What is Long-Term Sailor Development?
Long Term Sailor Development is a framework that allows sailing to take a fresh look at itself in a structured manner. It attempts to chart the best practice in introducing, developing and the life long retention of young people in our sport. RYA NI is the first sailing organisation to take this approach and it probably couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Some sailing clubs have a reducing number of young members and can no longer rely on using the same methods to attract young people to our sport.
Sailing Clubs traditionally had a summer season that ran from May to September and comprised of summer training courses, regular club racing, a regatta day and perhaps a championship. Young people who joined the sport were normally children or friends of existing club members. They would start by crewing in two man junior dinghies, move to helming and eventually graduate to the senior dinghy or keelboat classes. Young people would spend nearly all the summer months based at the yacht clubs messing around in boats, making life-long friendships.
Society has changed quite dramatically in the last twenty years and clubs are struggling to keep pace.
Couples are marrying later in life and having fewer children. More income has introduced huge competition and choice for the family’s leisure time. Electronics and the internet enable a whole range of non-active pursuits to captivate and occupy young people. There is a greater focus on education and exam results at the expense of physical activity. Parents feel more threatened by society and many young people only get to do active leisure activity in a supervised environment and when the parents are available to transport them.
Clubs have in part addressed the changes in society by spreading the season through autumn and spring leagues and with dinghy winter series. This allows for the longer and more frequent summer holidays when it is difficult to organise a crew. In some clubs there is more dinghy racing in the winter than the summer.
Unfortunately, apart from these changes, clubs still run the same programmes in the same way as they have done for the last 60 years. The club sailing activity is delivered the same way whether you are a 10 year old in your first season in a Topper or 70 years of age sailing a 50ft two ton keelboat.
Young People with a wide range of choices are voting with their feet and sailing is not coming out the winner. They are being introduced to sailing through summer courses and many have the first taste and don’t return. Others get pressured into inappropriate competition and training regimes that can have a short term performance gain but may turn the young person away from the sport for life. Making the team or squad becomes the whole focus and other aspects of our sport such as seamanship, boat care, race management, or safety boat skills are not valued.
We need a model that values all aspects of water activity, and in away that develops young people and gives them sufficient self-esteem so that they stay with sailing for life.
LTSD is a sailing version of the Long Term Athlete Development. LTAD was developed by Dr Istvan Balyi and has been adopted by many sports to help young athletes develop to their true potential by looking at competition structures, appropriate training regimes and fully aligning and integrating the sport system.
The three key goals of the system are Life Long Participation, Physical Literacy and Improved Performance.
The RYA NI, while acknowledging the benefit for the elite side of the sport, see no conflict in adapting the model for the 99.5% of non elite sailors.
We have tackled the first three stages of the LTAD model and called them:
In addressing this, the RYANI have created an information leaflet for sailors and parents/ guardians and a resource booklet, which outlines the full matrix of sailors' progression and gives parents and coaches ideas of how to stay involved is sailing for life.