No-one sees changes over time like parents. One minute you're taking them primary school, the next they are taller than you and taking exams. That's why when it comes to looking at the impact of sailing on a young person, the parent's eye view is often the most insightful.
In 2015 Sam Williams, from Eastbourne, was awarded a new Bic Techno windsurfer through the John Merricks Sailing Trust / RYA OnBoard partnership, while earlier this year he was named London and South East RYA Regional Youth Champion.
Now 15, Sam has progressed from Team15 to compete at nationally and internationally. He ended last season UKWA Inland Series Techno champion and was selected to represent Britain at both the 2016 Techno World and European Championships.
Yet as he continues on the pathway to becoming a successful competitive sailor - now transitioning from the Techno to the RS:X - it's his transition from boy to young man that is as important to his family. We spoke to his dad Julian about how windsurfing has helped his son's personal development.
Has Sam always been obsessed with windsurfing?
I windsurf and Sam's been going along to Buzz Active (formerly Spray Watersports) for the best part of the past decade because his older brother got involved in Team15. After Sam got into Team15 when he was about 10 his enthusiasm went to the next level. We applied for Sam to be considered for a board through the JMST/OnBoard partnership as prior to that he had never had his own kit. He seized the opportunities having that board brought with both hands, showing great dedication to practice, and he progressed quickly.
Outside of his actual windsurfing skills, can you describe what windsurfing has given to Sam?
It's given him a focus and goals to achieve. He sets his calendar for racing and training events, has set up a personal fitness programme at the gym and is eating much healthier. He is very conscious about his overall nutrition intake to keep himself in peak fitness. It’s also given him a great social life with like-minded people.
What life skills have you seen especially develop in him as his windsurfing has progressed?
Certainly determination, he won't give up when he's tired and will push on until he's finished a task. He has developed confidence in communication, demonstrated when he gave a talk on windsurfing to over 400 children at school assembly last year and he's also given a presentation to our local Rotary club. He would never have done this before. He loves passing on his new skills to develop others too and helps out at Zone and Team15 events. His overall confidence and independence have improved from being involved in windsurfing.
How have you seen these skills translate into other areas of his life?
There is definitely a motivation to do well in school with his education. To fit everything in he wants to do he has to be organised, especially when he's training and competing far from home, while in the classroom he is generally more alert and focused. His fitness is being recognised in school too, being asked to represent the school in cross-country and middle distance running events. He wasn’t aiming for this it’s just a bi-product of his programme to be windsurf fit. He can also communicate confidently with adults, which is a positive asset.
How are these skills helping to shape Sam's future aspirations?
Sam is considering applying for aircrew in the RAF when he reaches working age. The fact he was selected for the Europeans and Worlds last year and is in National Junior Squad will boost his CV as there's been a big emphasis on discipline, teamwork and personal achievement within both the Zone and National Junior squads. Through these he's developed very much as a disciplined team player with high personal goals.
Sum up Sam as a young man.
Sam is focused, ambitious, a leader, considerate, humble in success, athletic, determined, fun loving, sensible, very sociable and a good communicator. Who wouldn't want those traits in their child? Windsurfing has played a big part in Sam growing into the young man he is becoming.