Suggestions on Increasing Participation

Published on December 4th, 2017

DEAR CURMUDGEON: I am the newly elected Race Committee Chair for our local sailing club and I am looking for any thoughts or suggestions on increasing participation. I am open to any ideas you have. – EAGER FOR HELP

DEAR EAGER: While every sailing area has its own assets and obstacles that impact participation, there are some general truths that work everywhere:

1) Sparkplugs: Gone are the ‘build it and they will come’ days. An energetic person or people need to reach out and bring people in. Sending out an email won’t work. Building a website won’t work. Get on the phone and connect with people. Learn what it takes to get people to participate. Maybe it’s already being done and they don’t know about it, or maybe it is easy to fulfill their needs. Bottom line is outreach.

2) Format: The trend in the sport (most sports) is to raise the commitment needed to participate. For sailing, long days on W-L courses is not the solution to grow participation. Hiring coaches for practice sessions is not the solution. When the investment in time and money exceeds the recreational reward, people do something else. The best way to level the pitch is through the format. Pursuit starts, random leg courses, race only one day of a weekend, limit the races per day, coordinate the calendar with other clubs, smartly group types of boats for handicap racing, etc.

3) Purpose: We get blinded by the competition and lose sight of what else the sport provides. Yes, it gives us needed recreation but its greater attribute is social fulfillment. Make sure events have that balance which serves both areas. Help participants interact with each other. A bad day on the water is quickly forgotten by a good time on land. The social ties keep people in the sport. When it is only about the racing, attrition is not far behind.

Remember the mission is to grow participation, not serve the hyper competitive. You might not be able to do both, but there is a far greater group of casual racers and that is who you need to be listening to. – THE CURMUDGEON

Additional ideas here: http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/tag/growing-the-sport/

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