The opening session introduced the theme of the day "Retention" and two key speakers brought to life what information clubs need to know and be aware of in order to develop your club or centre.

In the Year of the Young Person what better start than 17 year old Emma Mahon of the young people's sports panel to express why she got involved and developed with sport.

"Sport is a very general term it means a whole lot more it is an outlet for my bottled up emotions and takes my mind of all things school for an hour a day. And to me, that's the beauty of sport, it has a different meaning for everyone." Said Emma.

"Why do I enjoy sport? It allows me to be me. There is no pressure to get top marks, there no pressure to fit in and no pressure to be someone I am not. In my athletics club, Kirkintilloch Olympians, my group is so connected because we are like minded individuals. This is a key part and one of the reasons I am such a committed member of my club. In your own clubs do not underestimate the power of friendship and building loyalty amongst younger members. I think the value of friendship based on a shared love of sport can be incredibly powerful. Maybe that means you need to build on some time to have fun during training or maybe have some social events with members of your clubs." Continued Emma who really set the tone of the day towards retention.

"The combination of a coach I respect and trust and the friends in the club makes the club feel like a community where we are all there because we love athletics but also because of the support and feel of the club. If you can build that in your club through good communication, a balance of fun and serious training and the chance to build friendships then you can build a loyal membership at any age."

The latter part of the opening plenary session focussed on retention by Paul Donald from Scottish Swimming outlined how they are tackling retention in swimming clubs and gave excellent practical tips and shared examples that can be applied to our sailing clubs and really gave a practical focus to this important area for clubs.

The rest of the day then split across several workshops which covered a range of topics that face clubs and the volunteers who run them. 

Breaking Down the Barriers was a jointly run workshop with Jane Griffin of LGBT Youth Scotland, Alistair Carter of the Ocean Youth Trust and Robbie Crow from the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

It posed the question 'Is our sport truly open to all?' We say it is but we know there a number of hard to reach groups that we often don't engage well with. The workshop looked at how to ensure we are more inclusive within our sport removing any potential barriers for everyone to get involved and making it truly accessible to all.

Jane Griffin commented following the workshop. "It was really interesting that we had different clubs through sailing and jet skiing in the room and everybody had the same issues. Everybody crossed over with how they would solve these issues. We were talking about including young people, disabled people and LGBT people. We are just trying to diversify the types of people that we have in our clubs and also bring the age group down a little bit and how to sustain that throughout. So it was an really interesting to hear about clubs that really want to engage with different groups and want to bring in more young people and more people with disabilities and LGBT people into their clubs and that they really get the idea that diversifying helps them to sustain the club in the longer term."

Are You Fit for Purpose? An Update on Governance was opened by Andrew Kelly from sportscotland and included practical examples from Barbara Robertson of Fisherrow Yacht Club in Musselburgh before  touching on the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) from our CEO James Allan.

This workshop's practical look at governance ensured your club or centre is fit for purpose in terms of the constitution and the policies. Fisherrow's example of how to streamline your meeting was very useful in bringing the procedures to life.

Barbara Robertson said, "It was excellent and I'm really glad we came. Innez and I were new on the Fisherrow Yacht Club committee last year and went along to the Club's and Principal's day last year and found it useful then. In presenting this year during the governance session I provided some light relief in between the information aspects. What Andrew and James had to say was really very useful and the questions from the group were equally so. For GDPR we have a lot to do and to hear there is no need to panic unduly was reassuring."

The Volunteer Management workshop was delivered by a sportscotland National Trainer, Adrienne Hunter and looked at volunteers within clubs and delved into ways to recruit new volunteers, how to get volunteers working effectively together as well as how supporting, developing, recognising and rewarding leads to better retention of volunteers and personnel.

Catching a few of the participants after the session the general view was very positive. Angie Sword from Loch Tummel said. "That was fantastic, well worth the time and effort with a really interactive session. I learnt that we just need to be more disciplined about our volunteers and put a bit more paperwork behind it, with volunteer descriptors and a plan of how we are going to look after them. We also need to look at how to get volunteers from out with the club and out with sailing as well."

Liam Watson from Lochgoilhead Scout Centre added. "That was a really good, well presented session and I think it was really useful, not only for the volunteers bt for the staff in the session. We provided a lot of input and I was able to share my experience from Scout Scotland. Recognising the support group and making sure they are feeling valued by the staff and expanding from there is something we are keen to work on."

Jack Fenwick and Jacqui Roberts came from RYA Hamble to deliver a Growing Your Racing discussion that exchanged ideas about how to grow club participation through racing activities.

Andrew Kelly looked at some Alternative Models and the various legal entities that clubs and centres can look to become. The workshop took a whistle-stop tour around the benefits of each with some engaging discussion.

Joe Swierczek of Cumbernauld Sailing Club led a session entitled A Targeted Approach to Push the Boat Out alongside the Regional Development Officers Robin Paris and Robin Nicol.

There were over 40 clubs and centres in Scotland who took part in Push the Boat Out in 2017 and the initiative is being extended for the whole of May this year. The workshop looked at how you can target different markets and ensure that you retain as many of those who try boating for the first time. Joe's style was very much tailored to the visitor and his conversion rate was enviable by any salesman's standard. Keeping the visitor at the centre of the experience was key and the clubs in the session came away with plenty of motivation for Push The Boat Out.

Retaining Members and Customers was the topic led by Liza Linton with valuable commercial input from Derek Andrews of Tighnabruich Sailing School. A lot of hard work that goes into gaining new business and members through initiatives such as Push The Boat Out, however in RYA data shows that Scotland is the worst area for retaining members across the UK. This workshop shall look at this in detail and shared some good practice from centres and clubs as well as looking at potential ideas on how to approach retention, the key theme of the day.

Wendi Cuffe from Stranraer Watersports Association ran an interactive workshop on Alternative Funding looking at the present landscape for funding, including the processes and opportunities available, as well as discussing how to meet funder's expectations.

RYA Scotland Coach Education Development Manager, Nikki Stewart ran a session to help Future Proof Your Training. Training is often a key element for clubs and recognised training centres and exploring how to ensure you safeguard this element by maintaining instructors, get young sailors involved and looking at potential boats and equipment as well as how all clubs, regardless of training recognition status, can deliver quality training opportunities.

The final plenary session of the day was led by Greame Findlay of Portobello's Sailing & Kayaking Club discussing their process and the plan to develop a 'Vision' for the whole club and their progress so far. Like every club there is a unique aspect to each club and the ongoing development of Club Development Framework looks to address this when is launched later this year.

Joe Penhaul-Smith travelled from Oban and represented both Oban SC and UHI Wind and Wave Club and said afterwards. "It's been really good, a little bit different with very specific aims for the whole process. Setting out, this is what we can do and this is what we already know, which is quite nice. I've come here with a few questions around a number of different structural challenges that we are facing in retaining and gaining junior members, while UHI is a relatively new club and progressing beyond learning to sail and then getting members more involved in the club."

Joe continued. "In some ways it's nice to hear that other clubs have the same problems that we are having. It is however good to hear that there are so many other solutions potentially to the problem, some of which we can use, some of which we can pick and choose and hopefully you can then, by working together, work out what will work specifically for us."

Marilyn Robertson from Largs Sailing club commented. "I've been for the last couple of years and this year was a little bit different and very, very thought provoking and good to have something to take away and really work on. A lot about the volunteer management and the volunteer retention just keeping people energised and being clear what our offering is both to our members and people who we want to do stuff for the club. So being a lot clearer in what we actually are and what our value is."

Castle Semple Sailing Club's Dawn Kyne noted a few of the factors that she will be taking back to her club from the conference this year. "Well worth attending with a lot of insight into what we should have in our constitution, particularly interested in GDPR and what we need to do for that and we're a good bit down the road for that which is a relief. Our club is an unincorporated club and it good to hear about what different models we could use in the future. At the moment the committee and membership are liable if anything goes wrong, so being a charity or similar would give us something to think about. I also attended the funding workshop which I actually knew a lot about from my full time role, so I was able to contribute to that discussion which was a good."

One of the newest affiliate clubs in Scotland, Loch Lomond Freestyle Jet Ski Club, came along to the conference and we're warmly welcomed by our CEO James Allan and the rest of the team. It highlighted the diversity of boating interests across Scotland, all of whom share similar challenges, from growing membership to engaging and retaining active members through to the governance and funding. Through working through some of these specific areas and sharing experiences all the attendees and many of the presenters came away with some positive ideas heading into the season ahead.

Liza Linton, RYA Scotland Development manager said. "I think the conference went well, my big excitement around the weekend was the different types of clubs we had here and the different centres that were represented. I have seen loads of chat and interactive and discussion as well as some fabulous presentations around best practice from our clubs and centres across Scotland."

"It was great to hear the thoughts of Young People's Sports Panel member Emma Mahon on her journey in sport and how to keep young people engaged and supported in clubs. Followed by Paul Donald from Scottish Swimming outlined how they are tackling retention in swimming clubs and gave excellent practical tips and examples that can be applied to our sailing clubs too." Commented Liza.

"We are looking forward to launching the full Club Development Framework later this year which will bring together some of the work and intelligence that we have been gathering from our work in Clubs as part of the Focus Support Programme."

If you wish to find out more about what is happening around Club Development in Scotland Follow our monthly Scottish Club Chat blog available below: