I believe that sailing is one of the greatest teachers of life lessons. There are so many metaphors for life and so many lessons just in getting ready for a weekend overnight on a sailboat. That is one of the reasons it is really great if kids can get interested in it.
I have the incredibly good fortune to work with a group of young people teaching Junior Sailing on single-handed boats. Whether we are racing or just having fun doing figure-eights or capsize drills, they are doing it themselves. Parents are on-shore, or on the support boat at best. They have a PFD and a coach, so the environment is safe, but they are responsible for their own boat! They can sail near their friends or off by themselves. For the time they are sailing, they are their own masters. The growth and self-confidence that comes from being able to handle your own sailboat and make it move with nothing but the wind is nothing less than remarkable.
Don’t discount the kids that learn the opposite way though. The ones that when you get on a bigger boat don’t want to drive, but they want to do all the other stuff. They are working up to loving sailing. Building confidence in little bites. Raising the main, trimming the jib, moving the traveler, all with positive feedback from the skipper. They might even eventually want to drive too!
For the competitive kids, racing is going to be immediately on their radar screen. They want to make the boat go faster than the next kid, every time, all the time. But not all are really crazy about that. Many junior’s programs are racing focused, but we are seeing a trend that is more about the adventure. More about the journey than the destination. These “Adventure Sailing” classes are just as important as the competitive ones, and maybe more so.