Embracing Change at Leadership Forum

Published on February 1st, 2018

The Sailing Leadership Forum has attracted leaders in the sport to meet and learn from one-another amid a full schedule of presentations on February 1-3 in St. Petersburg, FL. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck shares some notes from the sessions he attended on February 1:

8:30-9:30am: USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Journey – Overcoming Crisis to Keep Kids Safe
Presenter: Susan Woessner, USA Swimming

The session began with a quote: “A movement needs people. It is an uprising, a rebellion against the status quo, a groundswell of momentum. It must mean something, and it must be worth fighting for.” It was this basis from which Woessner shared the story of how USA Swimming went from huge growth after the 2008 Olympics to allegations of abuse.

It was a crisis that prompted the SafeSport Program, and getting the buy-in was worth fighting for. Every sport has risk areas between people that need to be identified, and it is these policies which are needed to avoid bad judgment.

The program was about putting forth components of Policies & Guidelines, Education & Awareness, Background Screening of Adult Staff, Reporting Concerns of Misconduct, Responding to Reports of Misconduct, and Monitoring & Supervision of SafeSport Program. There should never be a risk that sport becomes a negative experience.

9:30-10:15am: Winning Together Through Collaboration
Presenter: Jack Gierhart, CEO US Sailing

Not all is well in the sport, as numbers are down in many areas. Changes are needed, which requires courage and leadership. Sailors are generally adept at looking ahead for the next header to tack on, but this wind shift was missed. To address the road forward, US Sailing has been internally making changes, which included moving their office to sync with its new structure.

US Sailing has defined a vision: “Sailing has transformed into a rapidly growing sport in the US, driven by innovations in access and education, and inspired by American success in international competition. The diverse sailing community is aligned around common goals for the sport. The connection, cooperation and synergy between all stakeholders and US Sailing is delivering experiences that excite and exceed the expectation of participants, and stimulating new interest and involvement in the sport. Sailing has been embraced by the public as being inspiring, inclusive and accessible.”

A five-part strategic plan to help growth includes ensuring there is a pathway for life-long sailing, promoting the fun in our sport, regionalizing the presences of US Sailing, encouraging volunteerism, and building a reputation for American success in sailing.

10:45-11:45am: Millennial Mindset: Leveraging Social Media to Connect with Digital Natives
Presenter: Brian Fanzo, Founder/CEO of iSocialFanz

Referring to himself as a change evangelist, Brian Fanzo shared ideas and concepts that seek to move the needle in the digital age:

– It’s about being open to embracing digital change, collaboration and community.
– Disruption and change are the new normal.
– Young people are more adept to change. It’s all they know.
– Community is the future of business. Change occurs by working together.
– Future of innovation is collaboration. We is greater than me.
– Future of marketing is relatability. We are influenced by those we know. This is hugely important for sailing.
– Community will now be the foundation of social video. It’s not about talking to our audience, but talking with our audience.
– We can’t force change. We must inspire and teach change.
– Relatability via access. Give people something they cannot get somewhere else.
– Perfection is a fairy tale. Control is an illusion. Must embrace who we are.
– Shrink the distance. Nobody trusts a logo, brand, or association. Get connected to the audience.

– Sailing’s “what” is seen as elitist. Need to share:
Why do you do what you do?
How do you do what you do better?
Where can I get involved?
What will it do my life?

– Turn fans into sailors, sailors into ambassadors, and ambassadors into evangelists because evangelists inspire fans.
– Engage where your community is today, and listen for where they’ll be tomorrow.
– Social media will never replace a handshake (and turn handshakes into hugs).

1:00-2:00pm: Not Around the Buoys Again: Innovation in Competitive Youth Sailing
Presenter: Nevin Sayre, John Pearce, Todd Carle

John Pearce: Format for sports is vital in how it impacts participation. This is evident in other sports with an example of how youth hockey is changing its rules to focus on the fun, and how more people can enjoy the experience. This is contributing to increased numbers whereas many of the youth sports have stagnant growth. So the question is how youth sailing can focus on fun, as when you increase fun, you increase participation, and heightened participation leads to improved skills.

Todd Carle: Only eight years old, Hawaii Kai Boat Club sought growth by thinking outside of the box. They wanted to change the format for a youth event, so created the idea of having a Dinghy Transpac for 8 to 13 year olds. Rather than having four of five races a day, the idea was to create a 10nm downwind distance race. All classes are welcome and the event has had continued growth, with the fourth year on April 1 in 2018 expecting an international field of 100 boats. While not initially supported by neighboring clubs, the interest increased to the point that brought in the neighboring community. This is an ocean, point-to-point course, so developing a safety plan was critical from the onset.

Nevin Sayre: The idea of taking an adult sport and assuming it will work for youth sailing does not necessarily work. Too often, once the kids learn to sail, we push the racing format. This may develop great racers for the kids that are attracted to it, but the attrition is significant for those that are turned off. The emphasis is on measureables such as results, and not on creating sailors for life. The ego of clubs need to be set aside and programs need more emphasis on making young sailors and then have excellence and competition grow from that. This is not to say that teaching racing is wrong, it just needs to promoted slower and later, and allow alternative forms of sailing to occur for young sailors. The O’Pen Bic class has ‘un-regattas’ with unconventional courses, variety, lots of sores and lots of throw outs, lower emphasis on results, unconventional rules, and inclusive participation.

2:30-3:30pm: Collaboration Among Sailing Organizations to Grow Racing
Presenter: Lou Sandoval, Mike Hettel, Stu Friedman

Lou Sandoval: A group in Chicago sought to address some of their regional participation struggles. Problems were related to the recession, aging demographics, heavy concentration of one design fleets, decline in open section weekend racing (2010-2016), drop-off in popularity of buoy versus distance races, and parochialism. Our sport is inherently complicated to enter and a sea of acronyms reflecting its many forms that were confusing.

Stu Friedman: Fleets were frustrated at fragmented events, participation was negatively impacted, legacy organization was ineffective, and change was needed. Five key clubs each had semblance of success in some areas, there was no unifying factor, lead clubs brokered a meeting to identify what needed to change, and set a plan to change. The plan was to launch CASRA – Chicago Area Sail Racing Association.

Mike Hettel: This involved five key clubs to facilitate collaboration and simplify a unified calendar. The view was to explore different event types to attract new racers, youth focused activities and focus on newxtGen, centralized scheduling and registration, and measure the progress. Communication includes twice weekly email blasts, new website, and social media campaigns. CASRA is sponsored so no organization fee, so participant event costs are limited to entry fee. Among the new events introduced was a Casual Race Format series and Chicago Junior Race Week which included an 8nm Mini-Mac Race. CASRA facilitates a supportive sponsorship base with an annual end of season unified celebration and awards presentation.

4:00-5:00pm: Get Boats out of the Parking Lot: Handicapping Dinghies
Presenter: Dave Reed, Bob Adam, Nathan Titcomb

While class racing provides level competition and common interests, there are far many boat types than there are active racing one design classes. Keelboats have the option to race either one design or handicap, and that option exists in dinghies too.

The concept is fully embraced by British sailors. One design dinghy classes may be actively organized during the warmer months, but during the winter all the fleets come together for a series of hugely active handicap events. However, this concept is not well embraced in the USA.

This means there are countless boat owners that are limited in the use of their boat to casual sailing. Additionally, the lack of handicap dinghy racing makes it much riskier for a builder to introduce a new one design class type boat as the success of their product is reliant on a critical mass forming.

What is needed is for more clubs and racing areas to embrace the dinghy handicap system in the USA, which is Portsmouth Yardstick (PY). The system is managed by US Sailing with over 450 classes of boats with racing – dinghies, catamarans, and small keelboats. F

PY is statistically based ratings calculated from results, ratings for each class are updated on an annual basis (based on submitted results), there are formulas for new or unrated boats to establish base ratings on day of racing, along with ratings available for three windspeeds to capture performance differences between windspeeds.

US Sailing has heightened its focus on PY as, if accepted at a heightened level, would immensely increase participation in the sport. In 2017, the rating system was made publically available, the handbook was re-formatted and made available as a PDF, there are several scoring programs with a PY module, and a significant update to the ratings table have addressed the latest crop of new boat classes.

For details on PY… click here.


Forum details: sailingleadership.org


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