Training Camp Methods, Goals and Philosophies

Training Camps At Toplevel Sailing

Operating a Coaching Business such as ours is a widespread business. Our operational services include Coaching, Coach Training, Consultancy, Design input, and running training camps. In everything that we do, our goals are to be the best that we can, and certainly the best in the business. Essentially we are competitive people, but we are also fun loving people. Combining the two facets is essential to gain success – as soon as we can get positive people hungry to succeed, anything is possible!

This blog is about training camps. We have run training camps for an awful long time on a “demand” basis where clubs or provinces or federations have booked us to run their camps. Now we are setting aside dates on our calendar so that we can offer consistent opportunities throughout the year to bring people from top national sailors to top international sailors. Training camps will never replace personal coaching at the highest levels, but they provide a perfect knowledge base to build absolutely solid foundations to success.

The optimum number of sailors in any single coach group is between 3 and 7. If you have fewer sailors there is a chance that the group will be easily misled. If you have more, there is little chance to tailor the program for the individual needs. So we are keeping our training groups relatively small with a coach designated to each one. The coaches will all be Toplevel qualified coaches, and be able to coach within our philosophical approach to sailing. This is critical to success.

There are golden priorities which apply to any boat at any level, that are developed with the sailor’s progress. We talk no less about drag and flow at Olympic level than we do at the sailors’ first training camps. We continue through the sailors’ careers to talk about feel and feedback from the boat, about power and leverage on the boat. All these aspects and more are introduced in Toplevel training camps.

From the feedback that we have from sailors and parents, the difference that Toplevel provide is that we don’t “tell” sailors how to do anything. We provide reasons for doing something, then help the sailor to work out when it is best to do that, and why they can do it in a particular way. For example, power is a huge factor in sailing. Most sailors that we initially coach think that the coach should give them their settings – for example mast rake in Optimist – and that the sailor will then set the boat up and forget about it, even if conditions change and the boat becomes a fight for the sailor against the power setting. At Toplevel we explain why the sail powers up and depowers, and always ask the question “Do you have the right power” in any boat. The beauty of the simplicity of the concept of “POWER” is that anyone can understand it. If the boat heels too much or the sailor has to sheet out too much, then they have too much power. If the sailor can’t hike or trapeze, then they have too little power. UNDERSTANDING the concepts are easy, and once the sailor understands the reasons and the cure for their challenge, they improve massively. A 30 kg sailor is going to have very different power needs than a 50 kg sailor. Its something that can be developed with the key of understanding so that the sailor feels and knows what they need, so they can control the boat, rather than be fighting the boat.

We develop the knowledge of drag – how to minimise it, how to balance the rig to the boat, how to “feel” drag, and above all understanding drag. This includes visual signs, “hearing” drag and understanding from what the boat is telling you what you need to do. We develop the knowledge of “flow”, and again understanding why and how it happens – the importance of flow in all points of sailing, and above all how to maintain it in changing winds.

In terms of racing skills, we are firm believers in developing competitive instincts within the boundary of great sportsmanship. We can always teach people how to win, but teaching that winning involves a process which is sometimes inevitably not going to be painless (also known as losing) is a difficult part of any sport. The great Michael Jordan said “I lost 3,000 times before I became a winner”. We take notice of this part of the process, and the sailors’ mental and personal development are of much interest to us. We go all out to establish that winning involves raising our own standards, not trying to reduce others. In this way the sailor can benefit from respecting and emulating other sailors strengths, rather than trying to stop others from progressing. This is a vital aspect of sailing as far as we are concerned, and of massive benefit to the sailors throughout their careers.

In terms of theoretical understanding of racing, we tailor each session to the group. The involvement and interaction of each sailor is essential in order to offer an opportunity to every sailor to understand and participate in discussion about each topic. Encouraging interaction on theoretical topics ensures the best chance of involving sailors in this essential knowledge bank that is so critical to development.

Tactically we work on the philosophy that a race is about taking the fastest route around the course with the least risk. We do not teach destructive tactics, nor do we practise negativity in any way. It takes precisely zero skill to tack on top of someone and force them to tack – often onto the better tack. It takes knowledge to understand when we force tacks and when we pin people into a side, which is what we work on during these camps.

It is fair to say that Toplevel have put a huge amount of work and experience of coaching into our training camp syllabus. We have been running private camps for a few years now as Toplevel Sailing. Now, by demand from our existing clients we have started open training camps based in Barcelona International Sailing Centre, and incorporating a regatta at the end of the camp. We have dates at the end of June and end of August already booked. The winter camp dates will be announced shortly. If you are interested please contact us, leave your address, and we’ll put you on the mailing list for these camps.

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