US Sailing: Leadership Forum Takeaways

Published on March 27th, 2014

by Jack Gierhart, Executive Director, US Sailing
(March 26, 2014) – On behalf of the US Sailing staff, board of directors, and our volunteers we extend a great deal of gratitude to the over 600 sailors who attended the first-ever Sailing Leadership Forum last month at the Hilton San Diego Resort. It was truly a remarkable experience to witness so many sailors from all over the country, representing different interests, in one place to address the issues that matter most to sailors in the U.S. We all have so much in common in terms of the passion we have for sailing and the challenges we encounter.

The inaugural Sailing Leadership Forum left an indelible impact on the attendees who attended this original US Sailing event. I want to express how important it is for us all to continue this momentum. Keep the learning, sharing and networking alive as we apply these new ideas, strategies and procedures to our own sailing activities or at your home club.

We have archived the presentations and videos on the Sailing Leadership Forum website for your reference. In addition, we requested that attendees focus on their five most important takeaways from the event and share their experiences with US Sailing. It is part of our responsibility to study these prioritized takeaways in more depth and use them to help chart our course.

One of the more common attendee forum reviews we received was the variety of topics presented and the wealth of knowledgeable individuals participating in a wide range of subjects. Here is a summary of the most popular takeaways from the forum.

Networking was the most popular takeaway. Although the social component of the forum was a big hit, the networking referred to by attendees was centered around their ability to have meaningful discussions with sailors representing other interests in the sport, types of sailing, and industries. Attendees were able to observe and reflect on the common issues they share, and how they can work together to achieve better results.

Collaboration was a popular theme for the attendees. How can community sailing centers or yacht clubs collaborate with each other on key initiatives to grow the sport and support sailors? How can these organizations and other sailing industries integrate with their local communities to provide more awareness for prospective new sailors and waterfront access for current sailors? Ideas ranged from developing more creative ways to get people on the water to growing recreational sailing. Many attendees expressed a need to de-emphasize racing and results, while others urged more engagement of college and high school sailing teams.

In regards to regattas and racing, many attendees expressed the desire for more variety in our race courses with fewer windward/leeward courses and more non-traditional regattas. Attendees emphasized the importance of growth in participation and sportsmanship over more racing events, especially for youth. Attendees were challenged to create more alternative courses, games and activities for different age groups.

Diversity was another topic that attendees discussed and debated. Accessibility and affordability of the sport was a key element of the issue. Growing opportunities for women’s sailing and supporting women’s programs was also presented.

Investing in beginners, both youth and adult, was another trending theme. There was ample discussion on the consideration of utilizing the more experienced instructors and coaches with beginner and junior sailing programs.

Safety remains a hot button topic in the sailing community. Training and consultation for comprehensive emergency action and crisis communication plans is in high demand. Attendees learned more about emergency procedures including rules and responsibilities for staff and volunteers, potential dangers, safety equipment policies, crisis checklist timelines, and more.

The value of strategic marketing and communications continues to grow. Attendees focused heavily on the need to evolve with best practices in website marketing and social media. The power of engagement and interaction through these communications platforms is essential. Attendees learned more about the value of analytics in determining the success rate of their interaction with club members or other sailors. They also gained a better understanding on how to build the sponsor-client relationship and how to identify prospective sponsors that fit your brand. They were excited to practice their sponsorship pitch and received keen feedback on their approach.

We hope you use the archived presentations and videos for reference. Feel free to contact the Sailing Leadership Forum presenters, who are subject experts in their respective fields, with any questions. In most cases, you can access contact information in the archived presentation. Here is a list of speakers and presenters. Don’t hesitate to reach out to US Sailing if you need assistance contacting a presenter.

There were a number of important presentations and discussions that focused on nationwide issues regarding training and education. These conversations are continuing at the Regional Sailing Program Symposiums. These events are your chance to learn more about what’s happening both regionally and nationally in sail training and education.

The learning has just begun. We plan to organize more resourceful opportunities through other platforms in the near future, including webinars and an online forum. We hope you will participate!

Again, we thank you for your participation in this great exchange of ideas. We hope you stay engaged with US Sailing!

Source: US Sailing

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