With a freezing cold force 8 wind that’s getting you close to capsizing, despite every effort you make - your instinct might be to ask for help. Especially if you’re just 14 years old. But there’s no one to ask, because you’re mid-race and if you receive adult intervention, you’re disqualified. There’s nothing to do but to try to solve the problem yourself.
Just like when you’re mid race and your competition is pulling away from you no matter what you do – there isn’t a time out or a half time to catch up with your coach and discuss a change in tactics, unlike most other sports. You’ve got to make some pretty quick decisions on what you need do differently to sail better.
You can go to lectures or sessions on developing your independence, or read books to improve your skills in decision making – but one of the easiest ways is to just get into a boat. Sailors not only have to quickly learn how to make good and effective decisions, but they also have to learn to deal with constant change – to continually reassess the effectiveness of the decisions they make.
Sailing is a much under-rated sport for the skills it engenders. You can tick off all the much needed and in-demand skills and attributes that universities and the work force are wanting. Aside from decision-making, it also encourages independent thinking, resilience, assessing situations and thinking pro-actively.
As a coach, most of my time is spent helping the students to develop these skills with the goal of becoming self sufficient – to go out on the water, away from me and their support network – to be confident that they can tackle the worst of weather and the most competitive of opposition.
Indeed, pupils’ confidence grows through sailing. Aside from the confidence of mastering a new skill, confidence is also born from the experience of being able to solve problems – regularly getting themselves out of situations on the water, or winning races – by out-thinking your competitors.
In fact, Sailing is a perfect activity for building confidence through making mistakes. The more they learn from their mistakes the better sailors they become. Most sailors remember the races they’ve lost rather than their victories.
All this confidence, of course, can then permeate into all aspects of their lives – in the classroom and in their other activities.
Most importantly, it’s the independence that sailing offers that is so very important. Students experience a sense of independence on the water that is rare in today’s overly protective childhood. From my experience, pupils thrive on it and it encourages them to be more independent in every way ‘on land’.