Why an OB Development Day got us OnBoard

21 Nov 19

Sami Poole is the first to admit he needed convincing.

A Waterfront Manager at Port Edgar Watersports near Edinburgh, he was sceptical about what OnBoard could offer his centre. Through previous involvement with OB, he knew the data requests were a burden. He couldn’t see what was in it for them.

When Jack Mitchell, RYA Scotland’s Regional Development Officer (East), invited Sami to go with him to an RYA OnBoard Development Day at Northampton Sailing Club this summer he agreed, more out of interest than anything else. Within hours a couple of hours he was converted.

“The new OnBoard was exactly what we were looking to do as a centre,” he says. “I came home from that day convinced we’d be stupid not to do it.”

So why the dramatic U-turn?

Let’s go back to the start

OnBoard was re-launched in 2017 with a focus on the six broader learning benefits of sailing and windsurfing - creativity, teamwork, determination, communication, independence and confidence. To support this, a set of resources were produced for teachers, parents and instructors, all linked to the character attributes.

These resources included session cards to support instructors in developing the character attributes in sessions whilst also linking back to the National Curriculum. The cards were designed to give even the most experienced instructors lots of great ideas for games, interactive activities and bad weather alternatives.

But, despite the hope that clubs and centres would instantly recognise their value and embed them into their OnBoard activities, the reality is many of the resources and sessions cards have been filed on a shelf and never looked at again.

If that’s you, don’t worry you’re not alone. Perhaps they were filed with the best intention of giving it all a read when you were less busy? Or maybe you’ve been running OnBoard successfully for a long time and just didn’t feel you needed it?

So, to inspire clubs to re-look at what they do with an open mind and to shed light on making the most of the new resources, a national programme of OnBoard Development Days were created within the regions. And, if your club or centre hasn’t been to one yet, you are honestly missing out.

Instant impact

Port Edgar Watersports got their OnBoard seal of approval in September and Sami immediately went about putting the resources to work. First up was getting invites out to schools.

As a social enterprise, schools are a massive target for Port Edgar. But, like so many clubs and centres find, convincing busy teachers or parents to bring pupils sailing is never an easy task for so many reasons. But now Sami had the ammo he had been missing.

“We were producing our own materials trying to get schools involved and re-working them year after year. But all the OnBoard resources are linked in with everything we’re trying to do and it’s all explained better than we could ever produce.

“It’s hard to get teachers, especially non-sailors, involved. But breaking it down into the six broader learning benefits makes it clear for them what we’re trying to deliver and why. The videos, for example, are perfect and so well produced. The resources look professional and it gives us credibility that we’re involved.”

Since using the resources as part of their invites, Port Edgar have signed up four new schools. Sami admits it’s hard to put that all down to the resources. But he is no doubt that, even if a school has come to them through word of mouth, the resources have helped consolidate the benefits of getting involved to the teachers.

Sami is also looking at how to integrate the session cards next year. This includes incorporating the broader learning benefits work into all their instructor and staff training and inductions.

He continues: “A lot of the core OnBoard values are what we try to embed as a centre so our instructors already have a good idea of what we want out of sessions. But now I want us to all develop together, to understand the benefits in more detail and how we can better deliver the broader learning skills we’re after.

“A few instructors have had a go at using the flipcards and they are so easy! It’s simple to keep doing what you’ve always done and to stagnate. But if something is monotonous for instructors, it’s monotonous for clients too. I want us to think differently about what we put into sessions and what the kids will get out of it.”

Sami is looking to capitalize on the availability of training grants through being OnBoard too. He also believes changes to the reporting requirements have made a big difference to breaking down barriers to getting involved in OnBoard.

What is an OnBoard Development Day?

The format varies region by region. The day Sami attended was split 50:50 between the classroom and water (he did windsurfing), and it showcased many of the techniques, ideas and games in the OnBoard resources.

There were interactive quizzes, a Lego challenge and sessions based around creativity and teamwork, but approached in way Sami had never considered before. He returned to Port Edgar inspired. Now he wants to get involved in spreading the word about the benefits of OnBoard not just at his club, but throughout Scotland.

He concludes: “That day has given me so many ideas, I’ve gone ballistic with it! I keep trying different stuff and I want our instructors to do the same. 

"A lot of the young people OnBoard is trying to reach is me when I was younger. I understand as well as anyone the barriers to getting young people into sailing and I also know what overcoming those barriers can achieve. 

I love this sport but what I love most is developing people through this sport. OnBoard will help us do that even better. It’s class.”

Find out more

If you want to attend an OnBoard Development Day, contact you RYA Regional Development Officer here – RDO contacts