Initially when I read through the final research document there was a lot of things that really hit home for me, specifically as a sailor who didn't go down the performance pathway route due to lack of confidence and my own experiences with club racing as a junior and youth sailor. However I did choose to pursue coaching and instructing at my home club which has opened many more doors than I could have ever imagined.
Generally school academics was never a strong point but arts and sports was. It surprises me that there is still this mindset of getting top grades in your academic years is the only way that you will ever "succeed". But what does success look like in sailing?
Our ideas of success is so varied, is it performance based and having an olympic win? Pursuing coaching and having a career in watersports where you get to see the world? Or as a junior sailor who is in their second year of topper sailing, coming 3rd in your local club regatta? Seeing people succeed and progress is one of the reasons I stayed in sailing because I was extremely proud of being able to teach people a new skill and introduce them to this world of being out on the water with the breeze and waves. I think I also wanted to give sailors who are on the learning journey a supportive teaching environment which focuses on fun, small wins and allowance for mistakes. I unfortunately did not have much experience of this when I myself was in the passenger seat, especially when it came to racing.
Reflecting back, I strongly believe I continued through the sport because of three male allies. Two who have played very impactful roles within clubs and made a massive contribution to many sailors and instructors across NI over the years. The third was when I really kickstarted into what they call a "real job in the real world" working within the governing body. Again, this third ally made me feel like I could really make a difference, they helped me reach for goals that I didn't know I would be capable of and encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone when an opportunity was there, you just go for it! I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to them, you know who you are!
Like many women and girls in the sport that have had difficult experiences I have also had my fair share. I would like to emphasise that these experiences have happened across all ages and stages of my sailing journey and career so far. My three allies always listened, supported me if I was ever unsure of something and didn't make me feel embarrassed or silly for asking questions. They have stood up for me many times, made me feel heard in a crowded room and encouraged me to progress with my own personal development in the sport.
I questioned pursuing instructing and coaching a few times when I was younger however this is the kind of behavior that made me not drop out of the sport and actually enabled me to flourish. A little bit of a personal share but it's all relevant and important to recognise the allies at your club who do make a positive impact and inspire.
If you are involved in a volunteer role, committee position, workforce or officiating, this may be something to digest.
1. What behaviors can we implement for the future of our sailing community and what impact will these behaviors have for instructors, volunteers, parents etc?
2. How can this research support our club?
3. What are the top 3 things we are currently good at in our club and reflecting on the research what are the top 3 things we could look into applying for women and girls?
To read the full research click here
Thank you for supporting this important piece of work, onwards and upwards from here - Kate Broderick (Pathways Officer RYANI)