AOST and Development Squad Program
The Program: The opportunity to join OptiAUS/AIODA’s Australian Teams or Squads is a unique, rewarding and highly sought after experience. Participation in any of the Teams or Squads should be viewed as a privilege to represent Australia, and an occasion to experience high quality International competition along with interesting cultures. It is also an opportunity to build sailing experience with a number of similarly motivated sailors trying their best. Results achieved should not be the sole motivation, nor single performance indicator, but rather the collective learned experiences both in life and sailing afforded by the event, and the experience of being part of a representative team.
Background: The Australian Optimist Sailing Team (AOST) program was first introduced in 2006-7, with the Australian Optimist Development Squad (AODS) introduced in 2015 to provide a development pathway for the top Under 12's.
2017 witnessed the introduction of a new structure to the combined Australian Optimist Sailing Team (AOST)/Development Squad program with increased flexibility, as well as the inclusion of a national Australian Optimist Girls Squad (AOGS), and modifications to include an additional Open level Australian Optimist Development Squad.
The program encompass specialised coaching throughout the year and attendance at AOST/Development Squad nominated regattas such as State, National level and International regattas.
2018 Program: The 2018 OptiAUS/AIODA representative team program will provide opportunity for over 40 sailors to participate in the collective AOST/Development Squad campaign – a significant increase over the 15 sailors included in the first AOST program back in 2007.
Criteria and eligibility for selection have evolved in recent years (as have the procedures and protocols), based on many years of experience over a number of OptiAUS/AIODA Committees.
AOST sailors have each year formed into a tight knit group transcending State borders. They are eager to travel, to sail and train against and with their friends, who, like them are working hard at improving their own skills. They are also becoming aware that they are a part of something special and are gaining the respect of many other class associations, be they Junior, Youth or Senior. Some AOST/Development Squad members compete in more than 4 or 5 high level regattas in addition to the Nationals each year. This is the equivalent of sailing 2 or 3 seasons had they only been doing the Nationals and their home States. How can they not be better sailors!
The AOST/Development Squad Program is not about burning out our young sailors, or even creating Olympic Medallists and World Champions. Even so, we have many outstanding Optimist sailors and undoubtedly some of our AOST/Development Squad members will indeed go on to be Champions. The program is about training and developing their sailing skills, using their initiative, thinking and acting for themselves, and above all enjoying the sport of sailing. Belinda Stowell, Olympic gold medallist, Sydney 2000, began sailing in Optimists, while approximately 75% of the sailors in 2016 Rio Olympics were former Opti sailors. Interestingly, almost half of them had already represented their country at IODA Worlds and Continental Championships.
To quote the words of one of our most dedicated sporting sailing and coaching icons, Huck (Malcolm) Scott, Olympic Silver medallist, Melbourne, 1956, “if you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right”. The benefit for each state (and the Optimist Class within Australia) is to have those sailors in OptiAUS/AIODA Representative teams lead by example and act as role models when they return from AOST/Development Squad training. Their focus will be directed to acknowledge and share their experience with their Australian home state friends.
Funding: Funding is always tight but with the support of the Australian Sailing Grant and a corporate sponsorship relationship with Gill Australia in place, OptiAUS/AIODA is looking to optimise the spread of the available dollars to contribute to high performance, gender and capacity building initiatives. As a guideline a typical AOST campaign can still cost in the order of $7-10k for an individual family.