High Performance Youth Development
The most significant youth development initiative in the history of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program.
Project Pipeline is our nation’s first long-term, comprehensive high performance youth sailing strategy. The goal is to develop highly trained and experienced young competitors with the skills to compete successfully in all areas of the international sailing arena, including the Olympic Games.
At the core of the Project Pipeline initiative is a dynamic Olympic Development Program (ODP).
The Olympic Development Program (ODP) is a long-term effort to help young sailors build a complete high-performance skill set. The ODP provides world-class training to young athletes around the country who demonstrate talent and a commitment to improve.
Invitational ODP training camps are held at locations across the United States, and include many of the world’s top coaches. ODP training camps and travel teams produce exceptional sailors with the ability and motivation to pursue ambitious dreams in competitive sailing and become leaders in the sport.
Youth Racing Goals and Pathways
Boats like the Optimist, C420 and Open Bic are a great entry point for young sailors. The ODP encourages racers with high goals to sail in classes that will provide the best opportunity to learn, such as the classes used at the Youth Sailing World Championship. The program encourages sailors to seek out the best competitive environment that can be found. The most important thing is to find something you love and focus on building skills at the best local regattas and clinics in the US.
Young racers with drive and interest can then transition into Olympic Development Classes and nurture the skills needed to perform at the top of our sport. As each sailor progresses, they should focus on earning a place at two major youth race events:
- US Sailing Youth Championship
The very best domestic competition and is the qualifier for the Youth Sailing World Championship.
- Youth World Sailing Championship
Representing your country at the Youth Sailing World Championship is the pinnacle of youth sailing. Sailors who win a medal at Youth Worlds or campaign hard to get there are well on their way to success at the Olympic Games
ODP Training Camps
High level training ODP training camps are being held in locations around the country. These camps are invitation-only and introduce young sailors to the world of high performance sailing.
While only a select few will ultimately reach the Olympics, the ODP training camps offer every ODP sailor:
- access to high performance boats, initially the 29er, I420 and Laser Radial
- Olympic-level coaching
- world-class training partners
- opportunities to apply high performance techniques and tactics in international competition
- train with the best young sailors in the country
ODP Evaluation Events
Key youth sailing events are attended by ODP coaches and/or representatives as evaluation events to identify sailors who are ready to get the most out of ODP training camps and travel Teams.
ODP coaches often give presentations on the ODP at evaluation events to give sailors and parents the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the ODP, Olympic development classes and pathways to high-performance sailing.
Young sailors who are competing at these events will be observed and are encouraged to talk with the ODP coaches. If other commitments keep sailors from participating in an event, they can attend another evaluation event and earn an invitation to future ODP clinics.
There is a flow of sailors in and out of ODP camps. Up-and-coming young sailors may be invited to one camp or several camps over a period of years. There’s always another chance for young sailors to earn an invitation to an ODP training camp.
ODP Travel and Youth Worlds Teams
ODP Travel Teams
Top ODP sailors are selected to travel to Olympic level clinics and multi-class events for on-the-water coaching in preparation for international class championship events. ODP travel teams are typically selected 8-12 weeks prior to major events that sailors at this level should be planning to attend anyway, such as class world championships.
US Sailing Youth Worlds Team
The Youth Worlds Team receives intensive high level coaching and logistical support for in preparation for the Youth Sailing World Championship – the pinnacle event in youth racing.
ODP Training Camp and Travel Team Selection
An invitation to an OPD training camp or travel team is based on the following selection criteria:
- desire and commitment
- age and physical size
- results at evaluation regattas
- demonstrated potential vs. rate of improvement
- fitness and athleticism
- “coachability” and willingness to follow a training plan
The selection committee includes the US Sailing Youth Development Director, Leando Spina and the US Sailing High Performance Director Charlie McKee. Young sailors are encouraged to connect with Leandro and Charlie at evaluation events.
There is always another chance to earn a spot on a OPD travel team. Sailors may be invited onto the team one year, skip a year, and invited back the following year.
High Performance Boats & Classes
Boats like the Optimist, C420 and Open Bics are a great starting place for young sailors. Young racing sailors with drive and interest can then transition into Olympic Development Classes including the high performance boats currently offered at ODP training camps: the 29er, I420 and Laser Radial.
All Olympic development classes nurture the skills needed to perform at the top of our sport. There are many paths to take within this framework. For example, a young Radial sailor can become a successful Finn sailor, just as a young i420 crew can become a successful 49er skipper. Young windsurfing sailors can become excellent 470 crews or make a transition to multihulls or skiffs.
The most important thing is to find something you love and focus on the development of high-level skills.
What Parents Need to Know
As with all high-level youth sports, the role of the parents is to be supportive, positive and encouraging. In order to promote individual growth as an athlete and a person, feedback and communications should be directly between the athlete and their coach.
The Olympic path is challenging and will prepare young sailors for life after their campaign. To succeed, Olympic athletes also master a broad array of life skills:
- short-and-long term planning
- budgeting time and money
- nutrition and fitness
- sports psychology
Parents can be immensely helpful as a support system throughout the triumphs and disappointments that will inevitably occur on the Olympic path.