RYA Launches PODIUM Coach Programme 

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“Coaching is not about being told what to do, it is a partnership. Great coaches understand the sailors they are working with, what makes each individual tick and really supports them in the best possible way. It is great to have someone you trust and whose opinion you respect that you can really talk with about the things that need improving, to come up with a plan to move forward.” Ben Ainslie, triple Olympic gold medallist.

How often is it that when an athlete is interviewed immediately after a moment of triumph the first person they thank is their coach?    

If behind every athlete there is a great coach, the RYA is leaving nothing to chance by launching its pioneering PODIUM Coach Programme, to ensure Britain consistently produces World Class coaches to sustain its position as the World’s top Olympic sailing nation.    

PODIUM came about because it is the next critical step in the RYA coaching programme, creating an opportunity for coaches to become experts in their field.    

“PODIUM is an unparalleled opportunity for our top coaches to benefit from a truly World Class professional development programme. It is a great opportunity for our Junior, Youth and Olympic programmes to invest in the people who are going to build our athletes to become the winners we want them to become for years to come.” David Mellor, the RYA’s new Coaching Development Manager, who joined the organisation at the end of February.    

A former Laser and Finn sailor on the World Class programme, who campaigned for the Sydney and Athens Olympics, David coached sailors at Youth to Olympic Performance level while also qualifying as a PE teacher. Senior management, teaching and coaching positions at Southampton Solent University, Kingston Maurward College and most recently Exeter College, one of the highest performing colleges in the country, followed, as the 36-year-old headed up the Teaching, Learning and Improvement department.    

Now returning to sailing after an eight-year sabbatical from the sport he admits the concept of coaching is virtually unrecognisable to when he was coming up through the ranks as a youth sailor in the early 90s.    

“Coaching then was more about being told what to do and how to do it; now athletes work in partnership with their coaches to gain the best possible performance. Athletes have to evaluate the constantly changing environment they are in and come up with effective ways of improving their performance. Coaching today is about enabling them to do that and improve at managing performance. The easiest way to sum up the change is that it has gone from coaching sailing to coaching athletes. This change is not a trendy fad that will disappear over time, it is vital to producing World Class athletes because we need to develop intelligent athletes that can think at a high level.”    

The RYA has recruited six coaches for the first PODIUM intake with each applicant undergoing a rigorous selection process in which they demonstrated their commitment to developing themselves, their willingness to expand their comfort zones and honestly address their weaknesses and develop their strengths, and the ability to be open-minded, embrace change and apply the lessons to their coaching.    

Supported by UK Sport, the course is driven by the coaches to meet each of their individual needs to create, and work to, personal development plans that develops proficiency across a range of coaching essentials plus developing expertise in one or two critical areas.    

To continue breeding the inherent culture of excellence, the coaches will spend time as a group in iconic, inspirational organisations such as McLaren Formula 1, Google HQ, The Red Arrows and the Manchester Velodrome while also having access to leading experts and mentors in their fields of professional expertise.    

He added: “There is a huge amount of great work that has gone on to get people into coaching, and developing club coaches, and this will continue. But now my team and I will be spending a lot of time out on the water with the Junior, Youth, Development and Performance coaches finding out what they need to become even better coaches.”    

“At Junior and Youth level coaching arguably has even more of an impact than further up the ladder because you are still moulding and shaping young talent and personalities and we need as many expert coaches being influential and inspirational at those levels as we do at the top. Some of these coaches may go on to the PODIUM programme but we are trying to set the culture that at whatever level you coach at, everyone has the same massive value.”