by Richard Crockett
In the Scuttlebutt Sailing News #5058 which I read this morning I was struck by the headline and comments made by its author Lou Sandoval.
This is what was said, verbatim:
SAILING WON’T GET YOU INTO COLLEGE (#5057)
I can’t tell you how many parent’s I’ve run into that want their child to become the next Jimmy Spithill. As much as we’d like this to be the case, it seldom works out that way and often imposing adult expectations further drives youth from the sport at an early age. Driving competition at too early of an age can do it. How soon is too soon? Each child is different, but the love of boating should be nurtured before the competition and hyper specialization kicks in.
“Sailing is life,” says the t-shirt… But often, when you make it their life, you may kill the passion.
Make lifelong boaters, not lifelong racers.
This struck a chord with me as I have felt very strongly for many years that the emphasis on teaching kids to sail has been to teach them to race rather than teaching them to sail.
It is a subject I have written many thousand of words on over many years, and one I feel passionate about.
Lou Sandoval’s comments also made me take a second look as in the process of sorting and clearing my vast library of some 3000 books on sailing, the majority of the books that cover teaching and introducing kids to sailing, advise how to get them to become interested and become proficient at sailing in all conditions before venturing into racing.
Very few books with titles like “Start Racing” are written – obviously for good reason!
Too many parents live vicariously through their children, and too many parents push their kids too hard in the sport, which may be a reason why numbers at youth/junior level in the national champs are anything but impressive.
To me, kids need to learn to have fun in boats before they venture into racing – so please don’t kill their passion for our wonderful sport by pushing racing too early.