Here are a few quick thoughts on the news that David and Leslie have been named as two candidates to make the USEF’s short list:
1) As much as I like Leslie, and as much as I think he is a great candidate to coach a team, the USEF has essentially picked their next eventing coach this morning. The selection process will continue with equal opportunity given to each candidate, but, on paper, it’s hard to imagine that David won’t get the job. David’s experience, riding success, and, most importantly, his success with the Canadians make him an overwhelming favorite to get the job in a two-candidate race. In passing up on the chance to include other very qualified applicants such as Phillip/Bobby, Jimmy, and Andrew, the Search Committee seems to have taken the approach of making a big part of the decision for the Athletes Committee. If you think that the USEF will pick someone as a first-time international coach over the Canadian WEG silver medal coach, then you must know something I don’t. But, that’s just my opinion and there is a long way to go in the selection process.
2) David and Leslie share some interesting characteristics that were obviously very important to the Search Committee in putting both of them on the short list. First, and perhaps most obviously, David and Leslie both live in the US and have knowledge of the US system–it seems the Search Committee was not interested in having another coach who lived outside of the US. Leslie and David have also had a great deal of individual success at international competitions–both won individual Olympic gold amongst many other accomplishments.
3) However, David and Leslie do have big differences. They both competed for very different international programs–David under Jack and then Mark, and Leslie for the powerhouse British Team. Leslie’s greatest strength as an applicant, in my opinion, is that he has good experience in the US without having been here long enough to make lots of friends and lots of enemies. He would bring a well educated but also independent perspective to the program, which is what many people are asking for–perhaps from different candidates.
4) Both Leslie and David are great people and coaches. This might be overlooked in the discussion of the candidates, but the next US coach being a good person with a strong ethical reputation is very important for me and the US program. Both David and Leslie fit the bill there. I’d gladly have either of them warm me up for show jumping at the biggest event of my life.
5) If you missed it on Eventing Nation a few weeks ago, Karen has stated that she would withdraw herself from team competitions and funding if David is selected as the next coach. That is an important detail in the conflict of interest debate.
6) If you had put a gun to my head a week ago and asked who would make the short list I would have said Phillip/Bobby, David, and a guess at one other candidate. I think Phillip and Bobby would have been a good choice but it never seemed like the public really got behind their candidacy. I desperately hope that Bobby and Phillip will be big parts of the US program for many years into the future–Phillip as a rider and Bobby as the High Performance Chairman. The US program needs Phillip and Bobby to stay involved as much as possible.
7) I think we are all wondering why Jimmy didn’t make the short list, and I think he should have obviously made the list above Leslie. Ultimately, we will never know how the applications looked and how the interviews went. It’s easy to sit back and take shots at the Search Committee for not picking one candidate or another, but ultimately I think the Search Committee was filled with smart people whom I respect, so I respect their decision with the understanding that they had access to a lot more information.
8) There’s no doubt in my mind that Leslie would have a better chance if Phillip and Bobby had made the short list. In that situation, Phillip might have split votes with David and a deadlocked Athletes Committee might have been more inclined to go for an independent option.
9) As we have been reporting, there were 9 applicants for the position. The USEF interviewed 6 of the candidates, so at least one of those was someone we didn’t know about. It might never become public who the 4 non-public applicants were, but it’s safe to say that most of the others were less well known European based candidates.
10) The Chronicle has just posted a report on the short list with a quick interview with David. He told the COTH: “I think my experience is probably a big part of it [having been named to the short list]. I have the experience of producing international riders over the last 10 or 15 years and also the experience of coaching a team and having created a successful program in Canada.” [COTH]
Stay tuned throughout the day for much more about the short list. Go eventing.