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How to make your sailing club thrive

by Tom Hubbell, US Sailing/Sail-World on 9 Dec 2013
US Sailing - encouraging youth is a key feature of the successful sailing club .. .
How to make your sailing club thrive - reflections of a President: These reflections come from Tom Hubbell, President of US Sailing, the governing body for the sport of sailing in the United States, but they apply to sailing clubs the world over. How does YOUR sailing club rate?

Everywhere members of sailing clubs want the answer on how to grow participation, revitalize the club, and get more people in boats.

Over the past 12 months, I have sailed 12 different types of boats at 17 venues, and visited a total of 39 local sailing organizations (mostly clubs.) In the last 10 days I have visited nine of those clubs on the West Coast from San Francisco to San Diego.

I was joined by US Sailing Membership Director Georgia McDonald and US Sailing Board of Directors members Dave Ullman and JJ Fetter. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the leadership of these clubs and other key individuals.

What have we learned? Some clubs already know the answers.

We are going to publish our local sailing solution in detail, but here’s the summary of our findings. (There are some very successful exceptions to these observations, so don’t scrap your program if it is really working well.)

1. It’s all about youth - Ages 6 to 30:
• Make it easy for them to be involved and stay involved.
• They must be part of the club, not in the background 'over there.'
• It must be (really) inexpensive and they are not ready to buy a boat, yet.
• Provide boats for young adults!
• Take down the barriers for them to be involved and stay socially connected. They will be full paying members eventually.

2. It’s all about learning:
• More training for everyone: beginners, advanced, race management, powerboat, safety, coastal cruising… all of it is needed.
• Bring US Sailing training programs into the club.
• Training brings people together, improves skills, and it’s fun.
• Thriving clubs have very active training agendas and they reach almost everyone in the club.

3. It’s all about less serious racing and more serious social après-sail.
Funny how that drives to support more of the more serious racing stuff also.

4. It’s all about women and girls, making the schedule, programs, and functions work for them.
Could be a coincidence, but clubs with women effectively working in leadership roles seem to have a successful edge.

Everyone wants US Sailing to offer more training programs – but the ones they want, we already have! So, we need to get the word out about what we offer, encourage members to share this information with their respective clubs and organizations. We need to certify more instructor trainers.

I have also found that the sailing community has many wildly enthusiastic players in every part of the country and they are fun to be with on the journey of life.

Finally, (for those close enough to accept such an invitation) I invite you to take a dip in the pool of enthusiastic sailing leaders and educators by attending The Sailing Leadership Forum 2014 at the Hilton San Diego Resort this February. It is a great time to learn and network with motivated sailors. Sailing is important to our lives and we need your engagement to make it even better for everyone. We need local spark plugs, regional organizers, and creative people for national work groups and committees. The first step is to just show up and experience the energy of this group. We want to see you in San Diego!
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