Jul 12, 2011, 12:30 PM
Post #4 of 18
Has it been 3 months already? Time for our quarterly coaching in sailing debate? Sigh. Why can every other sport have coaching, from club to pro level tennis, golf, cycling, squash, running, you name it, but god forbid sailors have coaches because then it would seem like too much of a rich person’s sport? In most classes, coaching is a small percentage of the overall cost associated with the actual campaign. And why spend all that money to do things wrong consistently and fail to maximize your time on the water? Coaches don’t magically make anyone better, they help people that put in the hard work to be more efficient with their efforts.
Re: [The Publisher] Coaching at small boat regattas
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Full disclosure, I am a college coach. I’ve heard that we’ve ruined college sailing because students don’t go to wild parties on Saturday nights and drink beer on the drive home from events like in the 70’s and 80’s. Sorry about that. But, there are more teams, fleets, and sailors than ever before. And, there were coaches back then (Mike Horn, Hatch and Stu, Joe Duplin to name a few) who organized the schedule, ran the regattas, and the ICSA as well (as well as many unpaid volunteers.)
As for the Olympics, I guess Herb Brooks ruined Olympic hockey too. Poor East Ibakistan, they can’t compete with Russia because of coaching, so let’s eliminate coaching from Olympic hockey. Ridiculous. If developing countries can’t afford a coach, band together and share the cost. I bet there is not one medalist in the last 20 years (in any sport) who did it without coaching. I doubt these developing countries are top contenders if they are from remote areas without good competition, so they are at the event to learn and get better anyway. It’s ridiculous to go sailing against the best in the world and think you’ll improve to their level just by figuring it out on your own. However, 10 years from now, some of these developing nations may have taken their experiences back to their countries, started development programs, had great coaching for their youth programs, and soon be sending contenders to the games. Besides, coaching levels the playing field, and gives a less experienced sailors (without world class training partners) some insight into what the best sailors are doing differently.
Those world class sailors who “never had a coach?” I guess they bought their boats and sails themselves, taught themselves how to rig, tune, and sail without any help? Or, more likely, they were lucky enough to come from an area or family where more experienced sailors were willing to help them a lot with time and financial investment (and guide their considerable hard work and effort) without a structured program. Talk about an access issue for sailing. I like the current system that has thousands of affordable learn to sail programs run by, gasp, professional coaches. These programs teach essential skills to kids who don’t grow up on the water, in yacht club communities or with parents that get them a boat and teach them how to use and maintain it. And those that excel in those programs go on to join more performance oriented teams like the US youth development team. Again, good coaching makes hard work more efficient but nothing replaces an athlete's own work.
If you want sailing as a past-time, find a Corinthian class and have a blast, but if you are competing in a sport, you should seek every legal path to efficient improvement like every other athlete in the world.
Head Coach, MIT Varsity Sailing
Massachusetts Institute of Technology