Why full time sailing?
When I was 6 years old I use to spend a lot of time with the Israeli Olympic 470 team as my father was their fitness coach, I really enjoyed joining their sessions and spending time with the team and my father, Later on I spent a few days with them during the 1987 470 World championship that was held in Haifa and really enjoyed the experience. By then I was pretty much hooked on the sport but only 3 years later when a bunch of the sailing community parents decided to send us to a sailing summer camp I realized I was pretty good at it. From then my journey started with lots of ups and downs. Did everything evolve as planned? Far from it, but It led me to experience so much that I can’t really regret taking full time sailing early on.
As to every athlete there is a very delicate balance between the needs of the sports and education, I was lucky to have a “coach dad” who understood how much hard work is needed for sailing and understanding schools that allowed me to carry on as long as I keep decent grades. I must emphasise that any “full time” engagement also involves a huge effort by the athlete and family on a home school or equivalent basis for conventional qualifications. Our experience shows that sailing education leads to an efficiency in conventional education where I experienced an ability to learn in three days what other students took as many weeks to cover. It is our experience that never once have we seen a young person fail their conventional education by making the big choice of full time sailing.
However something you only realize at a later stage (after University) is that sports is education, What do young athletes learn when they engage in full time sports and especially sailing?
They learn how to observe their environment and search for any advantage they might take from it.
They learn planning as planning a successful race takes a lot practice, as well as planning other things such as a season at later stages of our careers.
Logistics, now of course at the early stages mom and dad takes care of it all but as we grow up we start dealing with all the accommodation, personal travel, ways of transporting boats to events, purchasing the right equipment or inviting friends to train with you.
Risk management, The risk factor in sailing is pretty brutal, it takes time to realize that you are taking risks and even more time to realize that you mostly lose from taking risks, this evolution of risk is something non athletes and non sailors will only learn at much later stages of their lives hence we have a clear advantage.
Crisis management, how many times do you capsize? Break equipment right when you are about to win a race? Although there are many ways to deal with situations like those being exposed to them at a young age will ensure we are able to stay calm and figure out a solution that other kids simply never had to even bother with.
Hard work and dedication, for most kids when they look at a successful athlete they only see them in the spotlight, having to feel yourself how hard it is and what it takes to become good is a completely different story, it is different if it comes from a kid hungry for success who is willing to do whatever it takes to win than someone pressuring the same kid to work hard. Being a sailor at a young age will separate the hungry kids and teach them how to work toward their goals.
Teamwork or working within a group, even though sailing is usually an individual sports you still have to train within a group, some kids are better at this and some less, having to actually spend time with the other people you may not like or agree with will force us to develop communication skills to be able to deal successfully with our close environment, being surrounded by other kids who want to be the best just as much as you is always challenging and I doubt there are many 15 year old kids who can say they have the experience to deal with many different characters
Full time sailing kids travel a lot to events hence being exposed to different cultures, in today’s global environment this is a real advantage, as the ability to accept and respect the differences between cultures enables to better deal with international companies, as young sailors we do it by making friends from other countries, hearing about their customs and habits, what food they eat what holidays they celebrate, most kids at my high school have never met people from the Netherlands or Finland, while I already had friends from those countries and learned so much about them.
Which leads me to the next important benefit, languages. Indeed some people are better at learning new languages than others but as young full time sailors the necessity to understand the rules, communicate with other sailors and officials ensures we practice foreign languages, or at least really improve our English, I know I have and a big part of my fluent English is due to sailing. Communication is not just language, but overcoming challenges too. Improvisation is a necessity, and clear non verbal communication skills are developed at a rate rarely afforded in another field.
As you see young full time sailors as all young people have a tendency to socialize with other sailors, we do it over sailing, or playing football while waiting for the wind, we do it at mutual team dinners and we make friends for life from all over the world. I can’t recall much of my non sailing friends and even my non full time sailing friends having created such friendships. The fact those relationships developed creates a huge potential for international business with those same friends at later stages
It’s true, I am biased towards sailing, but still believes It is the best way to teach our kids how to be better in life.
At Toplevel sailing we encourage our young sailors and their parents to engage in understanding options available. The conventional manner of “education first” where people regard conventional education as an essential is rapidly changing. As I have underlined in this blog there are huge advantages in sailing full time. In some countries there is often a case for fitting sailing around a conventional curriculum. We would never seek to pressure a wrong decision, but we do seek to open parents minds to all possibilities and benefits. The choice is always an individual matter, but hopefully this blog will have illustrated the educational value of engaging in sport and sailing in particular, emphasising the benefits to you. Regardless of your choice we always do our best to make sure our sailors learn some very important life skills during our training