Kids become what they do

April 23, 2013 § 2 Comments

If you’ve participated in a Saving Sailing town-call, you’ll recall talking about how sailing (and other important outdoor experiences) suffer under the media avalanche that buries most kids. Of course, the problem transcends sailing. Schools, family and neighborhoods have been crushed too.

I’ve started a new blog called FamilyNeighborhoodSchool.com to study the problem and discuss solutions. I hope you’ll follow it too.

 – Nicholas Hayes, Author of Saving Sailing

Have you ever witnessed a kid fast forward through the previews on a rented DVD, or call out Britney Spears swigging a Pepsi as a ploy to get you to consume more corn syrup? Not all kids know advertising to be propaganda, but taking the lead from an adult, some do. Credit the young mind with the ability to grasp symbols and metaphor and see through distortion or exaggeration. When abstract thinking develops, bright colors and catchy music might still attract attention, but a kid can understand that it might be toward something being sold. Kids are smart.

To be clear, advertising messages do shape public opinion, especially those of the impressionable or the emotional. But like emotions, messages and public opinion are fleeting; they are just words, pictures, and fads that fade or shift with time. The impressionable grow up. The emotional find new cares.

Measured in durability over years, messages pale in comparison with experiences in defining who we are, what we believe, and how we act throughout our lives.

Kids don’t become what they see on TV or the Internet. They become what they do. Read more.

Kids and video games

Opti Haters

July 12, 2012 § 21 Comments

From the series Here Come the Optis, by Curt Crain

From the series Here Come the Optis, by Curt Crain

On the subject of kids learning to sail, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a discussion thread on a sailing website or an op/ed in a sailing magazine that doesn’t include extreme opinions about the Optimist Dinghy (Opti) and other similar one-person prams like the El Toro. Folks either hate them or they’re resigned to them.

Generally, the Opti-resigned assume that the only way for a kid to learn is in a pram, starting precisely at the age of eight. Opti haters blame the boats for scaring kids away, or, at least, for not being enough fun to sail to hold their interest after a time. The resigned often get their cues from people who sell prams. And haters get theirs from people who sell something else.

Of course, neither claim is true. Optis can be a heckuva lot of fun, but they aren’t the only way to learn.

Deeper thinking than rants and promotions takes you to a place where the flaws and the benefits are found in the programs, not the boats. « Read the rest of this entry »

Is there cheating in sailing?

July 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

Extreme Kinetics“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.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Sailing Country

June 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

This from one of my sailing heroes, Marc Fortune in Nashville, who assembled a top-notch team and broke new ground in sailing advocacy over the winter. It’s starting paying off for kids and families in and around the area.

Now that sailing season has returned for my fellow cheese heads, I am delighted to report that our Regional Summit has fired up the deckhands. Our sailing camp is as popular as ever and we may be adding a remote program to a community 50 miles south of Nashville. “It’s what Nick talked about at the Summit,” the promoter told me.  So, my friend, you are indeed making this a better world – one sailor at a time.

Thanks for all you do for our sport, for what you helped us with in Nashville.

The big bonus: I learned that I have been harboring a secret love of country music. Look up Don Schlitz when you have a moment.

Here are a couple of highlights.

Sailing at the Parthenon

How to find sailing in Nashville: Start at the Parthenon

« Read the rest of this entry »

Spinnakers and Speed

April 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

Spinnakers on Milwaukee Bay

Another great group at last Thursdays’s MCSC Advanced Sailtrim Theory class. Nothing like a polar diagram to show why downwind sailing should really be called downwind flying if it’s done right.

We discovered that the iPad Wind Tunnel app is just as good a tool to explain downwind sailing as upwind sailing, and more importantly, why “dead down” is appropriately called “dead down” (lot’s of drag, not much lift.)

Thanks to all who attended this series of classes. There are still a few great ones left at MCSC. Register here.

If you’re looking for the slides, missed the class, or would like to use these ideas for your own class, feel free to download the pdfs, and use the message tool below for feedback – questions, corrections and ideas. All welcome.

MCSC Advanced Sailtrim 201

Trepidation.

April 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Watching from the dockIf you’re a seasoned sailor, you probably don’t feel much trepidation when you’re preparing to leave the dock. You’re familiar. You speak the language.

But nearly everyone else in the world does.

Sailing is one of those things that almost everyone would like to try, but few do, in large part, because of trepidation.

It can seem daunting. Imagine imagining what it might feel like to sail when you’ve never done it. You might be panicked about the motion, not knowing the names of things, not having the right clothing or safety equipment, feeling helpless when someone asks you to do something using words you don’t know, like “ease the sheets” or “trim the guy”.

But a small, unpretentious publication captures that transcendent moment when one who aspires to sail meets the one who will help them realize their dreams. It begins with an unusually firm handshake, an authentic meeting of eyes, the confidence of basic english, and the trepidation melts away so that the grand adventure can begin.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Learning to Capsize

March 31, 2012 § 6 Comments

First published in Spinsheet Magazine – April 2012

Learning to Capsize

Any eight-year old in my town can learn to sail in the summer at the local, not-for-profit sailing center. The only pre-requisite is that the child has passed a swim test. On the first day of class, with just a few minutes of basic instruction, the kids put on life jackets, buddy up, climb into prams and are helped overboard in a slow, managed capsize, at the behest of a senior instructor and many watchful lifeguards.

Icy cold lake water produces high-pitched squealing, no matter the gender. Once the noise abates, and if the kids have listened to instruction, their only task is to verbally and visually check on their buddy, and then dog paddle to the exposed centerboard, where in subsequent lessons, capsize recovery efforts will be taught and mastered.

At the same learning center, a beginner adult receives very different treatment. Adults start with classroom training to learn the points of sail, the names of the parts of a boat and the basic controls. On the water, the only thing that is the same is the requisite lifejacket. Adults don’t have to prove swimming skills, in part, because it’s not likely that they’ll do any (although they do have to sign a form saying that they can swim, for insurance liability reasons.) There is usually no capsize test, since they learn on more stable keelboats. Even while sailing, the adults won’t get near water, except, possibly, to dip a fingertip into it or when it comes to them in spray over the bow.

It seems logical that these lesson plans start in different places, given the fact that the students are different ages. But let’s go out on a limb and ask two questions:

  1. Why do kids need to know how to swim to learn to sail while adults don’t?
  2. Why don’t adults start to learn sailing – a water sport – by going into the water, just as kids do?

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