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Keeping young people on the race course

Young People Racing A culture of fun, fair racing

A child’s early experiences of a sport can either hook them, or put them off for life.


At a recent Sport Summit the Chief Executive of Sport England, Jennie Price, stressed that for the vast majority of children who are not part of a talent programme, clubs should focus on gaining competence, enjoyment of the sport and an absence of poor experiences. 


The RYA were interested to know how parents perceived their children’s experiences. We asked them how they thought their children benefited from taking part in sailing, windsurfing and powerboating.  The good news is that results showed 79% said their children had no negative experiences with many citing independence, friends, self-confidence and fun.  


However of the 21% that did express negativity, the majority stated this was due to experiences with adult sailors in the club or negative experiences on the racecourse.


Although this may seem like a small proportion, there are many ways clubs can ensure racing is accessible and enjoyable for all those involved regardless of age and ability.


Make it fun


RYA OnBoard (OB) sessions are all about youngsters having lots of fun while learning new skills. Cat Ferguson, RYA OnBoard Officer explains: “It can be very daunting for some youngsters when they’re learning how to sail and if they find themselves in a stressful or even scary situation there is a danger they may give up sailing altogether.


“OnBoard sessions include games and activities for new sailors to practice their skills. Instructors can be as inventive as they like! Once the children have built up their confidence they can start taking part in fun races or racing in teams so they enjoy a positive experience as they get to grips with learning to race.”


Abide by the RYA Racing Charter


RYA Youth Racing Manager Mark Nicholls explains: “It’s important that clubs reflect a culture of fun, inclusive, competitive racing. Youngsters who are sailing and racing, should always be made to feel welcome on the racecourse no matter who they’re sailing with, and at what age or what stage. All sailors should be aware of the RYA Racing Charter which promoted the ethos of fun yet fair racing.”


Novice Race Training


Organising some novice race training for less experienced sailors (of all ages) would help members to make the transition from learner to regular racer smoother while they learn the rules. This helps sailors learn in a safe and fun environment with the ability to make mistakes and improve on them for next time.


You could even introduce a buddy system with less confident racers being paired with an instructor in an informal coaching and training situation.


More ideas and information about club racing can be found here


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