Below is a link to a recent ūüáŅūüᶠSouth African Soaring Team pilot selection process discussion (notice the intelligence, openness, and realism) vs. the US International Team’s new subjective selection process (a closed, crony, and ineffective popularity contest) which is based on US Rules competition results and not on FAI rules competition.

This discussion makes some excellent points (thanks for sharing gentleman ūüėČ). ¬†I contend that the SSA “good old boys” are fraught with corruption, cronyism and outright favoritism. ¬†In fact, they are out of control in many areas of SSA management, now including the US Team Committee and its “new toy,” the voting based selection process. ¬†Many of you have been telling me old stories of similar cozy behavior with the old (15-20 years ago) US International Team Selection process (essentially a popularity contest) which was ended, until its recent “rebirth.” ¬†Unfortunately, those questionable, perhaps even entirely corrupt ethics (and most ancient of human tendencies) now appear to have come fully “back into fashion,” almost immediately.

Of course, our new US Team “Zhars” will soon claim that modeling themselves after the British, German, and French soaring teams (good luck) will somehow improve our US International Team’s performance at future WGCs. ¬†I’m highly skeptical of this. ¬†I still that too many treat team selection as a prestigious vacation. ¬†They put no real effort into adapting to the FAI system. ¬†They are just happy to say, I was on the US team (once, twice, three times, etc.) ¬†Keep in mind that France and Germany are elite, highly developed International FAI Soaring Teams (not US Rules-based, of course). ¬†The tiny (by any measure) US Team has virtually zero similarities to those successful teams. ¬†For starters, the US International Team Committee members are all invested in an entirely different sport, US Rules (OLC) soaring competition. I contend that the so-called “noble” justifications for granting themselves this new power to overrule the International Rankings is simply untrue. ¬†First and foremost, the Good Old Boys wanted to reclaim the power to override the US Team International rankings when their buddies are not on the top of the list (and when others they do not like (or are critical of their crony self-perpetuating style of leadership) are). ¬†Hence me.

Actions speak louder than words.  Talk is cheap.  The US International Ranking list should be respected, not ignored and re-interpreted on their whim and with a wave of their good old boy magic wand.

The elite, highly successful International Teams have virtually zero similarities to the US Soaring Team (trust me on this):

1) Their budgets are enormous. They receive substantial government funding and have large national soaring centers with full-time staff and elite coaches (ex-world champions).
2) The number of serious WGC level pilots pursuing selection on the team is far higher and more competitive.
3) The quality of team preparation at the WGC and associated dynamics are at much higher levels. These pilots all fly only FAI rules and therefore are far more prepared for international competition, for starters.  The US Team Committee chooses not to consider FAI event, focusing primarily on US Rules events.
4) The history and culture are significantly different (note: I wholeheartedly disagree with subjective team selection (voting). This practice has been eliminated from Sailing and other similar sports due to almost continuous crony like corruption.
5) The depth of youth development, which may justify allowing a developing junior pilot onto the team (who did not qualify mathematically) in order to gain experience earlier than they might without such “charity,” is far greater than in the USA.
6) The proximity of pilots geographically to fellow team members and other experienced FAI teams FAR more relevant measures to the WGC Team selection.

These differences are enormous. ¬†The good old boys can’t pretend to be the British or French soaring team. ¬†They can not simply “become” the German Soaring Team just by visiting them (for a day) and adopting only one (convenient) aspect of their highly developed selection process while adopting almost nothing else of functional value (such as FAI rules based qualification) about their selection process or team development systems. ¬†So why have the US good old boys changed only this one aspect of the US Team selection process (granting themselves the ability the to pick their buddies and override our International Team Rankings)? Any rational person can see that the US International Ranking points now only seem to apply when a Good Old Boy member is leading by even the tiniest of margins.

It was evident to many of us when this previously failed idea was first re-mentioned that it had the very real potential to become unethical and ineffective. That the voting would be used by pilots and committee members to disregard rankings based on friendships and alliances.  We all now see the result.

The only meaningful change to the US Team selection process appears to be that the “good old boys” have seized the US pilots control over their destinies, who used to qualify via a simple, comprehensive ranking points formula. ¬†The US needed to do much more than merely granting themselves almost total authority over pilot selection. They should have thought much more carefully about this. ¬†The should have developed a qualification process that takes into account all objective data available. ¬†They needed to develop far better, more open, more honest communications of their actions. FAI competition and FAI tasks should have a higher value. US poker tasks (MATs) should not even be part of the International Team calculations. Finally, a series of achievable US Team milestones should have been adopted (and announced publically) which carefully move the US Team thru shared successes and built on one another. ¬†That may have enthused the pilots, not disgusted them via their clear political favorites, corrupt ethics demonstration.

For something positive and constructive, the document below outlines how South Africa is evolving its Team selection process. They seem to realize (wisely) that they are a far smaller country (relatively) than France or Germany and therefore using IGC rankings for pilot selection is a far superior, fairer and FAR more effective path forward. Brilliant! ¬†Their conversation seems to be an intelligent, highly visible, non-secretive conversation. ¬†How refreshing! ¬†That is not the way our¬†new US Team Zhars (good old boys) operate here in the USA. ¬†When was the last meaningful, inspiring public announcement communication from the US Team Committee? ¬†I can’t think of any. ¬†Nada. ¬†Zero. ¬†Exactly.

South African Team Ranking System

Meanwhile, the US Team (like the US Rules) continues to recreate its own custom “wheels” for every aspect of the sport. Even the US International Ranking list is hosted on someone’s private server, rather than the SSA’s (national aeroclub?) own website. ¬†Bottom line, the US Team Committee has now demonstrated their willingness to take full advantage of their new subjective, “vote” based system which allows them to pick their Good Old Boy buddies and to completely disregard the earned US International Team rankings, as they wish…