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Youth Corner: How to Get the Most Out of Your Coach

January 12, 2018

The best sailors are the ones that are always learning. Even the top pros learn something new every time they hit the water. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your coaches and become the best sailor possible.

Whether you are preparing to compete against your school rival or heading to the nationals, coaching is an important component of success. It won’t only improve your skills, it will also help you enjoy sailing more. Pro sailors and coaches Ed Baird and Scott Nixon have some advice on how to get the most out of your coaches and share tips for improving your sailing technique. 

Find the Areas Where You Need to Improve

Every sailor has their strengths and weaknesses. If you have a specific area where you need help, talk to your coach about it. “Benefits often come from those who notice your weaknesses. Seek coaches who are experts in your weak areas.” says Ed.  If there is an area that a lot of teammates need help in, look for someone in the community skilled in that area and ask if they’d be willing to attend a practice and share their tips. 

Ed’s favorite coach wasn’t one particular person. “No single coach is the magic bullet. It comes back to you.” Be open to change. “Even if what your coach is saying doesn’t seem right for your team, you have to consider what they’re saying,” says Scott Nixon. “There is usually a method to the madness.”

Show Up With the Right Attitude 

Having a positive attitude is another crucial step in getting the most out of your coach and practices.  You’re not there to show off how much you know, you’re there to grow. Show up to every practice with an open mind, ready to improve or learn something new. Keep your emotions in check; they can cloud the practice and distract from getting every bit of information from your coach. Take a deep breath if you’re getting frustrated with your tack, or help out a teammate who capsizes.

Always Ask Questions

If you have a question, chances are that someone else does too. Asking questions will help your coach make sure he or she is focusing on the right areas and topics. “Coaches love hearing people ask questions,” says Ed. Everyone will get more from the practice, including the coach, when they are addressing what the team needs help in and is interested in. 

Debrief

Take time to debrief with your parents, your coach, or your teammates to share thoughts and the biggest take-aways from the day’s practice. Look to your coach to help you with ideas for improvement and make a game plan for implementing and practicing new techniques. 

Keep Notes

Keep a notebook or a playbook with the things you learn and what works best for you. Ed says the key to an effective playbook is that it shouldn’t be too detailed. It might include a trick a guest coach recommended for passing the tiller behind your back during a tack or a way to make sure your sail is trimmed correctly for the conditions.  These offer great reminders for you to review before you hit the water for a big race. “The focus of the playbook is to help with the very basic principles,” says Ed. “Get the simple things right and the rest will follow.” 

Alternative Ideas

Everyone learns a bit differently, so don’t be afraid to offer up ideas that you think will help you learn more during practice. Here are a few that could help round out your team practices.

Video

Video is a great way to learn. If you have access to a GoPro, take turns putting it on your boat during practices and races and review them with your coach. Even if you don’t have a GoPro, a parent or coach on a boat with a smart phone can capture a lot of good footage to learn from. 

Partner with Your Friends

Your teammates are a great resource. Remember, every sailor has different strengths and weaknesses. Offer to help your buddy with his or her starts, for example, in exchange for tips on successful jibes. You can also try sailing next to each other, take turns making maneuvers and then discuss what went well and what didn’t and exchange ideas. 

Sailing Camps and Clinics

Look for sailing camps to attend during the off season. If they are too far away or too expensive, try coordinating with your teammates to set up a short clinic during the off season. Set up a few-days training session or clinic for the fleet, and split the costs.

Seminars

Yacht clubs often host presentations and seminars. Even if it’s about a topic that doesn’t apply to dinghy racing, attend anyway, you’ll still likely learn something! Try to ask the presenter a question or two. If there aren’t any in your area, have your parents call your the local loft and arrange one for your yacht club.

Online Resources and Videos

The internet is a great resource for how-to videos and articles. Search for videos on YouTube or spend some time in Quantum’s Resources & Expertise section with hundreds of articles to help you become a better sailor. You can find the library of information in Quantum's Resources & Expertise section.

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