US Paralympic Sailing Team Head Coach Betsy Alison (second from left) with London 2012 silver medalists Jen French (left), J.P. Creignou (right) and Team Leader Lee Icyda (second from right). Photo: Will Ricketson/US Sailing.
Sanya, China – Betsy Alison (USA) has been awarded the ISAF President’s Development Award for her outstanding achievement in the development of Para World Sailing in 2015.
Alison commented on the award, “First of all I was speechless, honestly, for me it’s incredibly satisfying to be recognised for what so many people have worked so hard for, for so long.
“Even though we have had such a disappointment with the Tokyo 2020 IPC decision, the fact of the matter is that sometimes bad news or disappointing circumstances can provide the opportunity to change things in a manner that will make the sport better going forward.
“That’s the opportunity we have right now so working with the Para World Sailing Committee we are thinking way outside of the box and colouring outside the lines and look at ways, whether it’s through making equipment more simple and affordable to looking at events and making the format super exciting for the public and the media to follow.
“We have a great opportunity that we want to capitalise on and we’re going to explore some options in the next 12 months.”
A successful sailor and coach, Alison is currently the Head Coach of the US Paralympic Sailing Program (US Sailing Team Sperry) and Chair of the Para World Sailing Committee.
Alison is well known for bringing new sailors into the sport at grass roots level – much more than simply taking sailors out on the water for an initial experience. She has supported and provided clinics at grass root level events in and around the USA with her main aim of developing a pathway for all types of people, with differing levels of disabilities and competition experience.
She was instrumental in the revision and editing of the 1996 IFDS Disabled Sailing Manual and she worked to design and implement a classification system for the inclusion of sailors with visual impairments in Para World Sailing competition at all levels.
The American has also provided coaching for the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, held the first Disabled Sailing Instructor Workshop and developed Pioneer Grants which enabled community sailing programs to incorporate Para World Sailing into learn to sail programs.
With a long list of projects and commitments Alison continues to pursue challenges with a broad mind set and concluded by saying, “The reason why I do this with such a passion is the reaction of the sailors. It is really incredible to see what I think is an underserved group of people that are athletes, who have a competitive mind that don’t let circumstances affect their outlook and pursuits.
“When I wake up and I think I am having a bad day, I realise that I have nothing to complain about. The fact of the matter is that it is a great part of sailing that I really want more people to experience and understand. That’s now happening within ISAF and the entire organisation is starting to realise the hidden gem of Para World Sailing.”
The ISAF President’s Development Award is the second time Alison has been recognised for her work. In 2006 she was the recipient of the Gay S Lynn Memorial Trophy for her outstanding service to sailing and sailors with disabilities.
Alison working with US Sailing Team Sperry athletes alongside Morrow, the team’s highly trained Facility Dog.