Monday, June 08, 2009

Youth Coaching

It would be hard to imagine competing in a regatta and winning 7 out of 12 races… particularly a major championship. It would even harder to imagine having that score line and not winning the event too. However, that was how the U.S. Optimist Team Trials went for Bradley Adam, finishing 8th in an event used to qualify which Optimist sailors would be sent to major events around the world during the current season.

Inconsistency plagued his event (5-1-1-26-1-30-1-1-25-1-40-1), but Bradley receives high marks for improving from 43rd the year before. As Bradley notes, “My Dad runs a bunch of Opti clinics throughout the year and he has provided much of my coaching since day one. We started sailing each weekend from the first weekend in March through team trials. It is a small group of 8-10 sailors who are really good and help push one another to the limits. Sometimes my sister Grace and I would go sailing after school without a coach for a few hours. I go to a lot of Opti regattas without a coach and this helps in our preparation. Neither Grace or I had a coach at Team Trials.”

While it was revealing to learn that Bradley did not have a coach at the Team Trials, it was even more revealing to learn what some of the coaches were doing. When asked about what happened in some of the races he didn’t win, Bradley remarked, “Wind Shifts!!! I was on the wrong side of them. I found it a little bit discouraging that some kids had coaches upwind and radioed back to the starting line what the breeze was doing at the windward mark."

What…coaches at the top of the course providing weather information back to the starting area? Scuttlebutt eagerly awaits comments as to the prevalence of this practice at the youth level, AND if anything is being done to manage it.

Source: North Sails interview with Bradley Adam

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43 Comments:

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

As a former sailing coach, it doesn't surprise me. We used to always joke about signals but never really used them.

I've got no problem with a coach talking to a sailor between races. That's one of the best ways for a jr. sailor to learn and improve. However, a team of coaches radioing information is taking it too far.

It's also unfair to say the least to the kids who don't have coaches.

Congrats to Bradley. It's too bad he didn't make the cut but his improvement shows the power of dedication and practice. That type of training will serve him well as he continues his sailing career.

 
At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former full time coach at all levels of youth sailing, this way of receiving information is common. However, it is really no different than looking up the course from the starting line and watching where the top sailors are going and how they round that first mark. As we all know, conditions vary and often times on a course as long as one in a major optimist regatta, are different on the bottom and top of a beat. So how much does one really use the information. it is a way to understand what might happen but is not meant to base a sole strategy on. I believe that coaches provide a valuable tool for young sailors. They promote teamwork at practices, confidence/support at regattas and provide mostly mental support at competitions. With this being said, Bradley you did a fantastic job at team trials!! It is a very difficult regatta that could be compared to many of the most difficult international competitions. I think that the majority, being >90%, of the reasons sailors do well at events is due to their preparation and commitment to the sport. It is obvious Bradley that you worked hard before the regatta. The regatta is just meant as a way to test this preparation and commitment. I think that the last post is missing the point by saying "they give signals during races". The fact is that the sailors waiting to start the next race and are speaking with a coach before their start are receiving this information. It does not occur during a race and if it did, i do not know of one youth coach, especially in the optimist class, that would stand for another coach doing so.

 
At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, while I don't know Bradley....he's dead on accurate with his assessment. These coaches are making ridiculously big money in some cases, and they are under a tremendous amount of pressure to put their kids on the national team. What Bradley describes happens and worse like teaching kids to cheat "just a little." The great news is that USODA and the higher quality coaches are working hard to ensure that the racing is fun and fair. The bad news is that protests on the local level are still considered bad form as "they have so much racing in their future, they don't really need to protest," so the problems remain. The good news for Bradley is that if he can survive the teen years, he gets to move forward to college racing where those coaches aren't allowed on the water.

 
At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mixing sailors with paid coaches with those that don't at regatta's is wrong & sends the wrong message about the sport.

Money is a very big tool that unbalances the sporting world. It's something that should be best left out of youth sports or if folks want to have paid coaching it's best to classify the events to separate the events to level the playing field.

To make coaching really work for the masses it's best to have clubs control coaching under a club model. This way the player footprint to developing players is broader & deeper for a large group versus focusing on 1 individual.

Like other sports it's maybe time for the sport of sailing to bring in technical areas void of communication devices during racing to force coaches to stay in during the race.

If sailing can't control or regulate the imbalance of money for coaches, the sport is heading down the road of being a Default Deed of Gift rae where only those with the biggest bank accounts can race. That would be a sad day for the sport of youth sailing.

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger TG said...

What a heap of dung! In my 30+ years of racing (PHRF), it has always been crystal clear that no - as in zero - transmissions are allowed which are not available to all competitors. Shame on you parents who foster this. You are no better, probably worse, than the Little League Baseball parents, who have tried to live dreams of glory vicariously through your children, having failed to accomplish much of anything through your own efforts!

 
At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never noticed how some coaches end up on the port or starboard side of the leeward mark?? A clear statement of "Go Left" or "Go Right". I have seen this used by National Coaches in regattas.

 
At 8:50 PM, Blogger John said...

Scurrulous. Absolutely outrageous. Never allowed in any of the major classes. You would be thrown out of Thistles if you received such information.

How can we possibly let this go on in our sport!!

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger Scuttleblog said...

If a coach is at the weather mark, and if he/she is radioing info to the start line, they must be radioing the info to another coach. It is then that coach that is communicating the info to the sailor. So, we have multiple coaches working with the sailor(s). If we agree that it is okay for coaches to be working with the sailors between starts, is it also okay for that coach to be gaining information from outside sources? I am guessing that is what this question becomes.

 
At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At most European optimist team trials coaches are not allowed at the weather mark. They should be coralled behind the start line and then proceed up course and wait behind the finish. It is very easy to enforce and will do away wait unfair advantage. Just put it in the SI's and make the trials fair for ALL sailors not just those with the money bags !!!.

 
At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is so funny. two coaches sharing information of what the wind is doing... is left, is right... the kids do the race as they wish.
many coaches are playing a game they do not even understand.

many sailors are very successful without a ton of information. the best sailors will end up in the top. and the best sailors do not need that extra info.

the top sailors are simply faster and smarter. with or without a coach, the cream rises to the top.

 
At 3:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coaches should be limited to information gathering for the interval between the 1st start of the day and the last finish. During this period they should be required to keep away from, and remain behind, the fleet.

 
At 4:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was coaching another group of kids at that event, and witnessed all the coaching activities, and I did not see exactly what you all think was happening. What this racer is describing is how a few teams places coaches around the race course to feed the coach below the start line info on what was going on around the race course, wind or otherwise.

This coach would then give his/her sailors this information before the 5 minute gun before their start, not during a race. I would be very surprised if any in race communication was happening (although it is possible), as the race organizers did a fantastic job making sure coaches stayed in the assigned areas (generally below the starting line before racing).

Coaching at the Opti level is important for some kids, as it helps them not be overwhelmed by en event that sails for 4 days with 200+ boats in the starting area (not to mention the 30 minute tow to suitable sailing areas on the water).

 
At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sailing is a self-policing sport. all that's needed is for the competitors to enforce the rules. Rule 41 appears to apply to the situation as described....

 
At 5:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been racing since about 1972, and up until about ten years ago, receiving help from outside your boat during a competition was considered cheating, pure and simple. Now, it's debatable. Most sports have started to adopt the "win at all costs" mentality, and I am deeply saddened that we are now training the next generation of sailors to cheat.

 
At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed that at the very top levels of Opti sailing, there are some kids who after leaving the boat have success in Lasers/420s/college but that there are also an equal if not greater number who seem to fall off the face of the earth afterwards?? A few quick thoughts on why that might be:

1. 14-15 year olds who are small enough to stay in Optis as teenagers never get big enough to be competitive in other boats;


2. Techniques that are fast in Optis (i.e. movements with an abnormally large rudder that are on the knife's edge of Rule 42) aren't fast in other boats; or


3. Kids burn out from sailing at such a high level at a young age.

We can now add coaching techniques that aren't permitted in other dinghy classes to the list (at least not until the "kid" gets into larger keelboats like Melges 24s/Etchells/Farr 40s).


Worth a discussion though. It'd be interesting to see past lists of Opti National Team members to see how many of them continue to be successful afterwards -- yes, there are many high profile examples of the class producing champions, but wouldn't you expect closer to 90-95% of them to continue on to great things in the sport? I doubt the number is higher than 55%.

 
At 6:36 AM, Blogger Amy said...

There are teams that have multiple coaches on the water (some teams have 20+ kids!). With 200+ kids attending, the Team Trials are sailed in multiple fleets. So it is possible that a coach is at the top mark with the first fleet and can discuss wind conditions with a coach at the starting line, who can discuss those wind conditions with and sailors who are not under sequence. There is nothing illegal about this. There is still no coaching of sailors under sequence or racing.


Of course, in my time on the Opti Circuit, I've been known to send parents upwind to check breeze between races. But that was almost exclusively to keep crazy parents away from their kids between races (uh oh, my secret's out!).

 
At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been on mark boats and race committees for many large sailing events, and am surprised at how well-funded some junior sailors are. Professional coaches with high powered chase boats, top gear, etc. The competitors who always give me cheer are the juniors where grandpa is driving them around in a pick-up with the boat.

Coaches should be directed to stay off the course, and not communicate from the start of the day's sailing until the end of the day's sailing. The competition shouldn't be who can get the highest paid help, and who can work out the most subtle signals at the windward mark. Plus the coaches often impede the setting of pins, and generally get in the way. Although we have had many coaches step in and help when a sailor is in trouble... so let's not completely trash coaches.

 
At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Doug said...

My child is an avid Naples Sabot sailor and that class has it right. At nationals coaches are not allowed to communicate with kids on the water. Further Parents are not allowed on the water. This is the way events should be run. Let the kids sail and learn for themselves.

 
At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No matter what, Brad will be rewarded for the hard work and effort he is putting into his sailing, his mom and dad should be proud.

A couple of comments though.

Opti racing and costs associated are ridiculous, coach, boat, regatta fees travel and equipment. What is the estimate, $10,000+ annual. Priorities are all messed up.

Second, although taking initiative to go sailing on your own, opti sailors are tweens or early teens and sailing without some level of supervision doesn't sound like a good idea, especially in March and April.

 
At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Team Trials is an extremely overwhelming regatta and it is nice for each sailor to have a coach to talk to each race. When the racing is split into divisions, its much easier to have multiple coaches so that each sailor gets individual attention.

In this case it was nearly impossible to see the windward mark b/c coach boats/sailors were restricted to designated areas. A big part of the coaching was watching the start and being able to discuss what happened. This was always a big indicator of how to sail the next race.

I dont see the problem and the sailors dont have radios in their boats. To take it a step further, coaches aren't allowed to even fly team flags during racing.

 
At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether or not this is a good thing overall is a subject of serious debate.

The point that I want to focus on is this, what is the long-term impact/lesson on the kids?

I am 40 now, and clearly remember a very poor comment from a little league coach when I was 8. We made it to the finals of the town "world series" or whatever it was called. We lost the final game, losing the championship.

What bothered me then was losing the game. What has bothered me ever since being old enough to understand is, instead of using this as a learning experience to improve the next year, our coach told us that we should have won the game because of a bad call by the umpire.

So, let's be careful what message is going to the kids. I suspect that Brad will do just fine. However, he should be coached (by parents if nothing else) to work on his consistency, as this is what actually cost him the regatta.

Allowing and/or encouraging the blame to be placed elsewhere will not help kids like Brad in sailing, or in the bigger picture of life.

 
At 1:32 PM, Anonymous John Vandemoer, Stanford Head Coach said...

I would like to reply on the youth coaching segment: First, I am a full time college sailing coach and do youth coaching in the summers. I have done USODA coaching as well as been on the board. I find it fascinating that we blame the coaches for anything to do with youth sailing. Youth coaches are paid to do a job and by all accounts this pair of coaches were doing a very good job, doing all they could to get the right information to the sailor. This is what they are paid to do.

Don't have a problem with the coaches - have a problem with the parents or boat owners that are setting up this situation and hiring the coach. Being upset with the coaches is like being mad at Lebron James for making all that money; he makes the money because we pay him. Youth coaching is a noble thing. If you have a problem with it, it should be because the coach was unethical or something worse, not because the coaches were doing their job.

Sailing is one of those rare sports that really builds character, self reliance and maturity. However, you can't just drop a kid in a boat and “Bam!” he is now a mature strong character adult. Sailing does this for so many because of the mentors along the way like fellow sailors and yes, that dirty word… coaches. Without these mentors, like Bradley's dad, these kids wouldn't get the maturity and character they need out of sailing.

So let’s stop chastising these coaches for doing their job. By the way I have seen it mentioned that these coaches make so much money, when is the last time you saw a coach drive a Porsche? Is it really a lot of money? Coaches are educators, do teachers really make the money they should. After all coaches aren't bankers. I applaud Bradley for being a mature young man and obviously using some coaching but also using his own abilities to succeed.

 
At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some thoughts:
Shame on anyone who goes to Team Trials with expectations of making the World Team and not having a coach. This is THE very highest level youth regatta (of ANY class) in the US. Would you not have a fresh sail and clean boat bottom? Then why not a coach?
And don't preach to me about the virtues of coaching yourself. If coaching IS allowed, then take advantage and don't bemoan. Opti Nationals and anything on down.... coach not required unless your main goal is to place.

And the Sabot idea of no parents on the course... I like that! I do think there is far too much coaching in junior sailing at the competitive level.

 
At 6:22 AM, Blogger Scuttleblog said...

I love the comment above. This issue is all about the coaching guidelines during events.

 
At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Bill Lynn said...

Kids don't need coaches to "get the maturity and character they need out of sailing". Sailing does that, and if a kid is fortunate enough to have a coach or mentor who reinforces it, so much the better. The tough part is that, in some cases, the opposite is true and the "win at all costs" mentality is leading to the wrong lessons being learned. John Vandemoer’s right in that it's not necessarily the coaches who are at fault, but the problem they face is that it's real easy for a few bad apples to spoil the barrel.

The kind of activity that is reported to have taken place at these high-level events, while not necessarily illegal, clearly creates a playing field that is not level and worse, a playing field that is dramatically affected by the amount of money parents are willing to spend. We all want our kids to be successful in junior sailing, but if coaches and event organizers don't start drawing some lines, the lines may get drawn for them, and potentially in a more reactionary way that any of us wants.

I was fortunate to have had some terrific sailing coaches like Dave Dellenbaugh, Tom Kinney, Pete Smith and Ken Legler - great sailors and good guys who left a lasting impression on me. None of them ever told me which way to go on the first beat. Instead, they taught me what to look for and how to make my own decision about which way to go. Isn't that a better way to build "character, self reliance and maturity"?

 
At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Peter L. Wilson said...

As the chief judge at the recent USODA Team Trials, I want to share my perspective on the coaching and related issues raised in the interview with Bradley Adam. First and foremost, Bradley sailed a great regatta, and like all of the top 15 sailors, he had several bad races. Nobody gets it right every race, particularly with 70 boats on the line. Even Bradley in the full interview acknowledged that with his great starts and incredible speed he should have sailed more conservatively and stayed nearer his competition.

All in all the racing was as fair as I have seen in the past 6 team trials I have judged and the on-the-water judge team was in constant communication with the PRO regarding the fairness of the racing. On only one of the four days did we experience some dramatic wind shifts on the first weather leg that shuffled the fleet after the start. All of those races were abandoned and restarted. On the other three days, the wind was either steady, oscillating, or had more pressure on one or both sides. The current was strong every day, as a result of spring tides, and this meant OCS’s were higher than ‘normal’, and playing the lay line wrong could result in big losses.

Coach and support boat compliance with the event ‘regulations’ were for the most part outstanding, and the coaches in the optimist class do a great job. Coaches are required to have VHF radios for safety coordination, and to hear what the RC is doing or planning. Therefore the most likely source of wind information at the weather mark is the weather mark boat providing wind readings to the RC Signal boat, and this was available to all coaches.

With regard to coaches radioing back the wind conditions at the weather mark, the sailing instructions require that all coach and support boats proceed immediately to the waiting area behind the starting line as soon as the orange line flags are displayed, which is usually 5-10 minutes before the first flight warning signal. This is strictly ‘policed’ by the on-the-water judges and the course patrol boats, so it is very hard to relay real-time weather information before all three flights have started. There are several other coach and support boat ‘regulations’ in the USODA sailing instructions, and OTW judge oversight that makes it very hard and personally quite risky for coaches to help their sailors break rule 41, particularly with regard to signaling while a race is underway.

Wind shifts are a fact of life, so are coaches, and even coaches don’t always get wind shifts right. The best coaches, and there were many at the Team Trials, teach their sailors how to figure out what the wind is doing. So, I would caution that we don’t blame coaches or wind shifts.

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Eric Rochard said...

I am surprised by Bradley disrespect for his competition. I have spent half of my time on the water at Team Trials and I did not see any evidence of Bradley's allegations. I am even more surprised about all the comments mostly from "anonymous" writers whining about coaches, cost of an Optimist campaign, and level of preparation required.

I am a migrant from Brittany (France) where sailing is the number 2 sport just behind soccer by the number of registered participants. The top Optimist sailors have the opportunity to join a public boarding middle/high school in Brest where they will sail 3 days during the week (Monday / Wednesday / Friday), they will have full athletic and academic support to succeed both in Sailing and at School. They do not have one coach but multiple coaches, one for physical training (including nutrition and yoga), one for weather analysis, one for material preparation (including sail design and customization) and many on the water coaches. Those coaches are dedicator PE educator provided by the school system and they follow their athletes for the week-end regattas.

If I look at the high school where Alan is enrolled (Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas) the same type of accommodation is provided at least for American football, girl soccer, tennis and golf. If I look at the cost of the football program it is for sure more than 20K per player (LTHS built an indoor training field to enable practice during summer heat!!!)

I admire the parents who supported their sailing kids with travel, home schooling, and a personal coach; they have been providing a great service to all of us by pushing the competition in the right direction: up!

I wished that the middle/high school system would also provide the same support as our sailors would benefit from the normal social environment and could sail every afternoon all year long with competent, and respected coaches. Sailing is a sport.

 
At 12:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sending information from mark no 1 to the starting area and giving it to the sailors is not a breach of rule 41, unless it is done while racing. There is nothing "not fair" about it, either a little or a lot.

This competition was sailed in groups, there was not only one winner in each race, so the achievement is not exactly as grand as it is made to appear.

Of course Bradley's results are very good but it is obvious that there were 7 other sailors with better results than that.
I would rather see Bradley respect his competition instead of finding excuses. Just as he would like his competition to respect him.

 
At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Mike Funsch said...

Regarding coaches being involved around races, that's the parents and coaches fault. Better to teach the kids to do their own homework and think for themselves than simply feed them fish. A good technique is to ask them what they think, and then why. Perhaps their results will be negatively impacted this weekend. However, developing the confidence and ability to make analysis-based decisions in situations of dynamic ambiguity at a young age will benefit the kids far more than a higher finish in a race via external assistance, legal or otherwise.

 
At 11:25 AM, Anonymous POP BOAT said...

A couple of things regarding this controversy. First of all the original interview from North Sails.Why in the world would they quote a young man claiming other sailors were cheating.It's as if to say the only way someone using one of their sails was beat was by someone else using illegal coaching.I understand that he is a young competitor and the quote may have been taken out of context, but someone should have coached this young man thru the interview instead of allowing him to bash his fellow competitors and the people who support them.Also as per the coaching issue. In very few sports do the elites of the sport come back to give so much time and share their experiences with young atheletes. For our young children to have access to top sailors not only on the local level but on an international level is something not to be taken lightly. The chance to be coached by a top College , International or an Olympic sailor is something to be encouraged not slammed.The last thing the class needs is pushing people away, especially quality people. I witnessed team trials and what I saw in the coaches was how approachable every single one of them was and how they kept an eye out for not only their own group but the whole fleet. The key to youth sailing is to make it an enjoyable enough experience that a child is not turned off,by having someone on the water encouraging them and teaching them is one of is one of the greatest assets the class has. Thank you coaches for your commitment to the class. Please dont allow a couple of naysayers chase you away. As per junior sailing in general. THANK YOU to everyone involved from the Class President to the race comitee to the mom/dad helping put these venues together.

On a lighter note if anyone had been cheating JUDGE MEEKS would have caught them!! That guy sees eveything!!!

 
At 1:34 PM, Anonymous POP BOAT said...

In my previous comments I questioned why North Sails would put an interview up with a young man feeling that there was cheating in the Regatta.In reading through the original article numerous times Bradley does not accuse anyone of cheating and in no way did I ever intend to accuse North Sails of condoning cheating!!I contacted Brian Bissell of North Sails to get an idea of his thoughts on my comments.He felt and I agree that it could have been interpertated in that way. I know that North Sails is a very reputable company with an outstanding reputation who very much enjoy supporting JR. sailing. What I should have said was the exhuberance of a young man doing well without a coach should not take away from the children who were coached. I think the interview they posted was just a way of trying to get the point of view of a young talented sailor. Again I Thank the sailing community for all their hard work and I will go do my 720's now just to make sure if I had commited a foul.

 
At 5:14 PM, Anonymous jbushkey said...

Amy said There is nothing illegal about this. There is still no coaching of sailors under sequence or racing.

Amy earns her paycheck by doing this so I am not sure that her opinion matters. How could she be unbiased?

You would think in a children's sporting event some kids having wind info others do not would be cheating. Welcome to our upside down world. These little cheaters will be well prepared for a career as a CEO. bankster, lawyer, or some other form of paid liar.

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Hello Jbushkey... Thanks for taking a swipe at my personal integrity - real classy! For your information, I most recently pulled paychecks as an Athletic Director at a D1 University (7 years worth). It has been some time since I made money coaching sailing. I am still in contact with Youth Sailing as a former coach, advisor and chair of US SAILING's Youth Council, where we regularly discuss dealing with this very issue.

As Club Sports Director at Stanford, I dealt with numerous National Governing bodies (USA Rugby, USA Taewondo, USA Judo, US Lacrosse, USA Triathlon, USA Cycling, etc.) who all deal with this boom of Coaches and parents involved at a close level with ALL youth Sports. We are on the (hopefully) downward slope of a generation of "Helicopter Parents." It's not just in Sailing!! Take a look at what the Positive Coaching Alliance is doing - worth looking at!

You also might want to brush up on the sailing rules... unless prohibited by NOR or SI's, Coaching is allowed up to the start of a sequence.

 
At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Larry Suter said...

I think that people have to realize that at regattas you have people who generally win, finish in the middle or the back. If you have no teaching/ coaching nothing changes and the people who feel they are not learning and getting better will quit and try another sport.

When you keep coach boats behind the starting line for the race, or off the course, the teachers cannot help their students because the teachers do not know what happened. This is good for the people who already are at the top but hurts the learners. Tilting the field toward the established sailors will help them but not our sport.

Sailing is an experience sport and having a good teacher will help the people who would like to get better learn faster, have more fun, and stay in sailing. Imagine if we had rules governing the amount a student is allowed to learn in school.

We are lucky in our sport as we are able to sail against the best, America's Cup winners, Gold Medal winners, etc. with only a registration fee. This does allow different levels of talent and commitment on the course at the same time.

Many successful classes have trophies for Corinthian and overall to help everyone sail to their commitment level and have fun. When you legislate against sailors trying to get better, you will hurt the sailors and hurt the sport.

 
At 8:53 AM, Anonymous John McLaughlin said...

There is a better way. At all major Thistle events they hold a session with top skippers who give a complete overview of the days racing, what they did and why they did it. Each skipper can attend, ask questions, and learn, thus helping to even the playing field, which also helps to foster Corinthian values. This model could be used in Optis and other junior sailing events to give everyone an overview of the days racing and tips on how to do better. Each competitor can contribute to a central fund to make this happen. It would be in the best interests of Opti (name your class) sellers and sailmakers to contribute people who would lead the discussion (at the Thistles it is usually some of the top sailmakers and top notch amateurs). If they want to sell boats then they will contribute talent to the Coach sessions.

I found the comments by a pro Coach very insulting and not in the best interests of the sport. One thing I really like about the Thistle Class is their central effort in making every sailor better. You can approach any skipper in the Thistle Class and they will tell you what they do and why the do it and frequently will go out with a skipper and comment on their set up, trim, and technique. The entire class supports this attitude. I am sure other classes do, as well. I have come to believe that we do not foster this attitude too far at many junior events.

 
At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Tim Patterson said...

I feel strongly that the concept of coaches on a race course will not prove to be helpful to the learning process. All of us who sail in whatever boat have had some help at some point, even if was just a push off the dock. Many yacht clubs have sailing instructors. These hard working people run many trial racing situations where the kids involved have the chance to see and hear about how their own decisions on the course affected the outcome of a particular situation. It has always felt to me that if I am told in a situation how to react, I might have internalized the information better if I had been allowed to learn it on my own. When one is in school, as mentioned in the last Scuttlebutt, one gets lots of help in the classroom, even practice tests, but when the exam time comes you are on your own.

 
At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Mike Moore said...

I'm glad to see the debate on this isn't going away. To a certain extent, the genie is clearly out of the bottle and I don't think the sailing world can expect to see it crammed back in, and I don't know that it should be. Generally, I agree with much of what Larry (Suter) has to say. Where I start to grow frustrated is where the coaching brings a decided advantage in real time.

I don't mind that a sailor and a coach might spend hours in training refining tuning. I don't mind that a coached sailor may get a tow to and/or from the racing area. And I don't mind that the coached sailor can benefit from the coaches observations at the end of the day.

Where I grow frustrated is where the coached sailor is told that the current at the mark is such and such, rather than discovering that for himself. Or where the coached sailor has different sails available on the water rather than having to decide for the day at the dock. Or where the coached sailor can feel comfortable under-rigging his boat because he has spare parts available to him on the water.

Tennis may be a good analogy to the compromise I'd propose. Those who want to employ and learn from coaches can. The coach can be in the stadium and observe, but while competing, the coach and the athlete have no communication. After the match is when the coach and athlete can discuss what the coach observed. In sailing, the coach can be on the water, and observe what is happening on the course; but from the first warning to the last finish for the day, no communication is allowed between the coach and sailor (safety issues the only exception). Back on the tow, or at the dock, the coach is free to tell the sailor what he observed; but the sailor has had to make the same decisions for himself that the un-coached sailor has during the course of the day.

Oh, and keep the coaches the heck out of the starting area. Well away. There is nothing worse than having to keep track of a coach boat in a crowded starting area.

 
At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Mark Grosby said...

From my perspective, the limits that should be placed on coaches is not to keep them from the racing area, but to keep them from providing information or coaching during the on the water portion of an event. Part of learning the sport is the experience of leaving the dock early to see what is happening with the wind, current, tuning with other boats, etc. To have a coach at the weather mark calling the first shift or the need to change the boat setup is not learning, it is outside assistance, plain and simple. I would, also, object to having coaches tow solely their charges out to the racing area and home. It is an unfair advantage particularly in a multi-day regatta where physical and mental endurance becomes an issue.

 
At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Richard Clark said...

Coaches on a course have always made me shake my head, surely a coach prepares his individual/team to perform at their best on the day, without riding, like a parrot on their shoulder. Race day is race day and time to let go and let . . . I can only imagine at how my life would have turned out years ago in cross country running with my coach running in the pack, think of the the life experience moments I would have missed out on. i remember coming second last at the National Championships, it taught me to never give up and I never have. I love the concept of baseball that making mistakes is part and parcel of the game. We need to allow competitors the glory of failure so they can learn that it's okay to screw up.

 
At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Neil W. Humphrey, Vancouver, BC said...

What people who advocate 1v1 youth coaching are missing is that sports in the club enviroment are generally for life. Coaching that is geared towards a individual's success has a narrow success ratio and certain time period whether it's a Olympic or professional career. It's similar to having a job for life...good luck

In sports clubs many sports for life participants are born in, grow up, have families in and past on in their sports clubs. Professional coaching 1v1 doesn't connect with sports clubs which are the lasting foundation of a sports longevity and success in the community. Sports are successful because of clubs with well balanced social and learning environments. Sure money has it's place but without a successful program to attract plus retain existing and new members (new blood) the club and the sport are doomed to non-existence and failure.

Many youth sports have already gone through the 1v1 coaching scenario and it doesn't work. Any sport can be broken down into it smallest competitive unit but without social connections/fun with team mates or friendship with other competitors your chance of enjoyment, longevity and success are limited in a sport. Sure there is a master plan for development in the sport that is driven by the national, regional, district and club organizations but the club and it's coaches have the job to teach the game. Individual coaches and their students are removed from the club as a whole and function as lone rangers outside of the larger system's pathways of enjoyment, development and success.

Sports by their very nature are social environments first and competition second. The current training in competitive sports is to give the athlete the development programs and pathways to choose from. But first as a club and it's coaches their role is to help the member develop a lasting love of the sport as without that feeling of the sport it's just another 9 to 5 job.

BTW most sports have a defined playing/technical area of where the coaching and parents are separated by space or barrier so the players enjoy and learn on their own. Even youth soccer at the U11 and up in most countries have rules that define where the coach and spectators must be in relation to the players during team and game time. This forces coaches and parents to understand that the game is for the athlete and coach and parent input is away from the game. I was taught decades ago that as a coach if I had done my job, my role at a game was to sit down to enjoy and support the sport while taking notes for the next practice.

 
At 9:23 AM, Anonymous David Barrow, Lymington, UK said...

Tongue in cheek, maybe the simplest answer to the coaching issue is to put coached competitors in a different fleet, you could call it "Coach Class"!!! Non coached club sailors would be in "Club Class", and beginners would be in "First Class". Prizes and awards to be in line with airline category.

If you look at the Golf world which is probably the most disciplined and anti cheating, not saying coaching is cheating, sport in the world. They allow coaches on the practice ground, I guess they can follow the player on the course, they certainly can not talk to them between holes. Don’t think I have seen Tiger's coach appear on the tee to say "hey Tiger bit more of an upright swing on the next tee shot mate". The player can go back to the practice ground after their round with their coach for further instruction.

We looked at providing wind speed and direction indicators on top of the camera towers at golf courses for the major International competitions with 20/20 readouts for all competitors to see, but it was deemed that it was the player against the course and that is that!

So to convert that to sailing, let them coach up to the 1 hour gun, which should deal with reducing wind shift and local tide information that can be given just before the start that is not available to all. They should not carry anything in the boat, so all competitors make sail decisions ashore at the same time. Then be kept at a safe viewing distance until the end of the days racing. Any communication between competitor and coach between those times results in instant disqualification of competitor from regatta.

Coaches are invaluable to the sport, particularly at the highest levels, we just have to find a way of placing them in a position where the vast majority of competitors deems it a relatively level playing field, or we risk offending the majority with the consequent loss of interest in our sport.

 
At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Michael H. Koster said...

I find the comments from the coaches advocating on the water presence during a regatta to be somewhat amusing. Kids need to learn that there is a time when handholding and skirt clinging needs to end. When it comes to sailing competitions, the coaches job should be finished before the start of the regatta and resumed at the end of the regatta. After reading some of the comments by coaches, there is no doubt in my mind that some of these folks would consider it appropriate to have coaches in an SAT testing room.

 
At 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you should see the loss of interest in the Opti class. 15,000 boats world wide. and producing some real milk toast sailors, Ben Ainslie etc. It's just not working...

 

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