Club Sailing

Successful Sailing Club Coaching

Whether or not we are engaged in sailing clubs, we all need to recognize the amazing value a sailing club brings to our sport, and the diversity which often exists within their activities.

Clubs are thought of as places where people who sail congregate to share their mutual enjoyment of our sport.  Yes, that’s great for a simple sport, but sailing is not simple.  They also provide instruction and encouragement through role models, talks, demonstrations, and peer groups.  They all have the “tweak of the week” in every class sailed, making boats go faster.  They are bases for social and sailing activities, technical and technique sharing, and the evolution of classes.

It is interesting for Toplevel Sailing to visit and coach squads from mixed clubs.  We can almost instantly tell from the techniques who are members of the same club.  The style of too much tiller use, too closed a leech, too much or too little of some control or other, sitting too still, being wrong with dynamics etc. is often too common.  Sometimes we are delighted that “good” habits are also communal.  Some clubs consolidate their positions on the course very well – usually those with open sea racing with cleaner winds, but these sailors are inevitably weaker with gust management and observations.  Some clubs produce very dynamic sailors – these are inevitably lighter wind sailors, who can’t carry the dynamics through to higher wind locations.  The list is almost endless, but the message is the same – clubs can evolve into good habits too!!

For a long time we have thought that an ideal sailing club would follow the golf and tennis club route of employing their own “Professional”.  The justification is clear – sailing is such a complex sport that a professional would enhance sailing throughout the membership, by giving personal and group lessons, and club talks.  We are surprised that this is rarely taken up, though some huge Asian clubs have begun to employ their own coaches – Royal Hong Kong being (we believe) the pioneers in this.  Why doesn’t this happen too often? Probably because unlike golf or tennis, it is difficult for a sailor to demonstrate superior knowledge in all classes.  The ego factors involved in sailing, where few absolute methods can be proven superior to others, appear to generate a resistance to taking advice, aside from the local heroes, who are demonstrably better than everyone, and thus worth copying and listening to.

Managers are often the pivotal point in sailing clubs, and can take on some of the role of the professional that we envisage.  Often they are organizers and enablers, which is a function that is critical to sailor development and improvement.  The organization of coach courses, instructor courses, advanced skills courses and racing clinics is often undertaken by a committee member.  Managers tend to do it better for the reason that they can research the people running it.  The common differences we see is that a committee run club is more likely to engage someone they know as a friend, usually a weekend coach, or someone that the committee knows, rather than a real professional with a record.  Managed clubs are more likely to engage a professional coach.  It may be difficult to believe, but when we do squad coaching we can spot the difference easily.  The committee based club sailor will have little knowledge of the inter – relationships between luff and leech tell-tales, and be very tiller active, usually sailing far too overpowered and have little main-sheet movement, with resultant luffing.  A professional coach will always introduce the ideas of “managed power”, and have the secrets to this to give away.

Delivering quality is something Toplevel Sailing believe in strongly – even if it is someone else delivering the quality!  Our introductory coach courses ensure that there is a good basis for making the correct deliveries, but the main reason behind clinics and coaching is to enable the sailors to gain more understanding of their boats, which leads to more fun, better control and better results.  Any clinic that achieves this for any club is a success.  Keeping it simple and fun during the clinic is the criteria to judge its success by.  We believe there should be no secrets in sailing, but that an individual’s talent and fitness should be the key components to decide who is the winner.

If you have a position on a committee in a sailing club, why not plan a clinic or group coaching session for 2019?  Whilst we understand the economic pressures for us to get anywhere in the world to run one, we would be delighted to help with any information that you need in order to ensure that you get the best available, so feel free to contact us for a list of criteria (class dependent), a range of suggested goals, and advice on what is possible across a spectrum of abilities. Please also contact us if you have a team or run a sailing club that you would love to see improve to get the maximum enjoyment out of sailing!

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