PROBLEMS IN SPORT: Economic or Attitude?

Published on March 17th, 2013

By Glenn McCarthy
When I see the statistics, I just presume everyone else in the sport of sailing has seen the same statistics. I shouldn’t presume, and here’s why we are working to reverse the trend of 40 years of horrible decision making in this sport.

According to the National Sporting Goods Association, in 1970, 25,500,000 Americans said that they went sailing more than once during the year, or 12.75% of the populace. In 2010, 2,500,000 Americans said that they went sailing more than once during the year. Now don’t forget that the country’s population grew by 50% during this period, or by 100,000,000 more Americans.

When you crunch the numbers, accounting for population growth, there are just .83% of Americans sailing now, unlike 40 years ago. If you can picture this curve in your head, it appears in 10-15 years from now, the last boat will be sailing. The sport would be finished and over with.

What would the waterfront, clubs, sailing schools, marinas, shipyards, boat builders, etc., look like if we had 17 times the number of boaters we have today (equal participation of 40 years ago)? Sailing would be a huge part of the economy. Probably many of us avid racers would be in the maritime industry and not doing what we are doing today for work!

Over the 40 years, there have been huge growths in our economy, periods of stagnation, inflation, and recessions. When looking at the current graph, it is a steady curve downwards. You cannot see any overlap between the economy and participation. There’s no statistical correlation.

My contention is that Attitudes have changed which have led to this huge decline. The sport strived for more perfection in everything it has done and perfection has proven inversely proportional to participation. People like doing things for yucks and laughs, versus the alternative of being under high pressure to perform their duties well on board in order to be number one.

Shenanigans, pranks, jokes, etc., have taken a back seat to the serious businesslike tone sailboat racing has assumed today, so much so that even sailing clothing has to reflect a businesslike atmosphere. Sailing clothing choices are looked at with long noses. Many come to the boat just to race. After racing they clean the boat up and leave immediately (like the 5:00 o’clock whistle just blew and they’re running away from work!). You’ve seen it. You know this exists. We’ve made this sport into a job, just like work. Pretty gross isn’t it?

We must change right now before it is too late. Bring on the rowdy, raunchy, loud, hysterical, crazy pranks, shenanigans, hoot and hollers, in anyway and every way you can. Convert this back into a really fun time and create a more relaxed atmosphere on the water that allows time for jokes, storytelling, and plot planning time to prank other boats! Let’s change our ATTITUDE before it is too late. It is all about Attitude. It is not about the economy.

Source: Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation

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