Winning with Youth

by Bruce Nowak

From the number of sailors who have asked me to reduce their average age, many remembered our little discussion,, on the deck of the VISA Yacht Club. Our association one that I grew up in is slowly but surely graying itself of existence. So my advice remains unchanged: we, association, must reduce our average age.
The solution is simple in statement, but difficult in task Each fleet should champion a high school sailing club one and preferably two or more local high schools. By sharing and teaching the art of sailing to the youth of sailing parents, you will find a vast reservoir of untapped talent. And, if needed, new memberships for your fleet and local sailing club.
At CLYC, both the club and Fleet 2 have taken up the challenge. The first and most important ingredient is locate high students who are really interested in star a club. For CLYC, that first step was relatively easy a Missy and Mike Penn attend the same high school. Missy crews for Ben Hassel while Mike crews for Don Robinson As they expressed interest in starting a club, the next: was to obtain permission from the school itself.
This part was a tad bit more difficult, if not depressing. the reception we received was less than heart-warming. To a given degree this reaction was understandable considering the liability and other financial issues the required solution. However, the actual concern verbalized was that this was just another flash-in-the-pan idea, which too would pass.
Mustering support from both CLYC and the National Rebel Class Association was an important factor in winning over the school principal. So too was the fact that our girls will be in that high school for the next twelve years. Basically, the principal got what he wanted; a Iocation, funding and a long-term commitment from a parent. The only factor left was to find a teacher who would willing to act as the club's school advisor. Given a teachers schedule, this too appeared to be a large hurdle. However, we are fortunate to have Paul Dull as the advisor who is well liked by students. With all the pieces the puzzle together, the school sanctioned the club!
Being sactioned is a very important factor in proceeding with any youth organization. On the one hand, most of your liability issues fall under the schools insurance umbrella. On the other, you are on the inside and have access to the school's resources. Especially important are the communication systems, announcements, bulletins, newspapers and grapevine. A meeting place is also important for non sailing activities where the students are already gathered.
As far as the need for access to the club, CLYC solved that issue by creating a student membership. That membership has minimum dues, limited club privileges and is open only to high school students who are active members of a sanctioned high school sailing club. Again, the remaining liability issues were resolved by extending the club's coverage to the students through membership. The next step was a matter of getting interested students to the lake, so that they could start learning to sail.
Again, this was not as simple as it would seem. At all times the sailing club is competing against a multitude of other weel established activities. Of the twenty students who initially signed up, the most that ever showed up at one time was seven over the past summer. However many times we would have only two or three students come to the lake.
As we come to the end of the season, we have a strong nucleus of students. Attendance at the school meetings is up and should continue to grow as we adjust our meeting time in order to avoid competing with other clubs. In fact we continue to meet at CLYC every Tuesday and try to sail. On October 13th, with the temperature and water a wondeful 40 something degrees and the wind howling, four of our most experienced young sailors decided to give it ago. What actually happened we will leave for folklore, but fortunately, no harm came to them or my boat. Perhaps, they were just preparing for the upcoming ice boating season!!
Currently, our plan is to begin teaching the classroom portion of the Red Cross sailing course once a month over the next six months. By spring the students should be ready and able to complete the water portion. The club is also putting together it's constitution and has elected its officers.
The reasons for our sucess thus far have been 1) the students enthusiasm, 2) the membeers of Fleet 2 and CLYC, 3) the great welcome at VISA three of the high school sailing members were there, 4)the support of our association and 5) making the sailing experience a social activity. Even when there was either no wind or way to much wind, the club stayed and played. The camaraderie these young folks have developed is really not much different than I enjoy with all of you.
Also, we should note that Kathy Shaw has taken up this same challenge at the high school in her neighborhood. From what we have discussed thus far, her experiences are similar to those noted here. Hopefully, CLYC and Fleet 2 will have two high school clubs racing next year.