Photography by Tom Hodge
12 December 2023
In 2023 Australian Sailing launched its inaugural Youth Squad, which is a program of training and learning via coaching and webinars that prepares youth sailors for international competition in a squad environment.
The Youth Squad supports the work being done by Clubs and Classes to develop their talented young sailors and helps more effective talent identification for the Performance Pathway.
The Youth Squad is not a part of the Australian Sailing High Performance program but does play a crucial role in developing club sailors as they look to become what is known as “categorised” athletes.
The intent of the Youth Squad is to allow more sailors (in larger squads) to access quality coaching and work together towards competing internationally. It also provides Australian Sailing a greater opportunity to provide supplementary coaching support (both in the lead-up to and at Class Youth World Championships).
Throughout the year Youth Squad members participated in webinars and were helped to develop key action plans, all with a deliberate emphasis on achieving the fundamentals to become a skilled sailor, good racer, curious learner and squad minded. These are some of the areas Australian Sailing considers when identifying future potential in Olympic classes.
Frances Beebe, a 2023 Youth Squad member, combining her club (Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron) and class support, maximized every opportunity available to gear up for her competitions abroad. Her schedule included participation in the ILCA 6 Youth World Championships in Poland, the Kieler Woche Regatta, ILCA Youth European Championships and the U21 Worlds in Morocco.
“It was wonderful to share the experience with the Youth Squad members overseas this year and knowing them beforehand from the Youth Squad camp,” said Frances.
“On arrival I attended the camp I did not know any of the sailors. Being a member of the 2023 Youth Squad significantly contributed to my readiness for international regattas this year. I made the most from the training camp, webinars, and the action plan provided to me to elevate my learning.”
In supporting the Youth Squad and gathering feedback from sailors, parents, class associations and coaches, Australian Sailing gained insight into what those groups valued in our support of their development.
Some of the initiatives highlighted this year included:
Coaching support to a larger cohort of sailors from Youth Squad was well received
Youth Squad members reported building strong friendships and operating as a cohesive team culture
Youth Squad sailors who attended the camp came away with key action plans and sailing venue knowledge
Sailors who took part in the Youth Squad camp had a clearer understanding of their development priorities
Collaboration with the Class Association and Australian Sailing worked well in providing support to the sailors
Supporting the development of a new wave of class and club coaches by providing international exposure enabling the building of coach depth and capability
This year, Australian Sailing, in collaboration with Class Associations, invested in sending coaches with our squad to several international Youth events including the iQFOiL Youth and Junior European Championships, ILCA 6 Youth World Championships, 29er UK National Championships and 29er World Championships.
“By attending the class worlds, it allowed me to reinforce the learning I have gained and pass on back to the sailors I coach in Victoria and help other ICLA coaches,” said ILCA coach Rhett Gowans.
Gowans is also part of the AS #NEXTLEVEL coaching program, an initiative to support building depth and expertise in coaching.
Coaching internationally has been an important part of coach development and coupled with the program support enables coaches to identify and target learning opportunities to enhance their coaching. Several of the coaches involved in the program coached at Youth Squad level.
“I have an Individual Development Plan, I catch up regularly with my mentor and attend Australian Sailing Coach Development Advance programs with Performance Pathway Coaches and HP Staff,” continued Gowans.
“This provides a greater understanding of how was can assist bringing the next cohort of sailors into one of the many new programs Australian Sailing is offering.”
Australian Sailing extended its domestic coaching programs in cases where class associations participating in class worlds had numbers too low to justify sending coaching support.
Classes that went to Class Worlds without coaching support (such as the 420 and Nacra 15 classes) received five days of domestic camp support to be help build depth.
Through a broader investment into the sport and ensuring an alignment with the Australian Sailing strategy, Australian Sailing is focused on fostering long-term support for increased participation up and down in the pathway.
Nominations are now open for the 2024 Youth Squad are now open, and information can be found on the Australian Sailing Youth website.
Expressions of Interest for the 2024 Youth Squad Coaching Staff are now open, with 29er Coach applications closing at 9 m Monday 18th December 2023 and all other classes closing at 5pm Thursday 8th February 2024.