When Tricia Ordsmith, Senior Instructor at Rudyard Lake SC, was approached by a parent who educates her children at home to say she thought other families like them might enjoy the chance to do something different Tricia didn’t hang around.

And by the end of July, no fewer than 10 parents (nine mums, one dad) and 20 children had completed six weekly three-hour sessions, attaining or working towards RYA Start Sailing Level 1, RYA Powerboat Level 1 and RYA Youth Stage 1 and 2 certificates, through the club’s pilot OnBoard Home Schooling project.

OnBoard clubs are always looking for new ways to engage youngsters and get families active in the club, and through this audience Rudyard Lake have ticked both those boxes at the same time.

As Tricia explains: “In September 2016 a parent from the local home schooling group approached us about running some sailing sessions for the children. Through the group’s Facebook community it quickly became clear the appetite was there.

“Targeting mums who home school their children has brought an influx of kids into OB. The mums and children sail in different groups at the same time, giving the mums a new daytime activity, where they can enjoy a bit of ‘me’ time, while sharing a new experience with their children, who can progress into our OnBoard club.”

Setting it up

If you ever want a case of the stars aligning, this project was it.

At the same time Tricia was having these conversations, Sport Across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent (SASSOT), Rudyard’s County Sports Partnership, was offering small grants to sports clubs in the county for This Girl Can projects.

With the home schooling project targeting mums and their children, this fitted the bill perfectly and Rudyard were successful in their application for £600 of SASSOT funding. In addition, the project was scheduled to run in June and July, when Rudyard’s young instructors had finished their exams, giving the club extra weekday volunteers to draw on.

Part one of the project was a free Taster Day on Thursday 11 May, and through the home school Facebook group and word of mouth plus promotion at the club Open Day, 16 parents and 27 children had a fantastic afternoon on the water. Nine mums and their children signed up on the day to then do the six weekly sessions, at £5 per person per session. Rudyard’s Push The Boat Out was another chance to promote it.

Tricia continues: “The messaging we used was not about coming on a sailing course, it was about ‘Come along and meet other home schooling mums’, ‘Come and enjoy some ‘me time’ and have some fun on the water with other mums’, ‘It’s not only the children who will have fun on the water – you will too!’

“The social aspect was the real selling point, there was the opportunity to have lunch together before each session started and we had drink and snack breaks together during. We also used games to help both adults and children get to know each other. The group was split into two for on-the-water activities and on-land activities. Halfway through the session they swapped over.

“There were mums in each group to help to facilitate childcare for any younger siblings who only took part in the land activities. The mums also had the opportunity to sail with each other and with their children.”

During the project the mums and children were encouraged to attend one of the club’s family Saturdays, where youth training is followed by family sailing, or one of their Sunday morning sessions in June and July, designed specifically for children and novices. They were invited to the club socials and Abersoch Week in July too.

Participants were also offered at least a 30% discount on family membership as an incentive to join the club at the end of the project, with a number of youngsters already signed up for Rudyard’s Jybaz junior club when it re-starts in September.

The next step

By the time of the project’s prize giving on Thursday 20 July 17 children had completed Stage 1 with two achieving Stage 2. One mum had attained Start Sailing Level 1 and six had their Powerboat Level 1.

Arguably even more satisfying, over the six weeks a number of parents, who had initially been too nervous to do the sailing activities, had been encouraged and found the confidence to give it a go, while previously reluctant youngsters were also out sailing with their mums by the end of the project.

One mum, Rebecca, had three of her four children involved. She explains the impact it’s had on their family.

“My eldest has always wanted to learn to sail ever since she read Swallows and Amazons when she was six. She’s now 10 and when this project came up it was perfect. I’ve never seen her so fulfilled and happy as when she was sailing by herself and making her own decision on the water.

“My eight-year-old liked sailing with someone else and being part of a team. He found that really exciting and made a lot of new friends. On the last session, because of the confidence he’d gained from sailing with others, he went out by himself. Even my six-year-old had moments where he was incredibly proud of himself, although he probably needs another couple of years until he could really understand and enjoy it.

“The whole experience has been utterly unexpected. For me it’s been fantastic to get to know a bunch of new people and it’s knocked on to the rest of my life too. I’m not a sporty person but now I’m confident about trying other things and physical activities I never would have done before. I felt so proud achieving my Level 1.”

Tricia says she would love to run the project again, with the social camaraderie amongst parents and children delivering exactly the supportive environment she had hoped for so that all participants could achieve what they were capable of.

Until then, is this something you could do?