"The days you don't want to are usually the best days because you learn a lot on those days."

That's Grace, from Brading Haven Yacht Club on the Isle of Wight hitting the nail on the head of how sailing builds determination.

Developing determination is a significant outcome of learning to sail. In the work we've done on broader learning and in the session cards we’ve produced to support this, determination is defined in two ways…

Determination
1. Never gives up
2. Bounces back after set-backs

It is widely accepted there are a number of factors that help us get on in life, such as knowing how to keep going against the odds or having the determination to practice something until we get it right.

So when it comes to thinking about developing determination through sailing, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, Hannah Cockle, says the best place to start is with yourself.

"When I think about experiences I've had of being determined in adulthood, so much of that comes from learning to sail when I was younger, from being cold and wet on the water and still doing it.

"Which are the experiences you tell stories about? The nice comfortable, easy ones or the difficult, uncomfortable ones. Once I was windsurfing in the snow; it was freezing, windy and we were only out for about 15 minutes. But I've told that story so many times; how funny it was, how hardcore we thought we were, the bond and camaraderie it builds with your mates. Those are the experiences I've learned most from."

 

Fine line

The sheer nature of determination means going through something challenging. When you've got youngsters learning to sail, how do you strike the balance between pushing them enough so they feel they achieve something and putting them off for life?

Finding that balance alone is a skill and it's why determination is the first character attribute focused on in the OnBoard session cards.

The physical aim of OnBoard session one is to get kids sailing across the wind, turning around and returning again. But, every instructor knows the first session is when you get the most fearfulness and tears, so the mental and emotional outcomes are the most powerful from this session - giving them reason and belief to stick at it even if they find it hard.

If they are feeling apprehensive, help build their confidence by perhaps staying close to the shore, at least for the first part of the session, remind them they have done something new and have been really determined throughout the session and reinforce what they have achieved.

Hannah continues: "From personal experience, I reckon when you've got youngsters that don't want to go out you can convince 90% of them to do something within 10 minutes, whether it's going in a boat with a friend or you or going on the RIB.

"If you've still not had a breakthrough after 15 minutes it's probably the right time not to push it anymore and to give them something to do they are comfortable with. You want to push them to try it but you don't want to force anyone. Half the time once they see everyone else out on the water having fun they will change their mind!

"Adaptability in a session is really important. You can go into it with a plan of what you want to get through, but if the sailors are struggling and get too disillusioned or uncomfortable you need to be able to switch to doing something else. As instructors, being able to sense where that line is is key."

Life lessons

Let's be honest, sailing and windsurfing can be challenging to learn, and there will be difficult times. But that's the same as life, whether at school, university or in adulthood. Knowing you can stick with something and come out of the other side positively is a massive skill any youngster can take forwards into the rest of their lives.

In the session cards, OnBoaders can play a ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ game, which helps them understand how to stick with difficulty through the next few sessions. The game underlines that even if you don't know what to do there are ways to find out.

Never giving up and bouncing back after set-backs is about having a growth mindset to not think 'I can't do it' but 'How can I do it?'

That's where determination crosses over with the other character attributes, such as learning from mistakes and being happy to ask for help or advice. All of this builds confidence, and if you've got a confident sailor believing they can achieve something they are more likely to keep going.

Hannah concludes: "I know how much it's helped me and, as an instructor, the sense of satisfaction you get from seeing a youngster buzzing after they've persevered and done something they didn't think they could is huge. Learning to be determined helps you grow as a person and that can only be a good thing."