Be driven by fun, Not ego

Published on July 21st, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
All sports learn from each other, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. It was 2009 when I wrote about the ‘soccerization’ of youth sailing, though the shift began two decades earlier. Now, youth sailing instructors are products of the system.

During this period, parents have gotten far more involved in their kid’s lives, to the extent that a nationwide college bribery scandal revealed how much money was being spent. For youth sailing, the best kids are collecting more frequent flyer miles than I ever will.

A story in my local paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, highlighted how the fun-based Norwegian system is the antithesis of the $19 billion American youth sports machine. They noted a list of leading athletes from the country, reminding us of its meager population of 5.4 million, and bluntly stated that whatever the United States does, Norway does the opposite.

Here’s an excerpt:
Youth sports in the United States: Your kid tries out for an under-8 soccer team, you fork out $2,000 per year in club dues plus another couple thousand in tournament and travel costs, you don’t play other sports for fear your kid will fall behind, you religiously attend every game and scream from the sidelines, you question the coach’s tactics and substitutions, you lecture your kid in the car on the way home, you proudly post Facebook pictures of your kid with medals, you start talking about college scholarships and the national team.

Youth sports in Norway: Your kid tries multiple sports at the local club whether or not they’re any good at them, you pay a nominal fee but only if you can afford it because it’s subsidized by the national lottery, coaches are volunteers, there are no scores or standings or regional competitions until age 11 and sometimes older, children are encouraged to pick their sports and decide amongst themselves what they want to do in practice (“Scrimmage!”), most kids don’t specialize until late in high school.

Youth sports in the U.S.: driven by egos and money.
Youth sports in Norway: driven by fun.
This is not a new topic for me or Scuttlebutt, and as I’ve previously said, if there is an interest for youth sailors to continue sailing once they get too old for age-based boats and events, expose them with options before that occurs. Plus, follow the lead of Norway and connect them with the joy of being on the water, and don’t measure fun by the race results.

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