Sailing is not simply a competition

Published on January 11th, 2018

Among the keynote presenters of the Sailing Leadership Forum 2018 (Feb 1-3) is Reed Maltbie with Changing The Game Project, an organization working to return youth sports back to children and put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’

Youth sports have become an ultra-competitive, adult centered enterprise, and in Maltbie’s presentation he will analyze conventional wisdom that youth sports are a positive experience for our children, yet 70% of children drop out of organized athletics by the age of 13.

He will discuss:
• How to keep kids in sports
• How to give a child the competitive edge
• How to push and praise kids to perform well
• Three ways to change kid’s sports experience for the better
• How to motivate kids to take ownership for sports
• How to help, and not hinder, their performance through the things you say and do

What sets sailing apart from other sports is that the competitive component is not central to the activity. However, as noted by Don Finkle, CEO of RCR Yachts, he fears we miss this point when we are look at keeping sailors in the sport as well as attracting new ones.

“Someone should become a sailor before we expect them to be a racer, at least for the long term,” observes Finkle. “By sailor we mean someone who loves, or at least enjoys, the act of sailing itself. Being outside on the water with the wind and wave, feeling that sense of moving with only the forces of nature. If one truly enjoys sailing for sailing’s sake then we suggest they are more likely to want to keep racing regardless of the results.

“This process starts at the beginning when people are first exposed to sailing. When we were kids we sailed 90% of the time, simply messing around, and racing made up at most 10% of our time on the water. Observation indicates that now most youth sailing tends to focus on teaching racing skills.

“Kids compete in sailing as they do in soccer, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, you name it, but always competing and always there is a score and a winner and loser(s). And also coaches or adults telling them what to do and when.

“We understand that times have changed and people have more opportunities to do other things besides sailing, but if that seed is planted early it tends to last. And that seed should be about having fun on the water and learning sailing as another life skill, not simply as a competition.”

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