Interview: Dean Brenner, Chair of United States Olympic Sailing

Photos by FIV/Carlo Borlenghi

In tonight’s issue of Sailing Scuttlebutt, US Olympic Sailing Program chair Dean Brenner speaks about the US Olympic Sailing program, especially in regards to the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London. Part two will follow in tomorrow night’s Scuttlebutt.

Dean Brenner, who has been Chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program for
eight years, is stepping down. The position has a two term limit, and his
successor Josh Adams is ready to take over September 1st. Scuttlebutt
editor Craig Leweck spoke to Dean last week about the progress of the team,
its failure to medal at the 2012 Games, and the future of the U.S. program.

* You began this position as a volunteer. How has it evolved?

Except for one instance, the job had always been a part-time volunteer
position. Those were the terms I accepted under in 2004, but we knew right
away that the world of Olympic sailing was becoming more professional, we
needed our sailors to be more full-time, and it is pretty hard to ask a
full-time sailor to be led by part-time leadership. So we were on this path
toward making my position full-time during my entire eight year term. I did
four years of part-time volunteer, and four years in a part-time paid
position, and now my successor will be taking over as a full-time paid
position.

* When looking at the progress of the program, there are two sides: the
sailor side and the administration side. Explain the progress on the later?

When I took over in 2004, our only staff was two administers (Gary Bodie
and Katie Kelly) and two coaches (Skip Whyte and Luther Carpenter). We
didn’t even have a Paralympic coach. Now we have a full-time staff of nine
(ten if you include me). I know people may view the growth on the
administrative side as costly, but the growth was a result of the workload,
and if you want to seek out volunteers to fill them, the talent pool
significantly shrinks.

* How important is team performance in terms of seeking team funding?

It is definitely important. I have been saying for eight years that results
matter, so it would be disingenuous for me to change that tune. So yes,
results matter, and I contend that our results for the last eight years
have in general been very good. They weren’t good at these Olympics, but
they have been good, and it is important to the funding.

But it is important to keep in mind that we are a program in transition.
There are other elements to the long range plan that we have not executed
yet. For example, the big initiative from a program perspective in the
2005-8 quad was to add sponsorship and learn how to fundraise. We had to
grow our revenue, and we did that. Our budget on an annual basis has grown
400% in the last eight years. It was about a million a year when I took
over and it’s about four million now.

Our big initiative this quad was to change our culture, create a supportive
atmosphere, to make our team training more collaborative. This also has a
commercial element to it which gives donors and sponsors something to get
excited about. But there are clearly some other pieces that we haven’t
gotten to yet and those are important too.

We need to do a much better job on pipeline development, and we need to do
a much better job on talent retention, so that we can get multiple quads
out of certain people. So we are not there yet, and even if we had won two
or three or four medals, we still would be saying we are not there yet. We
still have a lot of work to do. That hasn’t changed.

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One response to “Interview: Dean Brenner, Chair of United States Olympic Sailing

  1. Pingback: Part Two: Interview With US Olympic Sailing’s Dean Brenner | The Racing Winds Blog·

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