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Why Kids Don’t Want to Sail Part II of II —

Ideas & Solutions By Jabbo Gordon


ast month, we discussed Bill Sandberg’s column on why kids don’t want to sail. We threw in our two bits’ worth, based on many years of teaching youngsters from all over America, England and Switzerland. And other people responded to Sandberg’s statements in Scuttlebutt, an Internet sailing daily newsletter where we first ran into Sandberg’s comments. In this article, we plan to review some of those other responses and then make a couple of suggestions that may help resolve the problem. Why? If we don’t grow the sport by bringing in young people, sailing will shrink noticeably, because even good sailors die. The situation could be compared to a church that is not interested in youth activities, and before you know it, the parish has reverted to mission status because over recent years, most of the 750 members went out the back door to the cemetery. And not many folks were coming through the front door. So, let’s review a couple of situations. In this day and time, kids don’t want to sail because it’s not fun. It’s not fun because some sailing associations have evolved into intensely competitive programs. With highpowered racing comes assorted formalities: such as Notices of Races (NORs) and Sailing Instructions (SIs); rules which sometimes seem unreasonable; costs for a litany of items, including the latest in sailing gear and regattas; and concerns over trophies and end-of-year banquets. Then there’s parental and peer pressure, and burn-out—especially if a youngster starts too soon.

Photo by Jin Dietrich.

Parental Pressure As kids grow older, they become more social. They may like to go sailing, but they are more interested in a two-person boat than a single-handed vessel so they can chat more. While on the water, they are more apt to discuss the coming cotillion or who is dating whom, rather than the advantages of a lee bow maneuver. It is not unusual for some youngsters to take a cell phone out on the water—and even some immature instructor candidates will be busy texting during a Level 1 course. Some growing boys are concerned about where their next meal is coming from and will start asking coaches about lunch after the first morning race. One early response to Sandberg’s column came from Scott Mason who said that many parents have much higher expectations than their offspring have. For one thing, a child may hold a black belt in Tae Kwan Do or be gifted in some News & Views for Southern Sailors

SOUTHWINDS January 2012