Regional class associations and series not just about developing champions
A thriving junior section will provide the foundation to the future of your club. But knowing that and actually building one are two totally different things.
How do you inspire a core of kids to become regular club racers?
Kids get bored. That's a shocking statement for sure! To keep their interest over a long period, and to not lose them to other teen pulls, means keeping them stimulated. But sometimes that can be tricky with small club fleets and a diminishing or demotivating challenge, depending on ability level.
This is where Regional Class Association Training and series' can be a godsend, and contrary to the perception, this isn't about losing good sailors to the squad system rather being an opportunity to inspire and invigorate your junior club racing.
As Chris Blackburn, RYA Midlands High Performance Manager, explains: "If you limit potential you can limit enjoyment, and as soon as anyone, junior or adult, stops enjoying something then they will most likely stop doing it.
"Regional training and racing helps develop sailors with a passion for sailing and wanting to get better at racing, who, even if they don't make it to top, develop a lifelong love of the sport and are most likely to be the next generation of volunteers in your club etc.
"The regional class associations are fantastic, friendly organisations, run predominantly by like-minded parents, where your sailors will learn so much, which in turn will boost your junior fleet by extending the opportunties for sailors to test themselves.
"We're not advocating youngsters leaving clubs but using regional race training within your Junior training/racing programme to extend your club training/racing offering and grow your junior fleet to be more competitive and enjoyable."
By learning to race in a bigger, more competitive fleet you become a better sailor.
Even the most inexperienced youngster will show rapid improvement as, even if they can only sail basic triangle course, they get significantly better and instant feedback from sailing and racing with more of their peers in a fun, friendly and competitive environment.
While you might have a fleet of 10-15 boats at your club, regional training will take kids into the realms of sailing in fleets of 20+. That will make them better.
Regional training is organised through the class associations, including Topper and Optimists, which have both enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past few years. Create posters for regional Traveller events and share the information in newsletters etc.
In addition, for a club to have good active junior section you need to have a good fleet of boats and this is where using the regional fleet of Toppers and Optimists can help.
These fleets can be hired for junior training through the RYA Midlands Regional Volunteer Team to inspire youngsters, parents and volunteers alike to realise how much better it is to have 15 boats out and not just six of seven, and how very quickly, you could build a fleet.
How can youngsters and parents also get information on what to look for when buying a secondhand boat - is there a role for someone in club where they can provide the advice and expertise on what to look for?
The next step
For many youngsters the RYA Zone Championships are the first 'big' event they go to. But, before you stop reading and think, 'That's not for us', please read on...
The RYA Zone Championships are aimed at young sailors who have started racing within their club. In addition to the main fleet racing, there is a Regatta fleet, which could be a first introduction to a regional regatta for some sailors. The primary goal is fun, and with RYA staff, coaches and officials on hand to guide sailors, it is a great first event to attend.
It's a big step up from just training and racing at your club to going to a Championship event. For non sailing parents putting a boat on a trailer or roof, and driving it down the road to an event, is the biggest step. Doing this as a club can make the experience whole lot less intimidating, and more fun, all round.
As Chris continues: "If as a club, you decide your aim is to go to a Zone Championships, factor into your club calendar and then go to couple of regional series events together beforehand to lose the fear factor around what to expect.
"Make t-shirts, go en masse, do a session for parents on towing, and make the whole thing an adventure as opposed to something which, on your own, can be a scary step as much for parents as it is sailors.
"We want clubs to develop their junior fleets for the sake of racing and for the long-term health of the sport as much as trying to unearth potential. Regional class associations and regional fleets are excellent resources to help your club achieve that."
*For more information on the Regional Class Associations click on the Elsewhere on the Web links to the right.
*The 2016 Midlands RYA Zone Championships are at Draycote Water SC on 24-25 September. For more information click on the See Also link to the right.
*Want a bit more advice or got any questions? Contact Chris Blackburn to the right too.
Find books for your course at the RYA Shop
Our handy guide shows the books & DVDs that go with your course!