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We evaluate not just performance, but communication as well

Interview with Windsurfer Sara Wennekes, Participant in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, about Management Drives. Insights into the drives of the entire team around surfer Sara Wennekes have led to the best season so far.

“I have taken a different path than usual in my sports career,” says professional windsurfer Sara Wennekes. She qualified for the Olympic Games by finishing an impressive fourth at the World Championships in January in Lanzarote. In this interview, she talks about how she achieved this performance, the role of her personal drives, and how she continues to develop to perform well at the Olympic Games next summer.

What was your journey to an Olympic ticket like?

“Until 2019, I was part of the Dutch youth teams and achieved good results. In the senior field, the results were lagging. Therefore, I had to leave the team in 2019. But I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. So, I struck out on my own. Bought a van and started all over again. I had no money and no equipment. With support from Club TalentEmpowerment, among others, I was able to embark on this journey. This was also when it was announced that ‘original’ surfing was changing to windfoiling. You have a foil under your board which makes you glide over the water. The speeds are much higher, up to 50 or 60 km/h, and it requires a different technique.”

“In 2020, I started my campaign. I trained 20 hours a week and also worked another 20 to 30 hours. The results improved. For example, I won a World Cup competition and finished ninth at the European Championship in Marseille in 2021. That was the start of the professionalization of the campaign, resulting in an A-status and a fifth place at the European Championship in 2022.”

“2023 is my best season so far: eighth at the World Championships, third at the Olympic test event, and eleventh at the World Championships in my own country. This resulted in a return to Team Allianz, the Dutch sailing team of the Water sport bond. And an Olympic ticket!”

Dealing with Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses in a Young Team

“The insights I gained from Management Drives have led to many moments of recognition in the path I have taken. Taking action, hitting it hard, giving it all I’ve got (red). Organizational skills are a big strength of mine; I work very structured (blue). And the analytical part is also significant (yellow). I like to check with other people if I’m doing well and ask for a lot of feedback. Having a goal in mind, a structured approach, and not being afraid to go all out, has led to these good results (orange). It’s nice to recognize that.”

“We have a young team and have put a lot of effort into our way of working together. It truly feels like collaboration. It helped that my coaches also did the Management Drives analysis. We now understand even better where each other’s strengths and weaknesses lie.”

“Of course, there are clashes sometimes. We’ve devised a good system for that. The MD analyses confirm this. It means coaches involve me a lot in the programs, and there’s a lot of room for feedback. That’s an important aspect for me. Additionally, I like having a good structure and clear goals. As long as I feel I have control, it’s good for me. And if the collaboration allows this, I am most powerful.”

“A downside is that I find it hard to delegate. For example, I like to gather and check my own material and don’t really want coaches’ control. We had to discuss this because the coach also needs this control. As a solution, we agreed, is that the coach checks when I don’t see it. Then it doesn’t bother me.”

“We now understand much better where behaviors come from. When there’s a conflict, we investigate what causes it. It helps us in our way of communicating. We’re still very focused on me as an athlete, as an individual, but we’re a team. That’s the next step in our development. To also better utilize the strengths of the coaches.”

Insight into Drives Helps Us

“When I’m under pressure, I start analyzing everything and questioning. Then I want to try new things. But that just brings chaos to my mind. My coach, on the other hand, draws a lot of confidence from the familiar and focuses more on the original plan. That clashes. So now, especially when this happens, we’re going back to my structured side. This insight has helped us a lot.”

“We evaluate every competition and training camp. Not just on performance, but also on communication. We know where our strengths lie and how to better leverage them. And how to deal with our weaknesses.”

*Management Drives has been a Supporter and Partner of TalentEmpowerment (TE) for years. TE uses the drives methodology of MD in its coaching program for athletes and for companies.