, simply by working harder than everyone else.

For a complete interview, Click here.

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