Kehoe was a panelist during the Junior Sailing Program session at US SAILING’s Yacht Club Summit last month in Chicago. The goal of the Junior Programs session was to give sailors involved in yacht clubs and other sailing organizations the chance to learn about some of the current best practices and recent trends today in junior sailing education. As a follow up to the Summit, Kehoe discussed how programs can partner with their communities and he detailed his philosophy on junior sailing coaching and program management.
US SAILING: What are some ideas you have on how junior sailing programs can reach out to their communities and introduce sailing to youth?
Kehoe: "High school sailing is a great example of yacht clubs reaching out. You have the club owned boats that are not being used by the club in the fall and spring, so come up with a collaborative effort between your club/program and the local high school. Here in Annapolis we have two clubs with 18 420’s and four high schools sailing out of each club. This includes over a 100 sailors total, and many of these sailors are beginners. An effort like this will help us fill out our Junior Program in the summer. The heavy use wears down the equipment, but ideally you would like to be on a replacement plan for your capital equipment and this helps speed that process along."
US SAILING: Once you’ve introduced sailing to juniors, how can we keep them interested?
Kehoe: "You have two tracks of junior sailors, the racers and the boaters. You have to help the parents identify what path is best for their kids. We created a program that embraces boating and it is slow to take off. However, I believe that once parents realize that their kids do not have to be racers, it will succeed. In fact, we have prominent racers here at AYC who are parents, and some prefer programs such as this that encourage participation in all aspects of sailing that promote having fun and utilizing the yacht club. Our goal is to keep kids into the sport."
"Our programs this year include, Development 420 Sailing and Better Boating/Adventure Sailing. Both programs do not include racing, but instead skills to keep the kids focused, having fun, learning navigation, seamanship, long distance sailing and windsurfing. Right now our competition is with television, PlayStation, X-Box, etc. We have to think outside of what our traditional “box” to get kids into our sport."
US SAILING: Do you believe sailing organizations should fund more “learn to sail” or “love the water” programs than elite racing programs?
Kehoe: "Learn to sail should be the most funded program with the best coaches. You would not build a house with your least expensive materials on the foundation, would you? Why hire the kid out of high school to teach your beginner programs! Our racing programs are taking up so much of our assets that we are losing sight of the end game. We need to build the sport to have it grow. Come up with creative programs. It was so interesting to see Sail Newport and Annapolis Yacht Club sharing programming ideas that were very similar. These are two completely different programs that nearly came up with the same ideas."
US SAILING: Any other thoughts on how clubs can help grow this demographic of the sport?
Kehoe: "To grow sailing we need to come up with a national science and technology program. We have a natural fit to embrace old school and new school technologies based on what is going on with the Americas Cup, other elite racing events and what is happening with the wooden boat programs. This can be and should be one of the positive spin offs of the Americas Cup. Create a program that will embrace its technology."
Learn more about the junior sailing program presentation at US SAILING’s Yacht Club Summit at http://media.ussailing.org/Special_Events/YC_Summit/Summit_Recaps.htm#Junior_Programs.
The United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and growth for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org .