It's been a hectic first few weeks of being the Midlands RDO!
The big news this month is booking for the 2019 RYA Midlands Affiliated Clubs Conference will be live next week (Monday 16 September). The Midlands Conference takes place at Landau Forte Amington College, Tamworth on Saturday 16 November and you will be able to get the full agenda and secure your places here - RYA Affiliated Club Conferences
We're pleased Alistair Dickson, the RYA's Director of Sport Development, will be joining us for the keynote address, and to start looking ahead at what the sailing club landscape is going to look like over the next five years. We will also welcome Mandy Peters, RYA Legal Manager, from RYA HQ.
This year's conferences are about 'Putting people first'. That means understanding what your members, volunteers and new sailors need, and putting that at the forefront of your decision making. As well as plenty of chances to share ideas with other clubs, the day is broken into three rounds of club development sessions.
Alistair will be running three workshops on volunteer recruitment and management, whilst hot topics around attracting and retaining new members, training instructors and coaches and legal issues also feature heavily across the agenda.
This year also includes a workshop on developing cruising in each round. We have thousands of very active cruisers in the region and it's important all our clubs - from our specialist cruising clubs to clubs with cruising sections - have the chance to develop more interest in and opportunities within big boat sailing too.
Remember the conferences are free with lunch and refreshments also provided at no cost. We would love to see at least two people from each club come along and it would also be great if one of your people could be a Conference first-timer. Due the conference's popularity, pre-booking is essential, so get in early to avoid disappointment. I'm really looking forward to meeting lots of you there.
Thank you so much to everyone for getting their RYA Club Membership Census returns back to us by the mid-August deadline. Sorry for the bombardment of emails and calls, but it paid off and I'd like to thank the regional team for their support with this as I found my feet in my new role.
This is such an important piece of research every year as it allows us to analyse and understand the health of our sailing clubs, and spot key patterns and trends, year-on-year, both as part of the regional and wider national picture.
With every participating club receiving an individual report of your membership data, and a comparison of how this has changed year-on-year over five years, you also get valuable insight to help shape and/or stay on track with your club development plans.
These were the key findings for the Midlands from last year's census, with more detail on how the Midlands shapes up in the national context available here - RYA Midlands Regional Insights 2018
Just a couple of quick reminders that there is still time to get your entries in for the 2020 RYA and Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year (deadline Friday 20 September) and to take part in the final round of the inaugural Midlands Youth Series at Bartley SC on Sunday 15 September (Notice of race, SIs and entry information here - RYA Midlands Youth Series 2019)
Feeding the instructor lifecycle
In the Q&A I did when I was first appointed in this role (Meet Ben - your new Midlands Regional Development Officer) I talked about how the instructor lifecycle was one of our priorities. There is a real challenge in trying to manage current trends with instructor availability.
Training Senior Instructors (SIs) is a key part of meeting that challenge so we're delighted to delivering three Dinghy SI courses this autumn/winter to provide the opportunity for clubs to upskill your instructors.
The four-day course, over two weekends, covers the role of an SI, including session preparation, organization and management, feedback and debriefing skills, customer and instructor liaison and centre administration. This is the course to take to develop your skills from an RYA Dinghy Instructor to RYA Senior Instructor and for clubs to provide a development pathway for instructors.
All the course venue and date information and booking can be found here - Instructor & Coach Courses - and if you have any questions at all please do let me know (contacts can be found at the top of this page).
Out and about
I've spent a huge amount of time on the road over the past month, meeting the RYA Midlands regional team and getting a steer on what activity is currently going on in the region and how it's working. I've also conducted a number of RYA Training Centre inspections too.
Being in clubs and centres at this busy time of the year, and seeing so many people on the water has been really motivating and encouraging. It's one thing talking about all this stuff. But when you see the results of it, and the hundreds of club volunteers and centre staff making sure people are having fun, it really hits home.
But for all the positive activity there has been over the past month, we obviously spare a thought for our friends at Toddbrook SC, who have been seriously affected by the damage to the dam at Whaley Bridge and the subsequent draining of the reservoir.
It's been so heartening to see the local sailing community rallying round to help each other out and to provide alternative sailing options for the club's members. We will also be supporting and doing everything we can to help keep sailing going in the area, for as long as the dam repairs take.