Ullman and Keen Honored as US National Coaches of the Year


Pictured: Dave Ullman (Newport Beach, Calif.) with 2015 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Test Event gold medalists Haeger and Provancha.


April 25, 2016

Portsmouth, R.I. – After soliciting nominations from the public, US Sailing’s Olympic Sailing Committee (OSC) today announced David Ullman (Newport Beach, Calif.) as US Sailing’s 2015 National Coach of the Year, and Steve Keen (Stamford, Conn.) as US Sailing’s 2015 Development Coach of the Year. Each year, the OSC honors coaches who have distinguished themselves at the youth, national and international levels. The awards are a part of the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Coach Recognition Program, which highlights the accomplishments and contributions of U.S. coaches who train athletes at all levels of Olympic and Paralympic sports.

“These two coaches embody the kind of professionalism and skill that can really make a difference for sailors of all levels,” said Ben Richardson, Chairman of the OSC. “Quality coaching is crucial for the continued development of the sport in the United States. On behalf of US Sailing, I’d like to congratulate Dave and Steve for their work over the past year.”

2015 US Sailing National Coach of the Year – Dave Ullman

Ullman is well-known in the international sailing community for his contributions as a racer, sailmaker and coach. The 1996 US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year founded Ullman Sails in 1967, and has won multiple World Championship titles in several classes, including three in the Olympic 470.

It was Ullman’s return to the 470 and the U.S. national team after an extended hiatus that led to his recognition as 2015 Coach of the Year. “It has been absolutely rewarding and fulfilling to coach Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha on the Olympic circuit,” said Ullman, who guided the US Sailing Team Sperry’s women’s 470 team to new heights in 2015. With Ullman’s help, Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.) and Provancha (San Diego, Calif.) won bronze at the 2015 470 Europeans in Aarhus, Denmark, and gold at the 2015 Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro. “The thing about success in coaching is that it’s a two-way deal,”said Ullman. “Success only comes through a combined effort between you and the sailors.”

Ullman’s personal success on racecourses around the world led to an early demand for his skills as a coach. “Pro sailing is part of how I got started in coaching,” explained Ullman. “I started in 1987, after my 470 sailing career stopped. In ’87 and ’88, I coached both the U.S.  men’s and women’s 470 teams in advance of the trials for [the] Soeul 1988 [Olympic Games]. After that I coached the Men’s Olympic 470 team in 1988,  John Shadden and Charlie Mckee, who won bronze.” McKee (Bend, Ore.) and Ullman will return to the summer Games together later this year, as both will serve on the U.S Olympic Sailing Team coaching staff for Rio 2016.

Ullman sees coaching as a mostly separate art form from racing, and one that requires a different type of preparation and execution. “I enjoyed the transition from sailor to coach, but it wasn’t simple for me,” said Ullman. “Coaching is a difficult thing to do well, and it’s especially hard to transition from being a racer to being a good coach. For me, it wasn’t all that easy. You don’t want to try to form the people you’re coaching into mirror images of yourself. The real job is to get the most out of them based on their own strengths, weaknesses and individual personalities. From what I’ve seen, many of the best coaches are not the best performers in their own racing careers, and don’t have to go through that evolution.”

A dominant force during his own Olympic-class career, Ullman now enjoys passing on his knowledge to the current generation of sailors representing the United States. “It’s a way of giving back, and having that knowledge go forward with other American sailors. Shadden and McKee were close friends when I stopped sailing 470’s in ’87. As soon as they could beat me, it was time for me to coach them. And now, with Annie and Briana, I get a great level of satisfaction from watching them perform at a high level.”

When asked about what advice he would give new coaches, Ullman says that wholly committing to a coaching path is the best way to finding success. “Willie McBride, who is a young coach now for the US Sailing Team Sperry, is a perfect example. He’s someone who is a really good sailor in his own right, and immersed himself in coaching. Now he’s in the Olympic program coaching the 49erFX after doing some good work with younger skiff sailors,” said Ullman. “If you really want to be a great coach, you have to fully pursue that track, rather than trying to have a parallel pro sailing career. The successful coaches will decide that this is what they should focus on, get help, and become a student of the coaching game. Things have changed since I started. Now top-level coaching is a full-time job, and if done properly, a career.”

Ullman joins a distinguished list of winners of the US Sailing National Coach of the Year Award, which includes Morgan Reeser (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Greg Wilkinson (Rockport, Mass.), Mark Ivey (Tiburon, Calif.), Michael Callahan (Washington, D.C.), Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.), Bill Ward (Newport Beach, Calif.), Zachary Leonard (Branford, CT), Rollin “Skip” Whyte  (Wickford, R.I.), Roger “Scott” Ikle (Geneva, N.Y.), Serge Jorgensen (Sarasota, Fla.), Jay Glaser (Long Beach, Calif.), and Luther Carpenter (New Orleans, La.).

2015 US Sailing Development Coach of the Year – Steve Keen


Pictured: Steve Keen (Stamford, Conn.) with ISAF Youth Worlds gold medalists Logue and Brakman. Photo: LISOT

Steve Keen, a New Zealand native who moved to the U.S. in 2008, guided sailors to success at some of the biggest international youth sailing events of the year. Keen helped I420 class athletes Will Logue and Bram Brakman win a gold medal at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship in Langkawi Malaysia in late 2015. Other coaching highlights included Jack Parkin and Wiley Rogers’ silver medal at the 2015 I420 Open Worlds, and Matthew Logue and Cameron Giblin’s 6th at the 2015 I420 U17 Worlds.

Keen works as the Head Coach of LISOT, a year-round youth racing program based in the Long Island Sound areas of New York and Connecticut. “We have a number of sailors that work with us on regular basis,” said Keen. “We organize training camps to help them prepare and meet their specific goals.”

In 2015, Keen and several of his LISOT athletes also participated in training camps organized by US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program (ODP). “Prior to the Youth Worlds, we had training camps at Riverside Yacht Club, and two at Miami Yacht Club. We worked out a plan with [US Sailing Olympic Development Director] Leandro Spina and the ODP to work together, and to try to build something that’s better.”

793931_502674293109775_96805579_o-2Keen was named a US Sailing Youth Worlds Team coach, and the coordination between a top regional racing team with US Sailing’s national effort to improve technical skills at the youth level resulted in a year of significant success for American I420 sailors. Logue and Brakman’s victory at ISAF Youth Worlds was America’s first gold medal at the world’s premier youth regatta since 2007.

Keen found a home in the Olympic 470 class before committing to a coaching career. “Coaching originally started for me as a way to help support my own sailing in the 470. When that started to wind down, I began looking around for opportunities to give back to the sport. I was able to find a way to make a living doing what I loved.”

For Keen, coaching is an all-consuming passion. “The big difference between between those that try to mix careers, such as part-time pro sailors, and full-time coaches like myself is that we are thinking about helping our sailors the whole time. It sometimes happens that you wake up in the middle of the night, and you have a ‘eureka’ moment, and you suddenly know how to fix a particular problem your team is facing. Or perhaps you come up with better ways to explain what you’re trying to get across,” said Keen. “When you’re fully immersed in coaching, you’re completely thinking about it at all times. Theres are so many parts of the game that you have to take into consideration, and coaching is truly a full-time job.”

The one crucial piece of advice that Keen would pass on to aspiring coaches is to realize that they are on their own journey as well, alongside their students. “Never believe that you know it all,” said Keen. “You should be willing to coach with your eyes wide open, to talk to other coaches and sailors, and to work out how to make things better for everyone. As soon as you think you know it all, you start to fall by the wayside in terms of your effectiveness.”

What keeps the two-time winner of the US Sailing Development Coach 0f the Year Award coming back year after year, he said, was a simple love of seeing progress in athletes that make the necessary commitment. “It’s always great to see anyone, whether it’s high-level athletes like Youth World Champions, or low-level sailors getting around a race course for the first time, have small victories. It’s satisfying to see sailors have success, regardless of the level it’s at.”

Previous winners of US Sailing’s Developmental Coach of the Year Award include Todd Fedyszyn (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Jay Kehoe (Annapolis, Md.) Ryan Minth (New York, N.Y.), Brett Davis (Naples, Fla.), Ben Glass (Seattle, Wash.), Duffy Markham (Wellesley, Mass.), Tom Coleman (Hixson, Tenn.), Rob Hallawell (Marblehead, Mass./Coronado, Calif.), Brian Doyle (Darien, Conn./Hanover, N.H.), Amy Gross-Kehoe (Bayville, N.Y.), Adam Werblow (St. Mary’s, Md.) and Mike Zani (Bristol, R.I.).

Opening Ceremonie2015 Youth Sailing World Championships,Langkawi, Malaysia

Pictured: 2015 US Sailing ISAF Youth Worlds Team. Keen is at center. Photo: ISAF

About US Sailing

The United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and growth for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US Sailing is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US Sailing offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org
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Press contact: Will Ricketson, Olympic Communications Manager, US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider. willricketson@ussailing.org, 978-697-2384.