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Instructing the instructors - key to keeping sailors sailing

Put instructor development at the heart of sailor retention

More people than ever attended an Midlands Instructor Training Day that was sold out earlier than ever before this year.

So what does this tell us about the appetite the instructors in our region's clubs and centres have for self-improvement and more importantly, why?

For people to keep doing something they have to enjoy it; that's just common sense. So the appeal for instructors to learn more themselves is twofold - to keep their own interest piqued and their knowledge up-to-date and to go back to our clubs and centres and deliver innovative training and sessions that will inspire people to keep participating regularly.

The workshop programme at last month's Instructor Training Day at Rutland was deliberately wider and more outcome driven as one of the major pieces of feedback we have frequently received after the day is not everyone got to do all the workshops they would have liked. This year there was plenty of time for people to do all the workshops they found most beneficial while still being able to get afloat.

Such was the success of the day the date has already been set for 2018 event at the same location - Saturday 24 February. But the Instructor Training Day forms just one part of a new movement within the region to put instructor development at the heart of sailor retention.

Gareth Brookes, Midlands Regional Development Officer, explains: "The feedback from the Instructor Training Day could not have been better. Despite the challenge of the wind it just worked. The activities were more shore-based than previously so overall more time was spent focusing on the outcomes of each session rather than getting boats rigged to go afloat."

Introducing the new Instructor Skills Days

The day after the 2016 Instructor Training Day, Gareth and his team held a pilot Instructor Skills Day with the purpose to help instructors improve their own personal sailing, windsurfing and/or powerboat driving skills.

That day sold out and the feedback, combined with the obvious enthusiasm for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) demonstrated by the numbers who signed up early for the Instructor Training Day convinced Gareth that putting on a programme of Instructor Skills Days over the course of this year would benefit everyone, not just the instructors but our clubs and their sailors.

The premise is simple; instructors are 'taught' by a coach or aspiring coach and then, at the end of the session, the group and coach reviews it together to assess what was good, what the coach could/would do differently next time, how the session could be adapted for different groups/conditions. 

Going through such a review process helps instructors really think about their own session delivery while by observing the coach during the session, they can pick up tips and ideas from them too.

Gareth continues: "Instructors all know that ironically it often ends up being them that sails the least. But keeping their own skill level and personal ability high is really important in being an effective instructor. 

"An instructor has to be able to jump in a boat and demonstrate any skill from the RYA National Sailing Scheme and they have to be able to do it first time, every time. But to find the time to actually practice these skills, whether it's MOB, rudderless, spinnaker hoists, tacks or gybes, can be a challenge, especially as a volunteer. 

"These new days will give all instructors time out to hone and refresh their own skills while staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and RYA Training advice."

How can I find out more? 

The format for the Instructor Skills Days is more shore-based with each full day costing £25 (exc. lunch). 

Details will be emailed to all Principals and advertised on the RYA Midlands Instructors Facebook group. Or if you would like to run an Instructor Skills Day at your club/centre, we would love to hear from you too so contact Gareth (see top of page for links).

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