Youth was the focal point of the first day of the FEI Sports Forum, with a dynamic panel of eight successful youth athletes from around the world representing all disciplines debating a wide range of topics during three separate sessions. Led by moderator Catie Staszak (USA), the panel shared their thoughts on accessibility to high level sport, long-term career pathways and sport promotion and media. This was the first time in the seven-year history of the FEI Sports Forum that the multi-faceted subject of youth has been tackled in such an-in-depth manner.
The athletes asked for greater visibility for their achievements through youth rankings, rethinking competition formats, the possible creation of a Youth Nations Cup and a roadmap for young professionals that will help athletes moving from the young rider to senior ranks. The female athletes stressed the importance of demonstrating that it is possible to be both a successful athlete and a mother, asking that ranking points should be frozen across all disciplines during pregnancy.
The panellists proposed that a range of initiatives could be put in place, including a youth congress, presence on FEI Committees, media training programmes, guidance on optimising social media use, specialised apps to engage wider audiences, enhanced broadcasting including the use of Go Pro cameras. Boosting the fun, playfulness and joy in the sport was seen as key.
|Go to Session 1||Session 2 - Youth|
26 March 2018, 10:00 - 16:00
|Go to Session 3|
Accessibility to High Level Sport
Discussing the importance of being able to combine the pursuit of a career in equestrian sport and education, youth session moderator Catie Staszak (USA): “Educational institutions need to understand the requirements of equestrian athletes who are pursuing an education.” Para-Equestrian Dressage athlete Gemma Rose Jen Foo will have to miss the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 due to her studies.
Eventing athlete and law student Thaïs Méheust (FRA) “I don’t want to choose between my education and my athlete career - I want to do both. Education is the key for everything, team spirit and learning how to be better individuals and in sport. We can do both - we have to do both, to be a good athlete and a good citizen.”
Jumping athlete and mechanical engineering student Edouard Schmitz (SUI), has the advantage of the Swiss Olympic Talent Card: “This allows me to study in a flexible way and I train every day. I get great support from the Swiss Federation. This support is important. If you want to be competitive today, you need to stay in the sport, you can’t drop out for education and drop back in.”
Dressage athlete Juan Matute Guimón (ESP) explained the positive impact of online education: “All of my high school education has been online, I have managed to pursue my academic and sport goals. Now my higher education is online, it’s flexible and helps me to adapt to priorities around travel and sport. This means I don’t have to give up anything.”
Long Term Career Pathways
Vaulting athlete Jamie Hocking (AUS) underlined the need to harness profile opportunities in media and social media to help with the climb to the top, and in Vaulting where equestrian careers are considerably shorter than in other equestrian disciplines: “I have random people in my life now saying I am famous, thanks to the recent profile. We need advice on how to take advantage of this now in a digital age.”
Driving athlete Martin Hölle (HUN) spoke about the importance of mentors and meeting the world’s best equestrian athletes: “It’s my dream to meet Edward Gal.”
Peter Bayer (AUT), Secretary General of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), spoke on the innovative initiatives rolled out by his Federation and included a classic line from Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton: “If you never spin you’re not trying hard enough!”
See below for more on the afternoon Youth session.
|14:00 - 16:00|
Sports Presentation and Promotion
Influencer Carl Hedin (SWE) on harnessing social media: “Tap into your own identity, understand how to use the apps and, when an opportunity to work with a brand comes around, work out how to best utilise this for your needs as an equestrian athlete.”
Juan Matute Guimón (ESP) on maintaining interest at major dressage events: “We should look at gymnastics and ice skating and take lessons from these sports and how they entertain the audiences. The Freestyle at our events is the highlight, and without taking away the essence of dressage, there are many technologies we can use as well as social media. I appreciate tradition a lot, but if we want our sport to progress and appeal to younger audiences we need to embrace the latest technology, using it to create new tests.”
Paulina Berriel Tarán (URU): “Every weekend in Uruguay people tune into the radio to listen in on the Endurance races. it’s really exciting, and for a 120k race it’s important to have all the latest details on the race to stay excited for a long time. Broadcast media can take lessons from radio in Uruguay and make this sport even better.”
Edouard Schmitz (SUI): “Statistics and exciting new details about our sport are exciting to fans who don’t follow equestrian sport, as well as for media correspondents who are not equestrian specialists. It sparks interest on screen and this causes discussion too amongst fans.”
Jamie Hocking (AUS) commenting on discussions about whether the dress code is too traditional across the disciplines: “If you don’t like the uniform you should come and try Vaulting!”
The youth panelists were unanimous in asking the FEI and National Federations for direction. Tabitha Sternberg-Allen (GBR): “We don’t want things handed to us on a silver platter, we just want guidance from those who know more about this sport than we do.”
Giving back to youth
Hanfried Haring, FEI Bureau Member and former President of the German National Federation: “I am so glad I’m still involved in horse sport because there is so much I need to give back to the youth.”
Catie Staszak (USA), multimedia sports journalist specialising in equine media
Jumping: Edouard Schmitz (SUI)
Peter Bayer (AUT), FIA Secretary General for Motor Sport, will talk about some of the innovative initiatives the FIA have rolled out in order to assist career pathways for young athletes.
Carl Hedin (SWE), International Dressage Rider and CEO of Eques Management