Coaching: A View from the Inland Lakes

Published on December 18th, 2016

The differences in types of sailing, sailing regions, and competition levels impact the issues of our sport. The escalation and impact of event coaching is one of these issues. Candace Porter, a longtime contributor to the Inland Lake Yachting Association, shares her observations on this issue.

There seems to be quite a dialogue related to coaches. As an alternate opinion, I would like to compliment and encourage our coaches. In nearly all cases, these are the finest individuals who serve as role models for YOUR youth. In the summer months, no one spends more time with YOUR child than the coach. They, in many instances, are YOUR children just in another role.

These individuals are our local yacht club members. We are fortunate to have created a sport in which our youth graduate into these positions. Just as in the care and maintenance of a boat, our sailing children learn responsibility and decision-making, so our coaches are placed in positions to learn conflict management, the art of articulation with adults (and we, by nature, only speak up when things are not to our liking), scheduling, planning. These skills are not developed in many other summer jobs at such a young age.

There are countless anecdotes of our college students referencing skills or experiences they learned which applies to their entrance essay. Or creating a resume for an entry-level job. Consider the college student who chaired college nationals with a budget of over $100,000. Or the skill set the resume includes due to running our local programs, fundraising, promotion and marketing of programs.

Not many non-sailors have this experience so early in life. — THESE ARE YOUR COACHES!!! Singlehandedly this coach makes an immeasurable impact on your sailor and you and the sport of sailing impacts the coach’s development as an individual.

On the water during racing, I can rely on the coaches on my courses to respond immediately to a problem (emotional or physical tipover). Never have I seen a coach respond, “not my kid, let someone else do it!” Then add they drive a boat better than any RC I’ve ever met due to the sheer hours of practice. They set marks faster than most local race committee – again due to practice and hours on the water. They are skilled individuals.

Perhaps what I see are the coaches on my courses feel beholden to me since I have served on RC since their young Opti days but I rather doubt that’s the case. They are quality individuals who work long hours, devote themselves to creating a love of our sport and, in all cases, develop your child’s competitive behavior. This is a grave responsibility we give to them. The added risks since it is a water sport adds to the serious nature of their daily responsibility.

Then add the psychological development of your child under the coach’s tutelage — we should assure we choose well when we hire coaches. The coaches are there to repair the disappointment of a race poorly sailed; they turn your child’s attitude around to face the next race with renewed enthusiasm. No one does it better and what a lesson they teach – my next success comes from the mistake I might have made today. If only as a parent, I was as neutral in my expression of the same sentiment.

As sailors progress in skill to championship events, coaches continue as a part of the race course although the stakes have been raised. So is there any different motivation for the higher level coach? I rather doubt it in a real sense. They still are interested in someone else’s performance or experience. Rarely do I recall telling someone Coach John Smith’s protégé won the Olympics. The coach sits in the background and provides the support and teaching the sailor desires to improve to a higher proficiency.

So let’s focus on how to manage the coaching aspect on the race course by defining their level of involvement – the physical space race committee wants them to employ. Comments we as a sailing community make about “coaches on the course” should center on procedures to make RC efficient rather than limiting their role with the athlete. Let’s make this discussion about policies – a black and white set of statements. We entrust coaches with our sailors and in a few short years, those sailors are those coaches.

We are fortunate in all sailing teaches us throughout the experience and the varying roles we all play. Thank you to all the coaches who shaped my children (now in their 30s and still sailing), thank you to all the marvelous coaches who make my Opti courses as safe, instructional and fun as possible and thanks for this sport who develops individuals who learn to give back to the sport in a new role.

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