Lessons Learned from the Cleveland Browns

Sailing is a lot like football and I have learned lessons from the Cleveland Browns!

In sailing, we don’t throw balls across the field. We don’t have time-outs. We don’t have special teams to come in and give us and extra boost. Heck, we don’t even have our own mascots! But there are a lot of lessons that sailors can learn from watching how a team like the Cleveland Browns operate.

cleveland brownsFootball is a sport filled with elite athletes. Each of those athletes spend their entire career and their entire life working tirelessly to be the best they can be and there isn’t a single pro football player that doesn’t invest all their mental, emotional and physical energy into their own personal and their teams success. Everyone understands that ultimately everything comes down to the results. If a team is winning or not makes all the difference in sport. Sailing as a competitive sport is the exact same!

The Cleveland Browns franchise is big business. The team recently sold for over a billion dollars. That is huge business! The team is all about the players on the field but there is a huge support network behind the scenes that make sure the team is operating at it’s optimal performance. When it is not…everyone on the team is focused and flexible enough to admit when changes need to be made and everyone knows that those changes are whats best for the team’s success.

In sailing, we don’t have a billion dollars. Funding is critical to a campaign’s success (by the way, you can support our success at http://tackk.com/hysaxt) as it drives your growth in training, support and regattas. We also don’t have huge support staff of front office people, trainers, coaches and analysts who are constantly watching our development and making decisions about our performance, our placement or our lineup come gameday. In sailing, especially on a two person boat; the athletes themselves have to be their harshest critics. The athletes themselves have to be introspective and must be honest enough with themselves and each other about their performance, their capabilities and their weaknesses.  It is the only way to create a champion!

The Cleveland Browns are always watching each players performance. The player reviews film from his game and makes changes to correct the errors he made. His coaches, trainers and assistants guide his progress and compare him to others on the team. Together they all make decisions on his ability to correct his errors before next weeks game, and if they can not be overcome well enough the coaches put in a player that can fill the needs of the team that week. Everyone wants the team to win, so when these changes are made it’s not about personalities or individuals it is about what is best to give the team the best chance to meet their goal…to win!

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Sailing and Olympic Campaign is every bit as strenuous for the athletes.  We have to be open to criticism from our teammate, our coaches, our competitors and mostly from ourselves.  If we are not open and completely honest, we can not ever improve enough to win! We are continually working on our strength, our conditioning, our teamwork and our individual skills on the boat. We all want to be the best of the best and it all comes down to our own determination, drive, focus and ability. When we find something that isn’t working, we have to change it immediately or our development will stop. We have to train daily, we have to be on the water perfecting our teamwork and our performance. If we don’t we fall behind the competition and we don’t win.

Over the past year, I have had to recognize that while I love driving my boat, I am much more valuable to my team…to my own success at the front of the boat. Everyone wants to be the helmsman. That’s where the glory is. That’s who gets the big TV interviews (a little humor there)! Everyone knows who the skipper of Oracle was in the AC34.  Can you tell me who the wing trimmer was (it was big news just before the start of the regatta)? I recognized that my coaches and advisers were right, I needed to be humble and to move off the helm so I could be successful! Ultimately I want to win the Games. I know that I can make the boat extremely fast and that I can make sure we fly when I am trimming the sails and calling tactics, so that is where I am. It’s a part of being mature and honest with yourself and of being willing to do anything to win.

I have recognized that there are still many things that need to change for the campaign to be successful. Some big things and some little, but there are a lot of things that need to be changed before we can win Gold in Rio! Over the past couple weeks of our training camp in Miami, we as a team have been looking at our performance and the performance of our competition. We have been reviewing video new and old, have been experimenting with some changes and are making some difficult decisions on what needs to change to make the campaign as successful as possible. It is something that the we need to be open about, honest with ourselves about, and mature enough to both recognize and admit. We are making some major changes in the coming days, weeks and even months ahead. Decisions that will have the team ready to win come the beginning of the US Olympic Trials throughout 2015!

I have my eye on Gold in Rio, and my honesty, focus and determination to succeed are what is going to make it happen. I made a promise to our fans and supporters that I would not let anything get in the way of our success…and I fully intend on living up to that promise! You will see announcements about changes, and you will see changes in our performance over the coming weeks. They are all for the best and I will always stay focused on Rio and the Gold at the Games. Tough decisions, difficult changes and brutal honesty are all tough for anyone and especially for a teenager. But that is what it takes to be a Champion! Keep us in your prayers, and please, please, please offer your support to help me make it all the way to Rio2016!