In our post about Kids and Sailing, we talked about the merits of sailing as a sport for kids. Some kids will want the racing path. How do we manage that responsibly as parents though? I know I don’t want to just throw my kid out to race during the regular race season with no supervision. Here are some thoughts about how to train kids to race then get them the supervision they need so they can participate in the regular racing season and feel like they are really part of the club.
Provide pre-season race training class sessions. These should be on the same body of water where they will be racing and should be under the same circumstances as they will be racing. It should not be at the same time as the regular race season racing.
Provide on-going race training and sailing lessons outside of the regular race times. Kids are going to be challenged during the racing and they need support to improve outside of the racecourse. Have ongoing sailing class either earlier in the day or a different day and make sure to keep it fun and not just about the racing!
During the regular racing, kids should be supervised on the water by someone in a coach boat. That can be a club staff member or coach, non-racing parent, someone on the Race Committee, or a volunteer at large, but I believe it is important to keep a closer eye on the kids than we do adult racers.
Do a post-race debrief with the kids. Whoever was on the coach boat and maybe someone from the Race Committee can answer questions that kids might have.
Use fleet rules to keep it simple. Most kids aren’t going to get all of the nuances of all the rules. Identify the rules that are important to keep the kids safe and write fleet rules to go by. You can also use fleet rules to make it fun! Maybe throw in a start from in the water, or a mandatory capsize zone.
I would love to hear your ideas on this topic as well. Please comment below or send me an email!