When thinking about getting OnBoard ready, there are two major objectives - engage the kids and inspire your staff and volunteers. Here are my top tips on how you can do that to have a super successful 2020!
1. Get the the kids excited again
Especially if they've not been on the water over the winter. Whether OnBoarders who have been with you a long time, or newcomers last year, you need to re-engage them and get them looking forward to getting back on the water, and the rest of the season ahead.
Invite them back in for a free 'shakedown' day, where they can re-familiarise themselves with the boats by doing some basic maintenance, cleaning and rigging. Play some games and maybe do a theory session too. Reintroduce them in a friendly way, to make them feel super confident when they get on the water again.
If you have something like a Saturday club, this is a great way to kick off your new season's sessions. If it's a school group it can be harder, so find a way to link it to the curriculum and give them a genuine reason to come back before the sailing gets back underway.
2. What do they want to do?
As part of this shakedown day, start finding out what they want from the season. Guide them in thinking about the things they enjoy, what challenges they could try to achieve and even maybe when they would like to come to sessions. To start with, they always answer capsizing!
But, if you can get the kids bought in early on they will keep wanting to come back. This is especially important when you're trying to get kids from school groups to start joining a club.
3. Get the instructors excited too
If you're dedicated users of the OB resources, get them out and spend some time talking about what worked well last year and what could have been even better. If you're not a club that's used the resources much or at all, get along to an OnBoard Development Day in your region and find out how the resources can have a massive impact on how you run OnBoard and the outcomes you can achieve with the young people.
Here's a reminder from November's In Your Element about the value of OB Development Days - Why an OB Development Day got us OnBoard. Contact your Regional Development Officer to find out when there are Development Days in your region.
4. Set a six-week programme that links
There's nothing worse than getting to the end of a session block and not being able to see how it all fits together. But linking sessions week-to-week not only gives your programme consistency, you can set the kids between-session tasks to keep them thinking about sailing and what's next, which helps keep them engaged.
For example, you could ask them to find a picture of a sailing boat that they love the look of, or find a crazy fact about sailing they think their instructor won't know. Or get them to tell you the weather forecast or what the tide is going to be doing. You will soon see who reads the tasks and who leaves them in their bag, which helps you make the point that for sailing, you have to be prepared.
Giving your staff ownership of the programme, and the scope to be creative and innovative, keeps things much more interesting for them too, especially if they have aspirations to become Senior Instructors.
5. Give them a taste
If you're looking to work with new groups or schools this year, put on a free taster session. Going to teachers or youth leaders with an OnBoard pack and the offer of a free or low cost taster experience gets them through your door. Then you can start talking to them about what six weeks could do.
You don't need for the pick up to be great on this. Most clubs and centres have 'dead time' in the shoulder seasons, so if one in four tasters in the pre-Easter term leads to take up for a six-week block in March-June you've filled that time before peak season arrives. It's the same in the autumn.
6. Give everything a proper overhaul
This is true of all your activities, not just OnBoard, but use this time to really get to grips with the maintenance of your boats and engines. Use the powerboat checklist from your inspection and make sure everything is there and working as it should be. Is everything in the First Aid kit there and did it get damp over the winter? Have you got any instructors who's First Aid tickets, or any other qualifications, are about to run out? The last thing you want is to be trying to get all this up straight when the kids are back.
7. Get dates in parents' diaries
If you've got club sessions, holiday clubs, OnBoard festivals, whatever it is, give the parents a full list of dates as early as possible so they can get them in their diaries. And tell them about any deals you have too, for example, discounts on booking multiple sessions, club membership etc. Kids have as much (if not more!) going on at the weekends as their parents now so don't leave it too late. Things in the diary a long time have a tendency to be the thing that gets stuck to.
8. Make the most of Tokyo 2020
The Tokyo 2020 Sailing Regatta gets underway on Sunday 26 July, with the medals decided on each day from Saturday 1 August to Wednesday 5 August. That's effectively the first two weeks of the summer holidays. The time difference means the action will be happening around breakfast. So how can you tap into this to inspire more kids (and their parents)?
Could you plan some Discover Sailing sessions leading into autumn OnBoard and Start Sailing courses? Could you put on a summer holiday week for kids that includes breakfast and watching the racing? Whatever you offer, be creative and loud in your promotion to stand out against all the other sports that will also be looking to capitalise on the Olympic opportunity.