Time on the water doesn’t cut it any more

Time on the water doesn’t cut it any more

“Time on the water doesn’t cut it any more”

– how our senior Irish Sailing Team takes stock of the past season, and uses what they’ve learnt to tailor their winter training programmes.

It’s the end of the sailing season, and our senior athletes are back home at the Performance HQ taking stock and embarking on new training programmes over the winter months.

At this time of year, we look back at the summer and assess the big events through end of season debriefs. Leading these is Ross Killian, who has worked with Irish Sailing as a Performance coach in a variety of different roles and who brings considerable Olympic experience both from competitor (Athens 2004) and coach (Beijing 2008) perspectives. The information Ross takes from these debriefs feed into the new and updated training programmes, tailored to the athletes’ individual needs.

We caught up with Ross to understand more about how he manages the end-of-season debriefs, and what help they give the athletes and coaches.

Ross defines the end of season debriefs as time to stand back and review the season; to look in great detail at the strengths and weaknesses of the athletes, and understand any obstacles or problems that may be hampering their performance.  Ross looks at three areas – the physical (e.g. the venue, or the boat), the technical (e.g. starts, or downwind speed), and the psychological (e.g. homesickness). As Ross says, “time on the water doesn’t cut it any more” – athletes have to look at all the other factors at play – whether that’s adjusting to a new climate, changes in diet, or their mental attitude.

The “Hot Wash”

The debriefs involve a three-step process. First off is the “hot wash”. This is an interview done no more than 48 hours after an event to capture an athlete’s (and coach’s) first thoughts, straight from competing. Their reactions are raw and immediate when emotions can be running high and the details are fresh in their minds.

Two weeks after the “hot wash”, Ross follows up with a more formal and in-depth meeting at base – this time in a classroom setting complete with whiteboards. He mirrors back what was said at the hot wash and digs deeper into why events happened as they did. This is a chance for the athlete to talk about the big picture, having had a little bit of time to reflect.

This is then followed by a third and final meeting one week later where Ross facilitates discussions between the athlete and coach in which they cover key areas of concern, with the end goal of formulating a plan for the coming season. The coach then goes off to tailor a training programme, and the athletes knuckle down and focus on the next big event.

Absolute trust

The key to the success of these debriefs is the absolute trust between Ross and the athletes. And its his experience with our teams that have other sports asking for his expertise. Currently Ross is doing debriefs with another Olympic sport and observes that “there’s very little difference in the challenges facing athletes – regardless of the sport”. 

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