Team MPG - An interview with performance Guru Scott Sanchez
The notorious Team MPG have bagged more than their fair share of titles in recent years, highlighting their success at windsurfing’s highest level. The cornerstone to the program is founder and mentor Scott Sanchez, who trains and prepares a host of top names from his Maui-based center. I caught up with him after Micah Buzianis' crucial end of year victory at Sylt to find out a little more.
PWA: What’s your background and how did you end up in the windsurfing world?
SS: I have a background in Alpine skiing both as an Olympic competitor and coach for 8 Olympic cycles. I began windsurfing in 1984 and continue to burn around in the Maui summer Slalom series at every chance I get. I met my wife Rhonda Smith who was traveling full time on the World Cup in Hood River in the summer of ‘85. She is now long retired with an illustrious career with 13 World Titles and 5 Overall World Titles.
After my own retirement from Ski racing in ‘84 I still had a passion to compete and found windsurfing exciting and a place where gains could be made rather quickly. However, I ended up choosing to spend more and more time traveling and supporting Rhonda and her goals as well as creating a junior program called the Gorge Junior Slalom team. During the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s there were numerous national and regional events for the youth group competitors. Interestingly, Rhonda and I met Micah Buzianis and his Dad Jay in the Salt Lake area in the fall of ‘85.
Micah ended up in Maui with his Dad shortly after that and eventually made it out to Hood River where Rhonda I were living. Micah was part of the Gorge Junior team as were a number of other standout youths during those early years. Matt and Kevin Pritchard also spent summers traveling with their folks, which is what all those kids we had in program would have loved. We provided an opportunity for kids who were not privy to such support, plus we added the training concept. Clearly both approaches work as both Matt and Kevin and have had World titles, as Micah continues to do as well. I am very pleased to say that Micah and I have been working together for close to 20 years, almost as long as Rhonda and I have been married.
PWA: How did the team concept come about?
SS: Team MPG came about in the winter of 99. I was finished with my World Cup and Olympic contracts for Ski racing yet I was working privately for the US Ski Team handling injured athletes looking to make a come back on snow. I was in the unique position of being seasoned in rehab, well versed in conditioning and handling the on snow training was natural for me. Micah contacted me and asked me if I was available and interested to come to Maui and do some work with him. One thing led to another, the results came, and he asked what it would take to do something full time. The real estate market was hot in Hood River, so we sold our log home, stuffed the gym into a container, and put all the marbles in to a “castle home” on the golf course in Sprecks. Team MPG was officially started May of 99 and then Jimmy Diaz joined, shortly followed by Francisco Goya and Daida Moreno. We ended up with incredible results all thanks to each athlete’s talent, faith in our program and dedication to do things outside the norm of windsurfing.
PWA: Who’s in the team right now windsurfing-wise?
SS: Our current full time windsurfing team roster has Micah, Jason Polakow, Nik Baker, Robby Swift, Ross Williams and Josh Angulo. Also Junko Nagoshi and Pieter Bijl have been doing conditioning work, and Jimmy continues to train in GC with his conditioning protocols coming from our online services. We have Gonzalo Costa Hoevel coming on board for a mini camp in preparation for the final formula event this week, and a few other guys waiting in the wings. I continue to work fulltime from Maui with World cup skiers Julia Mancuso and Steven Nyman, who come for training in Maui and receive conditioning protocols on the road, as well as send in quick time files of the daily skiing for feedback while they are on snow.
PWA: Is it just physical and mental conditioning you offer, or do you work on promotion too?
SS: Each athlete has different needs after different times of their career and we work around those times, so yes I wear many different hats of counsel and act as a sounding board in many cases from conditioning to equipment selection.
PWA: How exactly do you make a difference to an individual team member’s performance?
SS: The biggest contribution any coach can make is shedding light and solutions in areas that have a direct affect on performance. Many times we as athletes do not see by ignorance or choice our weaknesses, and there they continue to haunt our ability to execute outside our comfort zones. As coaches it is our responsibility to see the tree through forest and select what is most important for that particular athlete at that time. It is different for each one. While there are the basic and elementary parameters to work within, the winning is in knowing the details as they affect each individual. What works for Micah does not work for Jason, what helps Nik distracts Robby. My biggest victory comes in the fact that I know my gifts and talents and I am not afraid to execute as well as ask for help outside those areas.
PWA: Why should someone consider joining MPG?
SS: We are a results oriented program, so clearly this emphasis is not for everyone. Our approach is systematic, again clearly not for everyone. We do not recruit anyone and we do not “sell” our program. There have been numerous athletes who have professed the desire to excel and make podium level results, however when it came time to address areas that needed new direction, they had it “handled”, so there ends any potential of working together. Those individuals, who are inherently talented, have an appetite for old-fashioned hard work and a passion to play hard excel in our program.
PWA: Do you work with any amateurs or is it just with the pros?
SS: We have development program for kids in multiple sports, not just water sports, as well as working with Executives and Celebrities in camps type formats.
PWA: What or who have been your biggest and most satisfying challenges within MPG to date?
SS: Our biggest challenge for every event is to have an athlete on the podium. Historically, Francisco’s World title was huge because 15 months earlier it was a roll of the dice if he could execute his skill level more than two heats in a row. Nik’s win in Canada was truly motivating because we had placed such a high focus on timed skills execution. Jason’s win here in Hawaii was tremendous because all of our sports science applications were enlisted, he competed with a fever over 102 all week and came all the way up the losers bracket. Robby has had numerous events that have gone against all odds and he has come up with personal bests. Josh’s sobriety and commitment to hard work has produced quantifiable results both on and off the water. Julia’s Gold medal this winter was a lifetime highlight for obvious reasons, especially considering her equipment was lost for five weeks prior to the Olympic games. Micah’s recent win in Sylt stands alone in our working relationship as the sweetest. We have done all the right things in the past years in Sylt and come up short of being close to personal bests, so to dominate the week there was hard and rewarding work for all of us.
PWA: Is it worth the money members pay in terms of the extra earnings they should make?
SS: That's a great question that is answered by the athlete’s team roster and the athletes themselves. We are hired and fired based on one thing, and that is producing quantifiable, improved and podium results.
PWA: Why have some people left the team?
For some MPG puts the fun in to pursuing dreams for others it takes the fun out of spontaneity. There are seasons in every athlete’s lives and often times that requires change, that change can both include and exclude team MPG. I am a firm believer in timing of change and the success rate is reflected in those choices made with wise and seasoned counsel.
PWA: How easy is it working with people not based on Maui?
SS: We work with athletes that are not based in Maui via Skype QuickTime video clips and online programs. 75% of those we work with have already been to Maui and have a clear understanding of our methodology and protocols.
PWA: What is the best advice an amateur or aspiring professional who wants to improve their windsurfing could take from you?
SS: The best advice for anyone wanting to improve in any sport, is spend as much time with the best athletes in that respective sport as possible. In the case of windsurfing, the answer is simple, sail in Maui, and jump at Pozo!
© PWA / Brian McDowell