Is there cheating in sailing?
July 1, 2012 § 4 Comments
“Is there cheating in sailing?” asked the nationally acclaimed basketball coach.
An odd question, I thought, but logical. He lives in an ultra-competitive world.
“Sure”, I said, “boats can be improved illegally by subtracting weight.”
The Sports Psychologist added that on the race course there are opportunities to cheat when judges can’t see the action, and that there are rules against kinetics that can be hard to enforce.
We were together at the start of the All Instructors Symposium of the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound. I was to speak on mentoring.
Coach Jim Perry is a revered basketball coach, an expert on teams, and has chaired the National Coaching Council. He was to give a talk about the culture of teams.
Jessica Mohler has a PhD in Sports Psychology, advises at the Naval Academy, and would speak on the matter of hovering parents in youth athletics.
Ms. Mohler added that in match racing, there can be more judges than sailors, in part to make sure that every rule is followed and every infringement is penalized. After saying it, I’m not sure she was altogether pleased about it. I envisioned a cop for every citizen.
There was a pause.
“But sailing has an antidote to cheating,” I said.
The coach looked a bit confused. “What’s the antidote to cheating?”
“In sailing,” I explained, “friends can meet at the sailing center, grab a couple of boats, pick teams, set their watches, and agree to sail out to a bell-buoy and back and take their own times. The losers might be on the hook for a round of pitchers (beer for the adults, root beer for the kids), so these are serious stakes. The winners had better be counting every second.”
The doc smiled knowingly. She’s a sailor.
“We even have a word for it. Sailors call it ‘Corinthian’ when competitors act honorably while still competing. Sadly, it seems as if it doesn’t happen as often any more. As we become more litigious, less communicative, and more dependent on others to organize our fun, we tend to become less trustworthy.”
We all seemed to be wondering the same thing. “How do we get it back?” posited Ms. Mohler, aloud.
“If a mom or dad and a daughter and her friends are on one of the boats, and the other team is a group with kids and a mentor, like a teacher, then you’ll usually see it happen on its own. A mentor ‘calls bad behavior’ for what it is; a lesson in how not to act, even if it results in a win.”
“… because it is the right thing” added Ms. Mohler.
Again, we seemed to be thinking the same thing; good leaders don’t let emerging leaders cheat.
Head nods all around.
“Sailing is indeed special” noted the coach.