Kids need to splash more water

Published on May 16th, 2021

While there will always be attrition in youth sports, minimizing it should be a goal, and every sailing program should be able to quote their retention rate. Originally published June 2018 in Sailing Magazine, Chris Caswell offered a message to help these young sailors become life sailors… here’s an excerpt:

I have a few rants that pop up from time to time, so consider yourself warned. This is going to be one of them.

I care about today’s kids, who seem to be living in a world populated by helicopter parents and a sailing lifestyle best described as a “trophy culture.” Winning is everything.

I thought back to learning to sail on California’s Alamitos Bay in a community program where the essence of the summer sailing program was to have fun. There were blackboard talks about both sailing and racing techniques, but then we were turned loose in our 8-footers to go have fun.

Fun meant water fights or piling a bunch of kids in your boat to go to a sandbar or just sailing companionably with others “going nowhere and doing nothing.”

When I look back at the now-grown kids from that summer sailing program so many years ago, the vast majority of them are still sailing. Like me, some went on to a lifetime of collecting trophies, while others chose just to sail and cruise. But sailing stuck to us.

Winning is not a bad thing and, in fact, kids like to win. But when winning becomes more important than being out playing, it sends the wrong message. Rather than forcing your kids into a program to win trophies and finish first, perhaps you should encourage them to have fun and make friends.

And splash some water.

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