More people want to learn to sail at Redditch SC. This is great news as the Worcestershire club is running three, instead of two, Level 1 and 2 courses this year. But running more courses is going to put a lot of strain on the club’s team of volunteers. Sound familiar? The demand for sailing might be there, but what you can achieve is only equal to the resources you have available.

This is when it’s time to DISCO!

DISCO? Yep. DISCO! Or ‘Discover Instructing and Coaching Days’; an RYA Racing and Sport Development initiative with RYA Training, to help clubs inspire and draw people into volunteering as an instructor or coach. Whether your club has enough race coaches but lacks in instructors, or vice versa, an experienced RYA Tutor can come in for half-a-day or evening so members can get an insight into what it’s like to instruct and coach.

Some might already be on the pathway as Assistant Instructors (AI), but want reassurance or more information about what it takes to become a Dinghy (DI), Windsurfing Instructor (WI) or Race Coach (RCL2). Others might have just expressed an interest in doing more to support the club in a volunteer capacity.

Either way, DISCO Days are a very informal way for them to see what’s possible and discovering the confidence to do it themselves. Redditch SC felt a DISCO Day would enable them to enthuse potential volunteers and encourage them to become more active in training courses. On Sunday 28 April, five members took the plunge.

Greg Croydon, Commodore, explains: “Like most clubs, our membership numbers benefit significantly from our training courses and coaching sessions. We have four active Senior Instructors and two DIs. Two or three of us are also Race Coaches and there are a couple of Powerboat instructors.

“But we rely heavily on this shrinking instructor base, and these are often the same people who volunteer to help with managing the club in many other ways. Out of the DISCO session, we wanted to get out enthused group who want to move on to DI / AI status and understood the RYA coaching and teaching structure.”

Opening doors

Convincing people to commit to volunteering isn’t easy nowadays. People’s time is precious, and not only is there the time commitment involved in volunteering itself there are the time and financial commitments of actually becoming an instructor or coach. Meanwhile, people having the confidence in their own sailing ability is another reason they can be reluctant to consider teaching or coaching others.

DISCO Days accentuate the positives of getting involved in instructing and coaching. Each session is designed around what the host club and attendees want to get out of it, and the sailors get out on the water and experience ‘being coached’ so they better understand what it’s like to teach or coach someone else in sailing.

At key points, the session is paused to explain why a particular instructing or coaching technique is being used. Where possible the sailors will also get chance to have a go at giving someone some feedback but in a controlled, safe space.

Elaine Penhaul, an RYA Coach Assessor for almost 30 years, ran Redditch’s DISCO Day. She continues: “The day was about helping
sailors understand a little more about, and give them a model for, what good teaching looks like. So what information you need, how you give feedback on the water etc, but done in an informal way where they were comfortable asking questions and felt no pressure to know the answers.

“There is a misconception that to become an instructor or coach you have to be a really good sailor or coach. But for a couple of the Redditch sailors, the session was just about them just gaining the reassurance and belief that their skills were up to a level where they would probably pass their pre-entry assessment.”

To demonstrate all of this, Elaine based the Redditch session around rudderless sailing; a skill that quickly highlights many different coaching techniques but that is still feared by the most competent sailors during their pre-entry assessment.

The debrief had two levels; what the sailors had gained in terms of their own skill development from the session and how they could take forward the techniques they had experienced to teach others. Each sailor left with an improved understanding of what a DI course entails, the different instructor and coaching routes they could take and where they would fit into the regional and national RYA Training framework.

Moving forwards

For Redditch the day proved very productive. The attending AI is now keen to get their DI qualification by the end of the year, while the others came away encouraged to get more involved and gain experience instructing at a more informal level and as AIs before potentially moving on to do their DI course. Some of the attendees wasted no time and helped at the club’s Push The Boat Out two weeks later (see photo above)!

Greg said: “The club found this opportunity very useful in encouraging members to get more involved. The ability to demonstrate with an external practitioner that there is a real structure to deliver sailing skills, managed by the RYA, was very useful.

“The post session feedback reviewed many of the skills talked about in the opening session, i.e. allowing participants to learn from their mistakes, encouraging, communicating etc, and they all enjoyed the session and came away encouraged.”

Redditch’s is one of 11 DISCO Days held across the country so far.

David Mellor, the RYA's Coaching Development Manager, added: “What we’ve found is people are much clearer about what instructing and coaching is like and can make a more informed decision about whether they want to become one. The clubs say it’s has been very helpful because often people step forward as a result of experience we have given them and they now know who to support.”

Want to know more?

Interested in running a DISCO Day? Email