>The Courage to Look in the Mirror

>The 2012 US Olympic Sailing Team, our three top women’s match racing teams (one of which will qualify for the Olympic Team in May) and many members of our 2012 Development Team all convened at the USOC Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO for the last four days for a physical training camp. It was a chance to check in on health and physical fitness levels for our Olympians and match racing teams, and also a chance to immerse our Dev Team sailors into the realities of what it will take for them to reach their Olympic goals in 2016 or 2020.

For our Olympic Team members, the clock is ticking. The Games begin in 138 days, and for each of them, there is work remaining to be done. Some of them are still working out their equipment choices. Some are trying to get a little healthier or fitter or reach a target weight. Some are working on an aspect of their racing, such as onboard communication or tactical decision making. None of them are ready, today, for the Games to begin. But the good news is that there are still 138 days to go, and in most cases, I see our sailors on track for a good Games performance.

One of the things on the agenda this weekend was an intense experience with the Navy SEALS program. You can see photos on our Facebook page, and I won’t recount it all here. But the summary is that it was an intense experience that forced our sailors to examine the physical and mental pain they could take. For most human beings, their threshold for “no more” is a lot further out there than we think. Most of us stop doing something that seems painful a lot earlier than we need to or should. The experience was excruciating for the participants. Not all of them made it through. But it was also excruciating to watch.

The value of these kinds of intense programs can be debated. It’s not for everyone, and it’s a roll of the dice any time you decide to put your charges through something like this. But there is one aspect of undeniable value. It forced each of our sailors to take a hard look in the mirror. And taking an honest and hard look in the mirror is a hard thing to do. It takes courage put yourself through honest self-evaluation, because the answers you get are not always fun or flattering. But it is important for our sailors to be looking in the mirror in the lead up to the Games, because self-improvement and the goal of being the best in the world absolutely requires a healthy amount of self examination.

That SEAL experience is not for everyone, and I can see it backfiring just as easily as it succeeds. But in this case, it seems like it helped our sailors take that hard look in the mirror as they make their final tune ups for the Games.

Everyone retreats now for a little R&R, before the team convenes in Palma, Spain for the next world cup event in a few weeks. 138 days… the clock is ticking, and our sailors all were forced to take a hard look in the mirror. Some of them, perhaps all of them, will do something positive with what they learned.

Sail fast,

Dean Brenner
Chairman and Team Leader
US Olympic Sailing Program

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