Following Monday’s announcement that David O’Connor has stepped down as U.S. Eventing Technical Advisor, the pressing question weighing on the collective eventing community is who will become the next Chef d’Equipe of Team USA.
Joanie Morris, USEF Managing Director of Eventing, kindly took time to speak with EN to walk us through the process of what will happen next.
“David’s departure has acted as a catalyst to review our structure and roles of the leadership of the programs as well as our coaches. I think the first thing to realize going forward is that if you look at elite sport worldwide — both equestrian and non-equestrian — there is no one way to develop and navigate this process. The structure of the leadership within programs differs between nations even within the same sport.”
With a review process of the team’s leadership structure in the works, Joanie said USEF has not yet finalized the specific details of “who or what we are looking for quite yet” for the Chef d’Equipe.
“We are in a position to evaluate every aspect of our program and figure out how and where we can improve. We are reaching out to a wide spectrum of stakeholders, especially with the 2018 World Games just around the corner, to determine what we need and how we are going to get there.”
In the meantime, USEF has outlined both an immediate and long-term goal for Team USA.
Immediate goal: Secure a top-five result at WEG 2018, and subsequently Olympic qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Long-term goal: Ensure that Team USA can move towards sustained podium success at Olympic Games and World Championships.
“There are many parts of the program, and the wider programs, that are working effectively. We want to capitalize on those strengths in addition to using this as an opportunity to take the time to identify our weaknesses and develop a strategic approach to rectify them,” Joanie said.
“We have excellent team staff and personal trainers and are well supported by owners, USEF sponsors and the USET Foundation. While we want to examine all parts of our program, we also know that maintaining the parts that are effective is critical.”
As for how Team USA will reach those goals, Joanie said the focus will be on accountability for all, effective planning, enhanced communication and raising the standard of performance on the world stage.
“One of the priorities is our cross country performance, which needs to be examined. We will work to develop strategies to ensure that the rate of our cross country success at major events and championships improves,” Joanie said.
“Challenges and criticisms cannot, and will not, be targeted at any one person. We all know eventing is the ultimate team event and there is a huge team behind the team that represents us on the field of play.”
While USEF will not be making “any sudden moves” in regards to selecting a new Chef d’Equipe, Joanie said the wheels are very much in motion as the organization works toward identifying what the team needs to succeed and determining the best way forward.
“We need to think collectively of how U.S. eventing can step up and become a sustainable force on the world stage. Doing what we have always done will not change results, and copying what other nations do will not necessarily work for the U.S. We must take the best of what we have been doing and also be prepared to look outside the U.S. for inspiration and guidance.”
EN will continue to provide updates on the latest developments as we look ahead to who will serve as the next Chef d’Equipe for Team USA. Stay tuned.